Opinion: Looking away from the Greece-Macedonia border
Following the reprehensible terror attacks in Paris, politicians and the media have understandably concentrated on the security situation, the hunt for perpetrators and the fight against “Islamic State.” However, refugees continue to come . We cannot look away. The problem at the edge of the Balkans is growing rather than shrinking. Thus far, half-hearted attempts to forge a common European refugee policy have remained fruitless. The goal of reducing the number of refugees moving from Turkey to Greece – and from the Balkans to Germany – has yet to be achieved despite a number of summits and emergency meetings to that end.
It must have been clear to participating national leaders that the resolutions that they were passing simply wouldn’t work, even as they were passing them. There is no effective control of the European Union’s external borders. Greece does not have the capacity to take in such numbers of people. And there is no just system of distribution within the European Union. Those who can simply wall themselves off and hope that refugees will keep moving along towards Germany. People are thus being forced to march through Europe in the cold and the rain.
Now that Sweden has capitulated, Germany is the only remaining hope for refugees. Up to 6,000 people now arrive in Germany every day. Such numbers cannot be maintained for long. Now the states are beginning to rebel against the federal government. The chancellor is under enormous pressure. The number of new arrivals in Germany will reach 1 million by Christmas. And people will come next year, too.
Several transit nations have begun stopping people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and African countries at their borders. Above all, thousands are now stranded in inhumane conditions at the border between Greece and Macedonia. People there are so desperate that they have begun sewing their own mouths shut in protest. Police fear the outbreak of violent conflict between various refugee groups. That is just a small taste of what will happen if Germany goes through with its announced intention to turn away people with little chance of receiving asylum.
Thousands upon thousands of people will be stranded in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. They will become victims of Europe’s failed refugee policies. Politicians’ claims that the situation can be mastered by establishing “hot spots,” or registration centers, and quotas, are simply lies. Namely, because this system operates under the premise that the European Union’s external borders can be completely closed off. That is neither logistically nor politically feasible at the border between Greece and Turkey .
Placing all hope on Turkey and suggesting that money and kind words will persuade the country to keep all of Syria’s war refugees is utter nonsense. For starters, Turkey simply cannot guarantee that. Officials would have to seal off the coast and dramatically improve the living situation of refugees there within a matter of weeks. Further, it is not just Syrians and Iraqis that are traveling through Turkey. Ever more people are fleeing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Eritrea. Should they all be held at bay by Turkey? Add to that the fact that right now the signal these desperate people are receiving from Europe is “Flee now, before the gates close!” That will only serve to increase the number of arrivals.
The political gamesmanship going on within the European Union over refugee policy matters mean little to those men, women and children forced to endure at the border between Greece and Macedonia. They are suffering without knowing why. That is a disgrace for Europe. We have to look. We cannot look away.