22nd Mar 2023


EU migration policy will turn Greece into the jail of Europe

  • The end of this EU policy direction is known: finally turning Greece into the prison of Europe, instead of demanding equal relocation to all member states (Photo: SOS Mediterranee)
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Europe is stepping back from its core values of human dignity, human rights and the rule of law, which have been the building blocks of the political edifice of the EU.

The refugee-migration issue has dropped every façade, and bared the inhuman policy of 'Fortress Europe' for all to see. The erstwhile EU of solidarity is now openly discussing funding fences and walls.

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And the countries of first reception are called upon to play the role of Europe's 'jailer.'

In Greece, the Mitsotakis government is aligning itself with this policy, eagerly contributing to the perpetuation of the impasse that is fuelling the criminal human-trafficking networks, providing Turkey with fertile ground to further instrumentalise the issue.

All this, while the European leadership continues to direct European funds to Erdogan.

And while the Berlin Wall, the gravest symbol of a divided Europe, has left significant scar tissue in the decades since its fall, the debate on whether the EU should rebuild walls and barbed wire fences to protect its external borders, has started up again.

And it goes beyond simple discussion. With varying degrees of outspokenness, the number of walls erected by the member states has been growing.

The Greek government, along with the governments of Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Latvia, Slovakia, Malta, Estonia and Austria, in a letter to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel, called for the EU to step up its anti-refugee policy with more border deterrence measures, including fences.

For years, Europe's conservative forces have been pushing for ever tougher anti-refugee policies.

The pride and joy of (Greek) commissioner Margaritas Schinas' "European way of life" is made up of both walls and dead people in our seas — a genocide of wretched souls- as shipwrecks with victims of all ages, are happening near-constantly, leaving behind an unknown number of dead or missing persons.

European People's Party leader, Manfred Weber, had said that walls "are not a taboo", a statement to which I had to reply, in the European Parliament, saying that "I have never seen the Berlin Wall or the Nicosia Wall as taboo."

Speaking from Greece, Weber appeared thankful for the excellent cooperation between the Greek authorities and Frontex.

In Greece, where Frontex ex-director Fabrice Leggeri had earlier received an governmental award for this same cooperation, shortly before being forced to resign amid the clamor of an OLAF investigation into all the skeletons in Frontex's closet: everything from re-foulements and misappropriation of public funds, to extreme cases of violence within the agency.

According to a New York Times report, Frontex's fundamental rights officer, Jonas Grimhenden, has called for the suspension of the agency's operations in Greece, citing authoritative sources on the systematic, illegal and humiliating re-foulement of refugees by the Greek authorities.

According to that same report, the Greek side does not seem to be conforming to the requirements of international law.

Athens aping the alt-right

To add insult to injury, the Greek government is adopting and implementing the playbook of the US and east European alt-right, using extreme racist rhetoric, not hesitating to aggressively dub its political opposition national traitors, or outright mark them as agents of its imperialist neighbour.

The end of this road is known: finally turning Greece into the prison of Europe, instead of demanding equal relocation to all member states.

The proposal of the European Left in dealing with the refugee/migration problem, as long as the fight is not brought before the root causes of poverty and war, is the fair and proportional relocation of these people to all member states.

This is the only advantageous perspective for Greece and other countries of first reception, that will them free them from the shackles of the 'Dublin' convention.

The Left's position on the matter has been, however, systematically distorted, with the far-right spreading the falsehood that the Left is supposedly in favour of an 'open borders' policy.

That is not the case. We are pro legal, controlled, and secure routes for asylum applications, combined with a functional system of compulsory, proportional relocation.

Only in this way will Europe reclaim its fundamental values, but it will also face its great impasse, as the serious labour shortages it faces will be exacerbated by the harsh anti-immigration and anti-refugee policies promoted by the European right.

The need to formulate a modern European policy for migrants, with rules for the integration of migrant/refugee populations is urgent, as the root causes of these flows, such as war, the absence of democracy and freedom, human rights violations, climate change, are compounded by disasters such as the earthquake in Syria and Turkey, that is expected to leave its own imprint on the humanitarian crisis in the region and creates an immediate need for solidarity from all of us.

European values cannot keep crashing on rocks and stopping at walls. We cannot align ourselves with the Visegrad 4 line, a line that is inhumane, as much as it is wrong and ineffective.

The refugee-migration issue is a humanitarian issue and can only be dealt with in such terms.

Author bio

Kostas Arvanitis is a Greek MEP with Syriza/The Left.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


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