The refugee crisis is yet another example of the deep social, political and moral crisis of Europe and the cynicism of its political leadership. Instead of ensuring the safe passage of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, as it is determined even international law, they are attempting to create buffer zones in order to stop them from reaching their destination.
Unfortunately, the Greek SYRIZA-ANEL government has yet again capitulated to the demands of the EU and has accepted to be part of this effort.
The Greek government has accepted the EU-Turkey deal which is a deal to deport asylum seekers and migrants back to Turkey. It has accepted NATO ships patrolling the Aegean as a means of ‘deterence’ – and we all know that in the language of NATO and European governments, deterring implies making sure that some refugees get drowned in order to send the message that the Aegean passage is not working.
Moreover, the Greek government has accepted to keep a large number of refugees stranded in Greece, in refugee camps, despite the fact that these people do not want to stay in Greece, do not want to be dispersed all over Greece and spend the next years in camps.
These people want to go near the border, want to be by the border in order to be able to continue moving. That is why they try to move as quickly as possible to Idomeni, by the Greek-Macedonian border. That is why today they tried to cross the river and enter FYROM by any means possible.
The Greek government tries to make them go back, either by trying to persuade them, or by making sure that conditions there remain bad. It tries to present this policy as humanitarian, yet in fact it is trying to discourage refugees from demanding their right to safe passage and to make sure that they remain stuck inside Greece. Everyone understands that being at the border is not the result of the supposed ignorance of the refugees. Rather it is their realization that this is the only way to actually remain visible, exercise pressure, demonstrate and demand their right to safe passage.
What is more worse regarding the policies of the Greek government is the feeling that they are attempting to strike a deal with the EU using the refugee crisis, more specifically to exchange Greece’s participation in the denial of safe passage to refugees and ensuring their getting stranded in Greece, with some loosening of austerity.
Moreover, it is more than obvious that the SYRIZA-ANEL government is using the sense of urgency of the refugee crisis as means to demand some form of consent to its policies and in particular the passage of the legislation that will dismantle the public pension system.
One might see the same logic at work regarding the attitude of the Greek government towards the huge wave of solidarity to refugees. By themselves the myriad everyday gestures of solidarity to refugees is one of the few hopeful signs today in Greece. Thousands of people everyday help the refugees in many ways and you can see in this solidarity effort all the traces of the new collective ethos of common struggle that emerged in the anti-memoranda movement.
It is as if people that were in despair for not being able to confront austerity and the third memorandum are turning to solidarity in order to feel that they are actually doing something meaningful. However, this has nothing to do with the attempt of the government to use this wave of solidarity as a means to deal with its own shortcomings regarding the refugee crisis or as a way to shift the focus from the policies it will implement.
That is why one of the challenges today is exactly to maintain forms, networks and practices of solidarity that maintain autonomy towards state initiatives, respect the desire of refugees to reach their destination, and offer exactly the support and assistance they require. In order not just to help them reach safely the border, not just to be able to live in decent conditions while they wait to cross to the other side of the border, but also in order to coordinate the broader struggle against the policies of Fortress Europe and also against war, imperialist aggression and poverty which are at the root of the refugee crisis.
* Panagiotis Sotiris, Lecturer, University of the Aegean