The World Today for September 29, 2021


The Unwelcome


Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is vowing to “break and smash” the smuggling networks that are bringing migrants to the country via Turkey. He especially wants to block Afghan refugees seeking safety in Europe, the Associated Press wrote.

Critics say Mitsotakis is cracking down on more than just migrants. They claim he is also undermining the efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are trying to help the migrants and protect their human rights.

In July, for example, Greek authorities launched a criminal case against 10 people for aiding migrants seeking to reach Greek territory. Four of those charged worked for NGOs, including the Aegean Boat Report, a group that has reported on violent Greek border guards who have sought to stop asylum seekers from reaching the shores of Greek islands, according to Human Rights Watch.

Last year, the Greek government issued new rules for NGOs working on migration issues within the country and raided some that operated in Athens. United Nations and European Union watchdogs condemned the crackdown. Many foreign and local NGOs simply can’t comply with the new rules that create new financial and other compliance hurdles, including the sharing of potentially sensitive data on migrants, said Devex, a news agency that serves the international humanitarian community.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson recently called on Greek lawmakers to put aside legislation that would “hinder” NGOs in their quest to help the desperate migrants. Johansson noted that since 2015, the EU has given Greece more than $750 million to manage the migration crisis that started with refugees from the Syrian Civil War but has since expanded to include those fleeing from North Africa, South Asia and elsewhere. She said the EU was considering tying funding to Greece allowing NGOs to go about their business.

Still, Greece has been accused of mistreating refugees for years. Many have been housed in camps under squalid, unsafe conditions, Euronews explained. “It’s like going from one war to another,” Palestinian refugee Huda told PBS NewsHour. “I didn’t find anything better here than the life I was living.”

New camps built with EU funding might be safe and clean. But they feel like prisons, added Agence France-Presse. One of the new camps sports double barbed-wire fences, surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners and locked, magnetic doors. Curfew is 8 p.m.

“People are angry (about) the new camp, they think that it’s prison but I don’t think (so),” Didier Tcakonmer, a 28-year-old Cameroonian who has spent more than two years on Samos in a refugee camp, told AFP. “It will be better than here – no mosquitos, no rats.”

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