Greece (MNN) — Aegean locals are tiring of refugees from Turkey, but migration doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon.
Neither are the islanders going to get what they really want. “They want, really, the refugees to be moved from the islands to the mainland, and the government does not want to do that, because then Turkey refuses to take back those who come but are denied asylum. So once they leave the islands it’s harder to return them if their applications for asylum are rejected. So it’s a complicated situation.”
If refugees can reach the mainland, they get much better care than in severely overcrowded refugee camps. AMG can also help them assimilate to Greek culture, training them in language and giving them permanent homes.
Ioannidis says, “There are times when there is medical help needed, and they have nowhere else to turn, So, in those cases, we do care for a number of refugees at St. Luke’s Hospital as the need arises and as we have the ability to do so.”
The situation in Greece is complicated and highly political. Most of the refugees are coming from Turkey, which is using the refugee flow through their country as leverage. Ultimately, Turkey wants Western governments to support their involvement in the war in Syria.
As other European countries close their borders to refugees, Greece has received more and more people fleeing war zones or bad economies. “The situation of this increased inflow of refugees is anticipated to continue for the foreseeable future, and there is no clear path as to how this is going to stop, so it is possible that we’ll be here in a year and see even more refugees come from Greece.”
A Christian perspective
Ioannidis says the people of Greece, especially on the Aegean islands, have grown tired of the constant stream of refugees. On many islands, refugees now outnumber locals.
“At the same time, the fact is they continue to come. As Christians, we need to focus on this movement of people, we need to continue to see it as an opportunity to reach people to help them practically and to share the good news of the Gospel to them. And we have seen and continue to see many lives transformed.”
Ioannidis says AMG has seen churches grow from refugees coming to Greece who have heard the Gospel for the first time. “So when we see the situation and the wonder, ‘Well, what is going on and can it keep on doing this forever?’ We need to remind ourselves that God is bringing these people to us. And we need to be caring for them and showing them the love of Jesus. God is at work, and he is transforming lives.”
Ioannidis believes that one day, refugees who have heard the Gospel in Greece will take it back to Syria and other countries in the Middle East, and that Christ’s kingdom will grow as a result.
Tent seashore camp near Vial refugee camp. Chios, Grece, Aegean Sea. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)