The inability to act upon a humanitarian crisis calls into question the ethical and moral values of a state. With the rising influx of refugees entering the European Union, Greece finds itself at the epicentre of the crisis. Due to the proximity of its borders to the Middle East, Greece, especially the island of Lesbos, has been used as a passage route into the EU by many of the Syrian refugees. The refugees believe that the only way to bring peace and mild stability to their war-torn lives consists of taking the dangerous boat trip across the Mediterranean and hope that Europe will take them in. As a result of the recent Paris attacks, borders are being closed, security forces are on high alert, and daily life itself presents a never-ending struggle for those seeking refuge. Greece finds itself taking on the unwanted task of housing the refugees, even though it knows that in the end the copious number of refugees may lead to the state’s deterioration. Without the intervention of the EU, the Greek state will collapse under the immense pressure of the refugee presence.
In order to gain a broader understanding of how the refugee crisis came to be, it’s important to focus on the events of the Arab Spring, which acted as a catalyst to the Syrian Conflict. The Syrian Conflict grew from an attempt to overthrow the Shiite ruler, Al-Assad, who was voted in as President after the death of his father. Al-Assad’s rule has been characterized by suppression of the Sunni majority in Syria. Unlike other Arab leaders, Al-Assad did not fall victim to the Arab Spring, but started a civil war against his people in an attempt to fortify his position as Syria’s leader. The war created the opportunity for ISIS, comprised mostly of Sunnis, to join the fight on the basis of religious differences between the Shiite (Al-Assad supporters) and Sunni (Pro-Democracy) Syrians. The entry of ISIS into the Syrian conflict lead to the spread of terrorism throughout the Middle East, and eventually erupted into such chaos in Syria that millions of Syrians sought refuge in other Sunni countries or asylum in Europe. The prospect of living in countries that ensures their health, offers protection from ISIS, and contains flashy amenities like housing heightened the flow of Syrian immigrants into Europe, ultimately causing a humanitarian crisis within the European Union.
The beaches of Greece that once used to be synonymous with a holiday have now been transformed into a hotbed of refugee rafts. In accordance with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), 9 per cent of refugees are unable to continue their journey past Greece once they enter Europe. Though 9 per cent may seem low, if you consider that The Nation reports that nearly 2,000 refugees are arriving on Greek shores daily, that 9 per cent figure adds up to a large number of refugees very quickly. Once in Greece, many refugees find that their original plan of migrating to other parts of Europe fails for a number of reasons and they find themselves living in the makeshift camps occupying Greece’s public parks. Member states of the EU, according to The Guardian, won’t grant protection for immigrants who aren’t ‘deemed to be from a war-torn zone,’ ultimately placing Greece in a sticky situation. The EU believes that it should only accommodate refugees whose lives were uprooted due to combat This philosophy vastly limits who can cross the borders and gain refuge in the EU. Many refugees left out of fear that the fighting in Syria would escalate to a point where it would be too late to flee their homes and they would be trapped in the conflict. In order to protect their lives, many refugees fled their homes, ultimately leaving prominent and stable lifestyles, in search of protection from the dangers of ISIS, only to receive neglect from the EU and Sunni countries. Yannis Mouszala, the Greek Minister of Migration Policy told the Observer, ‘Why is Greece guilty? Because it doesn’t let them [the Syrian Refugees] drown?’ when confronted about why Greece keeps allowing the refugees to arrive on its shores. By allowing the presence of refugees in Greece, the country ultimately is bearing an unfair share of the refugee burden and potentially is putting the economic stability of its country at risk while the rest of the EU fails to help Greece control the situation.
Though Greece points its finger shamelessly toward the EU for not taking more action to help the refugees, Greece believes that Turkey acts as a bigger contributor to the rise of refugees arriving in Greece. Turkey has graciously taken in many war-torn refugees, but with the assumption that the refugees will stay in Turkey. However, the arrival and presence of refugees has led to a new sector of the black market: human smuggling. Rather than staying and integrating into Turkish culture, many refugees find themselves paying coyotes nearly 1,000 euros in order to arrive in Greece via a dingy or raft, as The Nation reports. Greece reprimands Turkey for not taking greater initiatives to close the emergence of the new black market and for not preventing movement of the refugees past Turkish borders.
Greece cannot handle the vast influx of refugees arriving daily on its shores. It’s no secret that Greece’s economy barely supports its own people, and with no prospect of recovery in the near future, Greece faces the very real problem of imminent economic collapse. Not only is the Greek economy adversely affected by the high costs of dealing with the refugees, but the country also has a history of a corrupt administrations and government, which ultimately places more strain on the economic problems at hand. The Greek government can only hope that the EU grants Greece the same bailout as Turkey, which received three billion euros to help defray costs for accommodating and helping the refugees, as noted in The Guardian. Without financial assistance from fellow EU countries, the thousands of refugees trapped in Greece will not receive the most basic of needs, and the Greek economy will continue to crumble from the weight of housing and caring for so many destitute people.
The EU must take stronger actions regarding the influx of refugees. The lack of intervention in the case of Greece raises the question as to why the EU sits back and watches as refugees are forced to put their lives in danger. Shouldn’t the refugees have the right to receive respect and help from foreign countries in a time of need? The political ideology of isolationism no longer possesses the power it once had, thus creating a global atmosphere where countries must interact and help each other in order to gain international security. By the EU turning its back on one of its own member states, Greece, an already weak state in the EU, is forced to bear the burden of being at the frontline of the refugee crisis. The rest of the EU must recognize it is completely unfair for Greece to receive little to no outside help and should assist Greece with either financing or accommodating the stranded refugees. Without help from other EU members, either through financial support or by taking in more refugees, Greece’s collapse may soon be approaching as a result of protecting refugees in need.