Categories: Rise to Peace blog

Political Crisis For Refugees Seeking Asylum In Greece

There are currently 119,700 refugees in Greece, while another 19,100 refugees remain on the Greek Islands, seeking asylum. Despite many of these refugees fleeing war torn countries including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – it has developed from a humanitarian crisis to a political one. Greece is going through some significant financial issues which makes the economic impact of Greece’s incoming refugees more complicated. This has led to many refugees living in inadequate conditions.

Refugees entering Greece have traveled from war-torn nations and often need counselling for psychological trauma and require medical aid. In February 2019, Dimitris Vitsas, a Syriza member of Hellenic Parliament stated that Greece can not process 20,000 asylum applications each year. Greece is also unable to integrate the twelve thousand refugees currently on the Greek mainland. The irregularity in immigration into Greece has been a significant burden for the nation. 

Refugee ‘Hotspots’

To identify, register, and fingerprint incoming migrants the Greek government created temporary refugee processing centres. These ‘hotspots’ would allow immigrants to then travel to the Greek mainland. These locations include Lesvos refugee camp which was opened in October 2015 with a capacity of 3,100 people, but is now called ‘home’ by more than 20,000 refugees. The same issue was found in other Greek refugee hotspots like Chios and Samos. Both opened in March 2016 and had a limited capacity. However, investigations into the refugee hotspot at Samos, with an official capacity of 650, reported a population of over 3,000.

Refugee Camp Overcrowding

The overcrowding of these refugee camps has been blamed on the deal agreed between the European Union and Turkey in March 2016. The deal asserts Turkey as a safe zone for refugees escaping violence from neighbouring countries like Syria. Before entering the European mainland refugees must apply and receive a decision on their asylum case.

The overcrowding is also a result of Greece’s geographical location. As the closest entrance into Europe from the Middle East, Greece has seen an overwhelming influx of refugees. Of the 65 million people officially classified as displaced persons globally, an increasing number of refugees have been travelling through Greece. Furthermore, in 2016 Greece saw an unprecedented number of refugees travelling to its shores. It has been reported that more than 4 million Syrians have been driven from their country, and in 2016 alone 26,000 of them applied for asylum in Greece. This is up from 3,000 in 2015.

This overcrowding in the refugee camps can lead to poor living conditions and often impacts the processing of refugees’ cases. More refugees than ever are displaced from their home country and Greece is unable to manage. With their own economic crisis and rising unemployment, many of the Greek refugee processing centres and camps are run by volunteers and charities like Lighthouse Relief. With millions of refugees already displaced and hundreds more arriving into Europe each day, it is important for the European Union and surrounding nations to implement a road-map to better manage. 

Ongoing Recommendations

The migration issues faced by Greece are important but the driver of this mass migration is ongoing conflict. The focus for many reports is how to better manage, we must highlight the impact on refugees’ home nations. With millions displaced, implementing peace and rebuilding a country is much more difficult. Especially as many skilled workers and young people important to a nation’s rebuilding will begin to integrate into new countries.

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