Greece as a Purgatory for Immigrants and “Guilty” Europe
Migrants Mediterranean Sea

The tall young man is from Syria and he was arrested in the airport of Thessaloniki, while trying to embark on a plane to Milan using false travel documents. He was found guilty by the Court of Thessaloniki and he was standing before the judicial bureau to make an appeal, with five other compatriots and another young man from Guinea. He was not found guilty for being a doctor or a scientist of for fleeing from a country that is at war. He was found guilty of illegal entry, trespassing and residence in the Greek territory, as well as of the use of false travel documents. Along him hundreds of other illegal migrants are arrested every day in Greece. Most of them, do not wish to seek asylum in Greece and face the country as a necessary evil on their way to more prosperous European countries. Many of them, according to the opinion of the policemen arresting them, think that they may buy their way through the airport, as the human traffickers convey the message that Greece is so poor and the authorities so corrupt that you may easily use your false papers and catch a flight to any other European country. People get drowned on their way to “heaven” and finally reside in Greece, which they face as a purgatory.  

In most cases the characterization is even wrong, as the illegal migrants may or shall be refugees, who would be normally demanding an asylum, but they are discouraged by the legislative procedures, the lack of hospitality centres in Greece, the tragic conditions of confinement (i.e. “hospitality”), the poor percentage of applicants obtaining asylum.

“The people are always the most important thing. They’ve always been. At the moment when hundreds or thousands people, during an unprecedented continuous tragedy, are drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, every discussion acquires more or less a macabre character. Even one drowned child should waken up the consciousness of people, immensely more than articles, analyses, recommendations and political conflicts. It is a shame that, even before the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, there are people in Greece, who render the images of mass death a weapon of xenophobia. In the name of the protection of our homeland and our little life…”, writes Thanasis Karteros, in the HOTDOC magazine (article entitled: Europe of Guilt, page 8 of the printed issue 75, April 2015).

The decisions reached by the European Union following the recent tragedies in the Mediterranean aim to sooth the reactions of European citizens, who were obviously shocked by the shipwrecks. While European leaders have been discussing the issues in the special European Council meeting on migratory pressures, Amnesty International refers to 1700 deaths since the beginning of 2015, that is 100 times more in relation to the same period in 2014.

The journalist of the Kathimerini newspaper, Sokratis Tsihlias, declares in his article declares “no tear is shed for the immigrants”, while he fiercely criticizes the “apathy” of the European Union, which is engaged in taking “aspirin-measures” to soothe down the climaxing inquietude of the receiving/host countries. While the Greek press and the citizens remain skeptical or quite negative, the European Union, with the adoption of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (April, 2015) along with the UNHCR  are engaged in a strenuous attempt to organize protection systems for asylum seekers and immigrants in a region heavily touched by the crisis.

Under the most recent developments, with Greece being on the verge of a default and questioning the strengths of political Europe, how do immigrants matter? Greek citizens, lost in their troubles and worries, disoriented by a torrential sequence of crucial and life-changing events, stand in awe before human tragedy.

In the meanwhile, hundreds of irregular migrants are found guilty before the Greek courts for unauthorized and illegal entry in the country, while the guilt of the traffickers orchestrating their entry, stealing away their money and even leading to their death is left, in most cases, untouched.  Pro Asyl states that there is even a flow of arbitrary readmissions from Italy to Greece and from Greece to Turkey mainly concerning Syrian refugees. The guilt of Europe is heavy, according to Greek public opinion, and HOTDOC’s editor, Thanasis Karteros, insists on stating that Europe not only closes its borders, but also “her eyes before the human sacrifices in the Mediterranean Sea”.

In that respect we are all guilty of passively watching what is being actively declared, while more and more people are found guilty or dead without homes, proper graves, dignity or peace. Guilty of trying for something better, guilty of trying to survive. We are all guilty of that accusation.