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Greece: STALAG 13
by Nikos Laios
2016-03-05 11:27:40
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Greece has been turned into an open-air internment camp, a German style stalag where increasingly tens of thousands of refugees are finding themselves trapped in Greece unable to continue their journey northwards to Germany. Poor desperate souls who are streaming into Europe to find asylum and an escape from the hell of war, starvation and privation with a vision of an idealized utopia that they are unfortunately finding is not real. Families, young people, the aged and crippled with some making the journey to Europe in wheel chairs. All these poor bedraggled souls who thought they could find humanity and compassion in Europe, who now find their dreams and visions foundering on the white-washed dazzling shores of the Aegean. Where only this last week two refugees attempted to hang themselves in a downtown city square in Athens out of desperation at the shattering of their illusions.

img_1800_on_the_edge_of_the_world_400While the rest of Europe haggles and argues over their obligations as civilized nations to the human rights of these poor wretches, poor Greece goes about the job in humility every day at plucking refugees out of the cold wintery waves by fisherman who should be harvesting the seas to feed their families, who are now harvesting the ocean of the unwanted human detritus. Not flinching for one moment at their moral and ethical obligations to show compassion to their fellow human beings; the old and weathered Greek grandmothers who sit in their chairs of the courtyards of their homes in their easterly Greek islands caring for the very young refugee children. Providing some warmth and shelter to young families - where though language is a barrier - find that love knows no boundaries; or the everyday Greeks who volunteer and provide the refugees with the basic necessities. These same Greeks who have seen their wages cut, or their pensions drastically reduced, these same Greeks who can barely feed their own children who sometimes go to school without having eaten. These Greeks who are labouring under the cruel and inhuman enforced punishment of fiscal and economic austerity by their callous fellow Europeans and the international banking system. It is my fellow Greeks who whilst labouring under this austerity are unflinching in showing warmth, compassion, humanity and dignity to the desperate war-torn refugees.

The irony here is that the same Germany that imposed this austerity on Greece, is the same Germany that at the beginning of the crisis last year opened its arms and invited the refugees to come to Germany, who now has closed its doors. As has Austria and other chain of nations from Central Europe leading down to the borders of Greece. Razor wires are going up, border checks have been reinstated, and fingers are being pointed at Greece as the scapegoat for the refugees entering Europe through its porous sea boundaries. Where the Schengen system of freedom of movement is in effect dead, as is the illusion of European unity. Where at this moment, this writer has never been more embarrassed at being a European than right now at the lack of compassion being shown. Now this writer has at many times expressed opposition to the current autocratic structure of the European Union, at the illogicality of tying the various and disparate economies of Europe to the one Euro currency, or at the loss of sovereignty and democracy at a national level. Yet these questions does not excuse Europe from expressing a united voice of human compassion, warmth and dignity towards their fellow human beings who are suffering right now; or expressing a united voice of political action at attempting to bring peace to Syria so that the refugees can safely return.

So what should Europe have done at the start of the refugee crisis when it unfolded at the beginning of the Syrian civil war? The warning signs for Europe were there when refugees started pouring into Syria's neighbours; Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who all took in millions of refugees to care for. Yet Europe did not act then because it didn't affect it at that stage, and only when refugees started to enter Europe did it start to take notice. When the civil war started to unfurl and people started to become displaced Europe should have at that stage acted immediately by setting up camps and settlements for the refugees in these neighbouring nations that took them in; to provide food and resources to assist both the refugees and the affected nations. Who instead now are merely reacting rather than being proactive in the first place, who now that they realise the scale of this human tragedy, are retreating like cowards from their obligations as civilised humanitarian nations.

