This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Greece In Distress : Migrants Desperate

"This needs to be addressed on a European level. It cannot be stopped. Now they also come during the day, in the afternoon when people are swimming."
"We have made it worse because our system is relaxed."
George Danil, politician, Chios, Greek island

"We give them water and some food but there is not much we can do. Now it's summer, so they can be outside. What happens when it's winter?"
"We are on our own tackling this [influx of foreign migrants]."
Stephanos Voyatzisk mayor, Oinoussa, Greek Island

"How many illegal immigrants can Kos cope with? How many can Greece cope with?"
"[The situation of illegal immigrants is] out of control [with a real risk of bloodshed]."
Giorgios Kyritsis, mayor, Kos, Greek Island

"They come into the town and the port authority doesn't help. I'm sorry, can you not see this person in the sun?"
"They must have sold their life's belongings [Syrians with large cash sums]. But most [of the migrants] have nothing."
Lauretta and Thomas Spiril, residents, Greek holiday island of Kos

Migrants and refugees are pushed as riot police try to maintain an orderly line during a registration procedure at the national stadium.
Migrants and refugees are pushed as riot police try to maintain an orderly line during a registration procedure at the national stadium. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
It has been estimated that 98,000 refugees from Africa and the Middle East have arrived in Italy this year alone. This is the result of the 'Arab Spring' turning into the 'Arab Winter'. And while Italy has long been considered the primary point of entry for refugees attempting to reach Europe, Greece has more latterly been targeted as an entry point. The United Nations refugee agency [UNHCR] has stated that Greek islands have seen 124,000 migrants land on their shores, this year.

This summer, the Greek holiday island of Kos has seen over 7,000 illegal immigrants arriving, sailing from Turkey (itself holding over a million Syrian refugees in camps), and invading the island of 30,000 residents. Migrants were taken to a sports stadium for identification in a registration process that swiftly turned into chaos Migrants began chanting "We want our papers", leading police to force the crowd back by spraying white foam, for order.

The mayor of Kos, fearing violence, demanded of the central Greek government that it send ferries from Athens to collect and move the migrants off the island. He insisted that riot police were required to be present to give aid in the island policing. The arrivals of between 600 to 800 migrants daily is more than the island authorities can cope with. The mostly Syrian and Afghan refugees have been arriving all summer, and their presence has strained capacity and patience.

An island close to Kos, Oinoussa, with a population of around 500 of its own, has seen the arrival of 150 people daily. The arrivals have been sheltered in the island's football stadium, within a naval school, and in the church. Some of the migrants have come prepared to establish themselves as they move further on into Europe, and they carry with them large cash sums, of up to $40,000 and more. They are finding their stay on Kos less than ideal.

Syrian refugees pack the stands
Syrian refugees pack the stands of the national stadium

About a thousand people locked in a sports stadium had no access to water in the tropical heat. Médecins sans Frontières was providing medical care at the stadium: "We have unconscious people coming out of the playground area, being carried by their friends and family, every 15 minutes. It is absolutely out of control. Nobody understands the sense behind it, or if there is any [sense] at all", said Constance Theisen, a MSF team leader, adding that one of the migrants suffered an epileptic seizure.

At one point within the stadium during the registration process, police used a sonic explosion to attempt to maintain order, leading the MSF team to withdraw for safety reasons. "It was becoming a bit uncontrollable, the situation, and there was a complete lack of coordination. It was just the police there, no UNHCR [the UN’s refugee agency], and no security for [our] team", said Julia Kourafa, a spokeswoman for MSF at the stadium.

The next morning, MSF workers returned to provide medical assistance, but the refugees remained locked within the stadium with supplies of food or water overlooked by Greek authorities. Refugees continued to faint. "This is the first time we’ve seen this in Greece – people locked in a stadium and controlled by riot police. We’re talking about mothers with children and elderly people. They’ve been locked in there after many hours in the sun", protested MSF's Julia Kourafa.

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