Hospitality gives way to hostility for migrants to Greece

Hospitality gives way to hostility for migrants to Greece
Turkey announced earlier this month that it would no longer prevent migrants and refugees from crossing over to EU countries. (AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Hospitality gives way to hostility for migrants to Greece

Hospitality gives way to hostility for migrants to Greece
  • Nearly a million refugees made it to Greek islands in the Aegean Sea

ATHENS: Five years ago, Greece offered hospitality to a huge wave of migrants at the height of the Syrian civil war — but today, hostility greets those seeking a new life.

Experts put the about-turn largely down to a declining trajectory of global growth as well as crisis fatigue, with the Greek people already having shouldered years of austerity after the financial crisis of a decade ago.
Nearly a million refugees made it to Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, just kilometers off the Turkish coastline, in the 2015 exodus, and the majority trekked on to mainland Europe.
Poignant images of local mothers on the island of Lesbos feeding migrant babies went round the world.
The following year, a group of local people from the same island found themselves proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize for their humanitarian efforts.
But after Turkey last week gave migrants the green light to head for Europe, feelings have changed on an island that already hosts thousands of migrants from the last wave.
Last time round, “people hoped that the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras, with his humane view on refugees, was going to halt austerity,” Filippa Chatzistavrou, professor of political science at Athens University, told AFP. Instead, Greece’s economic woes continued.
Today, Chatzistavrou says, many Greeks are still trying to find their feet in an increasingly extreme political environment.
Kostas Filis, director of Greece’s Institute for International Relations, said the first migration wave was “spontaneous” as people fled Syria and Daesh.
“Today, Turkey is behind a very much smaller migrant flux looking to come to Greece,” he says.
Athens sees Ankara’s decision to open the exit gates as “a political weapon,” whose result was to see some 13,000 people congregate inside 48 hours on the border post at Kastanies. For Chatzistavrou, “Turkey, seeking western support (in Syria), is behaving more aggressively and the flux of migrants are collateral, a geopolitical means used to alter the balance of power.”

FASTFACTS

• After Turkey last week gave migrants the green light to head for Europe, feelings have changed on an island that already hosts thousands of migrants from the last wave.

• Athens sees Ankara’s decision to open the exit gates as ‘a political weapon.’

Conservative Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has taken a hard line on migration since taking office last July, has ramped up the police and military presence along the Evros (Meric in Turkey) river which straddles the border to prevent an “invasion” and counter the “threat.”
Government, media and citizens alike have fallen into a bellicose rhetoric, which aids the cause of “nationalists and the extreme right,” said Filis.
The latest wave of arrivals has ramped up feelings on the Greek side of the border: There have been several attacks against NGOs seeking to aid the migrants and also against journalists.
The EU has meanwhile expressed strong support for Greece, which last year once again became the main port of call for asylum-seekers in Europe at a time when conditions are already difficult in overburdened camps holding those who arrived previously.
“In five years, patience has run out and that opens the door to violence and hostile speech,” warned Maria Stratigaki, a professor of social policy at Athens’ Pantion University.
Greece has had to defend itself from criticism from NGOs over decisions to suspend asylum procedures due to Athens’ belief that the latest wave is down to Turkey and not to war.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Greece proved its humanitarian credentials five years ago.
But “the current problem is that Turkey is using people from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa to place (Greece) under siege. That’s what we are going to stop. We shall keep the borders shut as long as necessary.”


Fire, blast at ammunition warehouse in western Libya kills 3

Fire, blast at ammunition warehouse in western Libya kills 3
Updated 24 min 36 sec ago

Fire, blast at ammunition warehouse in western Libya kills 3

Fire, blast at ammunition warehouse in western Libya kills 3
  • The oil-rich country is now ruled by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country’s east

CAIRO: A fire, followed by an explosion at an ammunition warehouse at a naval academy in western Libya killed three people, including two officers, a Libyan spokesman said Wednesday.
It was not clear what caused the overnight blaze at the academy in the town of Janzur, about 24 kilometers (14 miles) west of the capital of Tripoli, said Masoud Abdal Samad, the spokesman of the Libyan navy. Four people were also wounded in the incident.
Samad said the dead included Brig. Gen. Ahmed Ayoub, the head of the academy, and Brig. Gen. Salem Abu Salah, who ran the naval college. The third person who died was not identified.
Video footage that circulated online following the incident shows firefighters and ambulances rushing to the site where a building is engulfed in a huge fire.
Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed the country’s longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The oil-rich country is now ruled by rival authorities in Tripoli and the country’s east. Eastern-backed forces had fought a months-long offensive to capture Tripoli but the campaign ended in failure last year.