Apr 11, 2016
This article was translated from the April 8th issue of Lutte Ouvriere, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers group of that name.
On Monday, April 4, two hundred migrants were expelled from the Greek islands of Chios and Lesbos. This was the result of an agreement signed between the European Union and Turkey.
All the refugees arriving after March 20 are to suffer the same fate. There are more than 1,700 at Chios, in a camp meant for 1,200. It’s no longer a welcome center, but has become a detention camp. The conditions are extremely precarious, with confrontations taking place between migrants. Despite the barbed wire, some hundreds of migrants have left the camp and gone to the port, without much hope of being allowed to leave the island.
On Lesbos, the detention camp is equally overcrowded. That camp was improvised by volunteers to receive wounded or sick refugees. Now it is threatened with closure.
This is all the result of the sordid bargaining carried out by the European leaders to try to dry up the flood of migrants. In exchange for a payment to the Turkish government, the Europeans send back the recent arrivals to Turkey. In return for one expelled migrant, the European countries agree to receive a Syrian already established in Turkey. But the numbers Europe accepts are supposed to stay within the limit of 72,000 refugees. These will be shared among all the countries of the European Union, with its 500 million inhabitants!
Humanitarian organizations have protested against the treatment of refugees in the Greek islands, and in continental Greece. Migrants who are blocked at the Macedonian border or Piraeus, the port of Athens, are not in detention camps or threatened with immediate expulsion. But many prefer to stay in tents, including in the north, in the rain, or on the streets in Piraeus, rather than stay in the poorly-equipped and far-too-few refugee centers. Some migrants also think that these centers might be transformed one day into locked detention camps.
The European plan is both shameful and ineffective. With the exception of Germany, the rich countries have not welcomed the number of refugees that would be commensurate with their populations and resources. The French government has promised to send personnel to help process the migrants’ applications for asylum, but it has only actually sent a contingent of armed police forces!
Yet, even now, migrants are clandestinely leaving Turkey for the Greek islands. Many others will attempt longer and more dangerous voyages because every other route is blocked. And more people will die, killed by the policies of the European leaders.