Through the internets and the twitters, I came across Bill Frelick’s op-ed at the New York Times, titled “Greece’s Refugee Problem“. The article is strikingly to the point, and I recommend to anyone reading it. As a Greek, I should add that under pressure from the rise of the far-right, the current conservative Greek government has been transforming Greece’s non-policy policy, which it inherited from the previous centrist (“socialist”) government, into an active anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policy.
From the previous non-functional system designed to ignore the problem, the new policies aim to actively block all paths for admission of people as refugees. At the same time, conditions for immigrants and refugees are deteriorating. The matter of the conditions in the “administrative detention centers”, may not even be the big issue here. There are tens if not hundreds of thousands more people that have entered the country illegally, who cram in newly emergent urban ghettos or are exploited viciously as dirt cheap labor in the countryside. These people are offered no means to integrate into society and social tensions build up to explosive levels. During the recent years Greece is becoming an increasingly violent society. And the government’s response is more repression and pressure, with conditions that are utter shame for people claiming to be heirs to a great civilization.
The NYT article correctly points out some of these points, although it focuses just on the asylum seekers. And Bill Frelick is absolutely correct in pointing out that Greece should be held accountable for what it inflicts on refugees. For too long have Greek authorities been abusing immigrants and refugees in preposterous ways, ignoring our own Greek Constitution that demands respect for human rights and human dignity and spitting in the face of anything we claim to be heirs to.
But Bill Frelick makes a grave mistake in singling out Greece. He completely overlooks the reasons why Greece has to face this problem. The Greek response to the refugee issue is definitely worthy of severe criticism, however refugees do not appear out of thin air. Mr Frellick is talking about the response to the symptoms, but fails to even mention the underlying condition. His example of an Afghan boy fleeing a pederast warlord is a very uncharacteristic example. Many more people have fled their countries due to the imperialist wars waged by the US and their allies. And even greater is the number of people fleeing their countries due to economic conditions imposed by the neo-colonial exploitation war waged by the EU, the US, China etc on third world countries. And sure, Greece is not innocent in any of these, too: it’s a well established member of the EU and NATO.
So yes Greece must be severely criticized. But severe criticism should also be directed towards those that uproot people from their countries in the first place. And if one looks beyond sentimentalist compassion into the true reasons of the problem, there can only be one “j’ accuse”: capitalism. But the NYT wouldn’t publish anything about that, would it?