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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 August 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 AUGUST 2015 15 FEATURE odyssey hysteria with blame on Greece. Greece did not start the issues that the refugees are fleeing from. The EU, which is strong enough to bully Greece and Cyprus, has lacked the desire and drive to prevent global issues from escalating. They dithered in Syria, they allowed the Bush regime to destroy Iraq and Afghanistan, they failed to stop Obama from withdrawing his troops from problem areas, they failed to have a genuine solution to the fear and persecution millions will suffer in Asia and the Arab world. According to Kostas, from a taverna in Mytilene, "Europe seems to be content to allow Italy and Greece to bear the burden of the refugees. They should have been ready, instead they spend all their time arguing with Greece over our debt, and yet they act poorly when people cross over from Africa or Turkey". Greece could do with the suits of Brussels coming in to lend some real support. The people on the island are doing the same, many are contributing food, blankets, toys and acceptance - the acceptance that many are crowded on the outskirts of the capital in makeshift tents, clothes being washed on the rocks. Imagine the panic if that had occurred in Melbourne or dare I say it Frankfurt. CRITICISM The issue of refugees finally made international headlines when an off-duty military officer, Antonis Deligiorgis, in Rhodes, swam out and rescued up to 20 people from a sinking boat. One of them was a 24-year-old woman from Eritrea. Their image was splashed in newspapers around the world. Rather than stay in Greece, she made it clear she wanted to reach mainland Greece and move on, as most seem to want. It is fair to say that Greece, like Italy, is an easy target for people smugglers and refugees. It is now up to the EU to flex some muscle and find a solution. This can include halting the migration from Turkey, as they appear not to be preventing their entry, helping these people from the moment they arrive on the Turkish or Greek coast, rather than merely pointing out how inadequate places such as Lesvos, Kos, Samos and Chios are in dealing with them. For those in the first world, especially in Brussels and those sipping their lattes in the morning at their favourite cafeteria, spare a thought for each island. Each one has a small population in a small geographical area. They are more equipped for dealing with waves of tourists, escaped donkeys, food shortages and over the centuries, the brutality of foreign occupiers. They are not equipped to sort out refugees. This is something they are learning as they go along. Not even large cities around the world are able to cope with similar situations. With that in mind, try processing hundreds of refugees every day and then try verifying who they are and if they are detrimental to the island. Most of course are not, though the security of the islanders and fellow refugees is paramount. Once processed, they will be taken to Athens and possibly from there to other countries. It is interesting to see, in some of the tourist spots, tourists still going about their business, having a great holiday whilst the newly arrived are allowed the space to breathe and recover. Unlike some of the reports from Kos, the visitors to Lesvos just want to get their second chance in life without being involved in any fracas. MESSAGE TO THOSE IN THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA As someone who has spent 14 months of his life in Lesvos, it is easy for me to defend my island. We are not as wealthy as London nor have we the infrastructure of Washington. Therefore, to those who persist in making rash judgements including how the camp Kara Tepe (in Moria) "is the kind of camp that could exist in conflict zones in many parts of the world, but it's not in a conflict zone: it's in Greece, on the Aegean island of Lesbos". That is attributed to Mr Nick Barnetts, reporting for Al Jazeera. My hope is he can spend quality time living on the island to understand what it is and is not. Journalists fly in and fly out of the areas they report on. This is what they do. Unfortunately, when it concerns my own island and how difficult life has been there for many, it would be great for more people in the media to be fair to the Greek authorities. It is the same Greek authorities who have to daily clean the dumped vessels and life vests which number in the hundreds. Just take a walk along the Efthalou coast. To the paranoid in the British media who daily give us stories of Calais - I understand that just 1 per cent of the 200,000 'migrants' to Europe thus far in 2015 have made it via Calais. Europe has a population of over 740 million. FUTURE Is there an end? As long as there are significant issues in countries from Libya to Pakistan, there is no doubt that refugees will try to make their way to the Europe. Many borders seem to be lax; this is a situation that Europe and the US must take responsibility for. The EU had previously pulled funding from border patrols and many developed countries around the world have reduced their aid budgets. This needs to reassessed. Greece needs support and they need Turkey to take more responsibility. Having said that, Turkey currently has an estimated 1.5 million refugees from Syria and Iraq inside its borders, which means it too will need help. Lesvos will continue to function as an island. That is what we are, an island. It is not a Dubai, it is a remote island. The people have shown compassion and patience, a typical element found on Lesvos and in the spirit of many of its recent visitors. * Billy Cotsis is the Syrian migrants arrive by dinghy from the Turkish coasts, at a Mytilene beach on the north-eastern Greek island of Lesvos. Lesvos, Greece’s third-largest island, is bearing the brunt of the migrant crisis. PHOTO: AP/THANASSIS STAVRAKIS. A father gives his son to a coast guard officer, second left, as he disembarks from a vessel at the port of Mytilene after being picked up by the Greek coast guard near the northeast Greek island of Lesvos. PHOTO: AP/THANASSIS STAVRAKIS.
15 August 2015
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