EU’s repeated failures have resulted in doubling of illegal migration, and societal chaos along with squalor.
After years of EU inaction, many tourist hotspots are now just a distant memory. Remember when the Greek Islands were synonymous with many Britons’ idea of a relaxing, sun-drenched holiday in the Mediterranean?
Readers will then recall the EU’s migrant crisis of 2015 and 2016, highly exacerbated by German Chancellor Merkel’s rash and unilateral “All welcome here” message of 2015.
In 2015 and 2016 the BBC despatched a variety of reporters to the worst-hit areas of the EU and dutifully produced what seemed to be a daily diet of emotive stories, high on ‘refugee’ interviews but low on factual content.
Virtually unreported by the BBC, in the intervening years, this EU crisis never went away, Now it’s back — with a vengeance.
The EU’s migrant crisis has not gone away — let's focus on one EU country: Greece
By end 2019, the number of registered migrants in Greece increased by 72% compared to end 2018
Since September last year, the monthly arrivals are more than double 2018’s
The situation is getting much worse, much faster.
Greek islands are full to overflowing, and residents are now reduced to vigilante protection methods
Confinement camps are crowded and hold up to 10 TIMES the number of migrants they were meant for
Greece’s asylum system is overloaded with a backlog of nearly 90,000 cases
On several islands, the quality of life for local residents has been unacceptable for years.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of illegal migration,
this is the result in the caring, compassionate EU in 2020.
“Thousands of women, men, and children who currently live in small tents are exposed to cold and rain with little or no access to heating, electricity or hot water. Hygiene and sanitation conditions are unsafe.
Health problems are on the rise. Despite the dedication of medical professionals and volunteers, many cannot see a doctor as there are simply too few medical staff at the reception centres and local hospitals.“Tensions were high on Lesbos earlier this week, where police faced off with asylum-seekers during their recent protest. Dire conditions and the long wait to complete asylum procedures have made asylum seekers afraid and anxious. In recent weeks local communities have also protested and demanded urgent action to alleviate the pressure of the islands.”
The UN’s patience with the EU is wearing thin
Two weeks ago, a visit to Brussels by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, was the latest in a series of signs that the EU is sitting on a powder keg of its own inability to solve problems. Senor Grandi’s meeting with new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen resulted in a remarkably short statement from the EU Commission.
EU Commission President von der Leyen was the longest-serving minister in Angela Merkel’s German government and was a close associate, including the time when Germany made its catastrophic ‘all welcome here’ announcement in 2015.
It is clear from some of the things being said by the UN that it is now starting to fall out with the EU, after years of issuing ever-starker warnings to Brussels. For political reasons the UN often refers to the Greek government, being a convenient proxy for the EU. (The EU is a major funder of the UN’s “International Organisation for Migration”.) However, matters now seem to be so bad that the UN has even started criticising the EU in its statements.
What the UN is now saying about this EU crisis
“Keeping people on the islands in these inadequate and insecure conditions is inhumane and must come to an end.”
UNHCR spokesperson Liz Throssell, October 2019.
“UNHCR calls for decisive action to end alarming conditions on Aegean islands”
“The trust of local communities must be regained through decisive and coordinated government action strongly supported by the European Union.”
Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR, 07 Feb 2020
This is once again a fast-growing crisis for the EU
The Athens government has repeatedly tried to get the EU to act, but the EU Commission has continuously failed to persuade its member states to agree to its proposals for the relocation and resettlement of migrants to other parts of the EU.
To add to its woes, the EU has recently come under significant pressure from Turkey, which is threatening to tear up its 2017 agreement with the EU to slow the numbers entering the EU via Turkey. This agreement cost the EU €6bn and the UK was a 15% contributor to this, despite the fact that this is an “off-budget” EU fund. Former Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on the first half-payment, and former Prime Minister Theresa May agreed on the second one.
Greece has had enough of interfering NGOs
Athens is now attacking the huge number of NGOs operating there, accusing some of them of assisting human smugglers and of inciting migrants to take direct action.
”There is a galaxy of dodgy NGOs operating alongside a network of doctors, lawyers and other people making a mint out of the human misery of these people,” said George Koumoutsakos, Deputy Migration Minister. ”They are leeches and these practices must end. All of this contributes to illegal migration.”
Last week a new law was passed which places hundreds of NGOs in Greece under strict state oversight. The law provides for the registration of all the 400 NGOs operating in Greece and requires them to disclose their sources of funding.
Similar action against NGOs was taken by Hungary and was also proposed by Matteo Salvini of Italy, and both governments came under attack from Brussels.
It will be interesting to see if Brussels takes action against Athens. Somehow we believe that the EU Commission will not want a great deal of publicity about this subject, as it attempts to take on the departing United Kingdom as well as dealing with all of its other crises.
The EU’s “values”
Anyone who has to read the EU’s output on a regular basis as I do — particularly that of the Commission and the EU Parliament — will frequently come up against nauseating statements about the EU’s “values”. Sometimes these statements take me unawares when I am reading some complex trade document, for example.
For readers who are fortunate enough to avoid such things, I will merely observe that the EU is big on how lovely it is. How caring, compassionate, how unified. How much it loves its citizens and how much its citizens love the EU. And this love does not only extend to its own citizens, but to those from countries which are not fortunate to be in the EU… yet.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of illegal immigration I will end on one thing. Around a quarter of the migrants in the confinement camps on the Greek islands are children under 12 years old. (The UN claims a third.) The situation in those camps has endured for years and is about to get considerably worse, as incoming numbers are doubling again.
Please remember this the next time the EU lectures the United Kingdom on values.
[ Sources: UNHCR | IOM | DW | EU Commission ]