Where this crisis has now exposed the fissures and cracks in the tectonic plates of Europe’s modern history, where the odious fumes of racism, bigotry and fascism are rising in the guise of extreme right-wing political parties and organisations. The same racism and bigotry that was used to stereotype Greeks as 'lazy' economic 'profligates', yet it is these same 'lazy' and 'profligate' Greeks who whilst labouring under a national unemployment rate of over 22% and a youth unemployment rate of over 50%, rising poverty and hunger levels; that are the Europeans who are showing warmth, compassion, humanity and dignity.  The old grandmothers subsisting on meagre pensions, the fisherman that should be feeding their people, the cafe owners, the everyday man in the street doing their bit. It is these same 'lazy' and 'profligate' Greeks that are restoring the pride to Europe and washing the stains of its dishonour from its collective forehead. Yet what does Europe do to reward Greece for this? Turn it into an open-air internment camp, a German style stalag, all ironically by the hand of its economic jailer, Germany. Europe, hang your head in shame! For your actions and deeds bring dishonour to the human family.


With a digital drawing from Nikos Laios

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Emanuel Paparella2016-03-05 12:41:05
Indeed, the lesson from past and even present American history is crystal clear: once a polity writes a constitution proclaiming the equality and the dignity of all men (not just its own citizens), the inalienable rights of man, respect for civil rights, democracy and solidarity, not to speak of economic prosperity, but then hypocritically fails to act on those ideals and principles as spelled out on paper, then such a union becomes a sham and it will either unravel or lead to a civil war; the war of all against all.

It is not what one proclaims on a piece of paper that forms a lasting “more perfect” union, but a consciousness of the reasons and purposes of that union and a clear vision of the roots of one’s cultural identity which acts as a centripetal force and holds the center. Alas, “Fortress Europe” closed within its borders, reinforcing its national borders, never mind the central EU government proclaiming a confederacy of sorts, is already a clear sign, if one was needed, that the union will not last; it will turn out to be a chimera and a utopia on paper, a rhetorical success but a big failure in practice; walls always portent failure, conflict and disaster. It is bridges that are desperately needed, not walls and fenced borders. Pope Francis put it best: a Christian builds bridges, not walls. Christianity and belief in God, on paper only, also eventually leads to conflict; some of those conflicts were called Crusades, others were called the wars of religion; all were characterized by idolatry: the worship not of the living God but of an idea of God.

A wise man in Palestine whose message spread over the continent of Europe via twelve ignorant Jewish fishermen, who somehow absurdly decided one fine day to stop fishing and spread an idea in Europe, said “by their fruits you shall know them” and he also said “let those who have ears, let them hear.”

Leah Sellers2016-03-05 17:17:43
Truth Saying, Mr. Nikos ! The Answers lie not in their running away to areas that are already under duress or swamping World areas deemed as Healthy, which would quickly find themselves to be additional Greeces. The Answer is in the Middle Eastern/Muslim nations coming together to wrestle effectively with their own Cultural/Theological/Political Demons, and cohesively working toward their own Better Futures of their own Creation. The West can help to mediate and assist, but we need to stop being their dysfunctional Leaders (and the Mega-Corps and Mega-Banks) mercenaries and pawns. The West (and others) need to be offering Humanitarian Aide and Helping Hand Efforts within their Own countries, while their Leaders and factions Work together to do what is best for the Totality of their Peoples (and the wicked, destructive darkness of ISIS and others of their ilk is not what is best for the Whole - it is a sick, caustic Symptom of the failings of their present leaders, culture and theology, and the Greed of Others). Only they can truly Process through and Fix these things. The West is being visited upon by the very damaging behaviors it participated in for Money and Power. The West needs to help with Reparational Humanitarian Aide, but the Middle East does not have the Right to take down other Ntions and Cultures during their Healing processes. It will only World Problems everywhere. They need to Stop and Think about how to save Themselves and their Culture. and attain those things within their own Homelands. Everyone is in Fear Mode now. We all need to take a step back, and look at how we can Help one another, not do further damage and destruction to one another. A multitude of Mis-Takes and Mis-Steps have been made by Middle Eastern and World Leaders. And it will take a multitude of Benevolent Corrective Actions by One and All, for years to come, to Redeem and Benefit One and All. Excellent article,sir. Thank you.

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