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Article by METAdrasi’ s President Lora Pappa in the special edition of “Kathimerini” newspaper

The special edition of “Kathimerini” newspaper “Greece and the world in 2017” hosted an article by METAdrasi’ s President Lora Pappa:

“The challenge is to prove that we too can manage exceptionally the relatively small number of refugees in our country.”
Let us be inspired by the positive examples in the past year in order to believe in our own strength. We can do it.

“We must learn that continuous use of the term “crisis”, which indicates a transitional state, a temporary problem which as soon as it is solved everything will be as before, does not help us understand the real picture of what is happening around us. […]

The bet for our country is to establish long term partnerships with the healthy parts of civil society and local authorities and to remove all sorts of opportunists trying to turn refugees into “commodities”. Let us leave aside antagonism and egoism and build relations of trust. It takes sincerity, honesty, consistency, competent people who know the subject and dedication to the goal. Only united and properly prepared will we be able to address the severe challenges ahead.”

 

Read the full article translated in English below:

Migration: from crisis to coordinated management

“In the camps on mainland Greece there are still about 20,000 refugees. Unfortunately, a large number has been living in deplorable conditions, for over nine months. They live in tents without electricity, in standby mode and idleness, exposed to all sorts of exploitation circuits. ”

By Lora Pappa

President of the NGO “METAdrasi”

In 2015, about 850,000 people, mostly refugees, passed from Greece. The situation was described as “humanitarian crisis” in a Europe of 500 million inhabitants, when Lebanon, with 4.5 million inhabitants, is hosting 1.5 million refugees. Is this a humanitarian crisis or a management crisis after all?

Civil society has covered to a large extend the needs that emerged. It was a great opportunity to undertake in a more coordinated manner specific areas of responsibility and competence, depending on the expertise, experience and effectiveness of state and local authorities and NGOs. However, this trilateral cooperation was uncoordinated and fragmentary.

In most European Union countries this cooperation goes without saying. For example, Austria of 8 million inhabitants received in 2015 about 100,000 refugees, who after a few months were hosted in facilities, apartments, are learning the language, their children have been included in school activities and any needs are met through this tripartite cooperation.

However, through the refugee crisis for the first time courageous mayors emerged in Athens, Thessaloniki, Lesvos, Chios and in many other places, and undertook dynamic initiatives, spoke candidly and mobilized their citizens. They, thus, highlighted the need to take responsibilities in the management of reception and integration of refugees by the local government.

A positive example of utilization of our resources was the involvement of the armed forces, which catalytically contributed at the crucial moment, to the disposal, creation and operation of accommodation facilities for refugees. With consistency, good organization and selected involvement of carriers, last summer the preregistration process of all asylum applications of the Asylum Service was also achieved in minimum time in the mainland, with the support of UNHCR. New technologies were utilized, as well as the experience of mainly national NGOs in specialized fields, such as unaccompanied minors, the provision of interpretation etc.

There are other positive examples that can inspire us to largely rely on our own strengh and to urge us to amplify effective actions so that they become viable in the long-term. The challenge is to prove that we, too, can manage exceptionally the relatively small number of refugees in our country.

According to figures used by the United Nations High Commissioner, in the camps on mainland Greece there are still about 20,000 refugees. Unfortunately, a large number has been living in deplorable conditions for over nine months. They live in tents without electricity, in standby mode and idleness, exposed to all sorts of exploitation circuits. Desperate and unprotected, they pull like magnets human traffickers, drug dealers and, of course, smugglers who seem to them their only hope for salvation.

Facing challenges

Within the New Year we will not be able to excuse these weaknesses by projecting the difficult economic situation. The EU has provided significant funding to the Greek government, the UNHCR and international NGOs. Strengthening the credibility of the state as to the management of the refugee population that has been stuck in the country constitutes a priority.

We must learn that the continuous use of the term “crisis”, which indicates a transitional state, a temporary problem which, as soon as it is solved, everything will be as before, does not help us understand the real picture of what is happening around us. Europe, openly now, has its own agenda, sealing its borders with Greece and planning as from March 2017 the activation of the Dublin Regulation in order to be returning refugees in Greece. In this manner, the bet for our country is to establish long term partnerships with the healthy parts of civil society and local authorities and to remove all sorts of opportunists trying to turn refugees into “commodities”. Let us leave aside antagonism and egoism and build relations of trust. It takes sincerity, honesty, consistency, competent people who know the subject and dedication to the goal. Only united and properly prepared will we be able to address the severe challenges ahead.