A promise was made upon Europe abruptly closing its land borders last spring to refugees who were fleeing war-torn nations such as Syria and Iraq. A vow was made that wealthy nations across the European Union would take in tens of thousands of desperate refugees who had made it as far as Greece, yet this promise has yet to be met, and thousands find themselves trapped in the near-bankrupt nation.
The reneging by such European nations only shines the spotlight more brightly on Europe and its broken pledges to refugees. There have been allegations brought against the feeble Greek government regarding mismanagement of the situation of the refugees who survive on the grounds of an abandoned toilet-paper factory that lacks heat while individuals face temperatures as low as 50 degrees in the night in tents that are mosquito-infested. Thousands of refugees have lived this way for months.
A recent report states that a 14-year-old girl was raped at the camp and there have been allegations of stabbings, thefts, suicide attempts, and drug dealing, as The Washington Post notes.
Rama Wahed, a 16-year-old Syrian girl, spoke, stating “I won’t go out alone anymore,” while she hugged herself, sitting in the tent of her family. She spoke of her brother, Kamal, 17, who sat staring blankly ahead. “[He is the ] man of the family,” she said, sharing that they lost their father in Syria. Their family of five has been waiting patiently for a word on somewhere for them to go.
A child peers out of her tent at the Souda municipality-run refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios pic.twitter.com/4KqZCLUcg3
— Earthman Journalist (@Intprofessor) October 14, 2016
Kamal appeared defeated and spoke words of desperation and hopelessness stating, “We’re never getting out of here. Never.” As he spoke he swatted away mosquitoes that swarmed his legs which were bandaged due to infection, caused by having scratched the bites. The family runs a fan at night to keep the mosquitoes at bay, yet it makes frigid nights even worse.
The publication shares just how short the EU has fallen in meeting its promise to the refugees who are desperate to begin their lives again.
“In June 2015, as asylum seekers were rushing into Europe in growing numbers, E.U. leaders met until the wee hours in Brussels. Two countries were bearing the brunt of the crisis — the Mediterranean entry points of Greece and Italy. In what leaders heralded as a remarkable show of ‘solidarity,’ the rest of the E.U. agreed to share the burden. The E.U. would relocate 40,000 refugees, mostly Syrians, to member countries stretching from Portugal to Finland. They would be given shelter, aid and a chance to rebuild their lives. As the number of asylum seekers surged, the E.U. later boosted its pledge — promising to relocate up to 160,000. But 16 months after its initial decision, the E.U. has lived up to only 3.3 percent of that pledge, relocating 5,290 refugees — 4,134 from Greece and 1,156 from Italy.”
Reasons for nations being less enthusiastic in allowing entrance to refugees include the concerns about cultural differences as well as the fear that militants are disguising themselves as migrants. The nations that have offered spaces are offering much fewer than initially pledged, while others are offering none at all. Austria’s foreign minister recently called the program “completely unrealistic” and suggested that it should be entirely scrapped.
— Mercy Corps Europe (@mercycorps_uk) September 30, 2016
Within Greece, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is working to get as many refugees as they can into apartments and hotels, yet many are still left facing terrible conditions in the unheated camps. They endure ongoing threats due to poor security with winter approaching, and there is very little support for minors and pregnant women in the camps. Many of the refugees are surviving on inadequate food quantities.
Greek government members state that they are making improvements and taking steps to attempt to improve conditions for the 50,000 refugees that still remain. Yet, when the amount of E.U. money allotted to aid the refugees was more than $1.11 billion, this raises questions as to why the camps are as bad as they are.
[Featured Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]