Refugee crisis;two powerful words that have been written in thousands and thousands of articles and have come out of millions of mouths each day. Refugee crisis has been used to describe the flow of more than 1 million people who fled their worn-torn countries in Middle East, crossed the Mediterranean sea and they now seek a secure home in the countries of Western Europe.
Greece has been in the spotlight of this crisis as it has been one of the main entry points for refugees. During the summer of 2015, thousands of refugees have been arriving to the shores of Greek islands such as Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos every day. The pictures of both small boats crammed with refugees landing on the beaches all over the islands and locals trying to help them and provide dry clothes and first aid, have been circulated around the world.
Then it was Idomeni. A tiny village close to the borders between Greece and FYROM that was meant to become worldwide the symbol of the struggle and the suffering of refugees. In the beginning, Idomeni was just a part of the journey of refugees who were leaving Greece , and via othe Balkan countries made their way to the rest of Europe .
When FYROM though closed the borders, thousands of refugees have been stranded in the fields of Idomeni waiting for the opening of the borders, which would never come. During the winter, refugees, among whom there were many babies, children and pregnant women, were staying in the cold in the tents surrounded by mud. Volunteers from all over the world along with international organisations have arrived in the tiny village to support the refugee population living in inhuman conditions.
After a few months, in March 2015, another chapter begins regarding the refugee crisis in Greece as the state decides to evacuate Idomeni and transfer the refugees in newly established camps located mainly in Northern Greece. This transfer was not easy as in many cases locals have been refusing to host a refugee camp in their area. And this refusal have been expressed with demonstrations or even with residents throwing pigheads or setting on fire the places where the camps would be located.
Meanwhile the refugees themselves have also organised protests in few cases in Thessaloniki and Lesvos expressing their anger for waiting for months now in camps or in hot spots until their asylum or relocation requests being examined and processed.
For many refugees this is their second winter staying in camps in Greece. The harsh cold wave that hit the country in the end of December and in the beginning of January found the Greek state totally unprepared. Pictures of tents where refugees have been living in being buried in the snow were in the pages of national and international media. At the same time, there were camps without any or with inadequate heating system. As a result refugees had to suffer under freezing temperatures, which in some days were below zero.
On the one hand international organisations publish reports about the inhuman conditions under which refugees live in Greece, but at the same time journalists discover human and positive stories or expose the different angles of the lives and the problems refugees deal with.
Meanwhile, new developments regarding the stay of refugees in the country create new tensions among the local societies. Characteristic example is the need for the children living in the camps to go to school. A small but determined group of parents in Thessaloniki and in Athens organised marches against the enrollment of refugees children in the Greek schools expressing fears about the lack of adequate health checks of refugee children which could mean putting at risk the health of the Greek school kids . These marches allowed room for members of the neonazi party Golden Dawn to take part and offer their support which in several instances tensions have even resulted in actual fighting between teachers, parents and Golden Dawn supporters. On the other hand, there were several schools where both parents and the local administration welcomed the children in the warmest way possible, offering them a warm welcome by making banners offering gifts and sweets.
In a country where the financial crisis has left thousands of citizens poor, unemployed and in a state of anger the far-right and populism finds room to rise, and people torn regarding their stance towards the refugees and the perspective of some of them staying in Greece for good.
At political level, both the refugee issue and the weak response of European Union towards it have been exploited by government and the parties of the opposition in order promote their agendas.
Like every other crisis, the refugee crisis is a dynamic situation, a constantly changing phenomenon with various implications on local, national and international level.
A phenomenon with millions of stories awaiting to be discovered and told.