Greece (MNN) — A new UN report says the number of refugees arriving in Europe is down 30-percent overall. It’s a different story in Greece; arrivals here are up nearly 50-percent compared to this time last year.
AMG International President Tasos Ioannidis just returned from Athens. “There seems to be a spike of the number of people who are coming from Turkey,” he says.
“[On] one day, there were more than 600 arrivals on the island of Lesbos.”
Ioannidis says Turkey’s President, Recep Erdogan, is behind the recent spike. “Mr. Erdogan has been sending more people towards Greece, towards Europe, because he is under pressure politically,” he says. More about Erdogan’s threats here.
“Erdogan is using them as leverage, asking for more funding to take care of refugees who are in Turkey.”
In 2019 alone, 30,755 refugees and migrants have arrived on Greek shores. Under Greek law, new arrivals must be “processed” and receive paperwork before they can find asylum in Europe. In 2018, the average processing time between pre-registration and a first instance decision was 8.6 months.
“Since this has been going for several years and has [strained] the resources of Greece, the Greek people are not as welcoming of refugees anymore,” Ioannidis explains. “Initially when this was taking place, [people] were a lot more welcoming.”
Refugee violence also creates tension. Living conditions in Turkey are better than what refugees experience in Greece, Ioannidis says. Frustration over long processing times and poor living conditions often leads to violence, which creates opposition between refugees and Greek residents.
Ioannidis calls it a “vicious cycle.” However, there is a silver lining.
God moves in refugee hearts
Society’s rejection is a stark contrast to the love and kindness displayed by AMG staff. Whether it’s providing a warm plate of food or helping refugees fill out paperwork, each interaction provides a Gospel opportunity. “As they experience Christian love, they respond,” Ioannidis says.
“They (refugees) have experienced violence; they have experienced that rejection. Then, these people who – for no other reason [than] because they are followers of Jesus – show love to them.”
Many refugees become Jesus followers as a result, Ioannidis adds. Learn more about AMG’s work here.
Find your place in the story
“First-entry” locations such as Lesbos have received more people than they can hold, so authorities transfer many refugees to mainland Greece. AMG serves scores of them at its three ministry centers in Athens.
“I visited our center in downtown Athens last week; there were more than 100 people,” Ioannidis says. At AMG’s center, “they have the opportunity to socialize, use the internet to get in contact with loved ones; we help them with paperwork, and then our staff members have the opportunity to express the love of Christ and even share about Christ.”
AMG needs your help to keep this work going. “It is expensive to operate three centers to minister to literally hundreds every day,” Ioannidis says. “We need financial resources; we need your prayers; we also occasionally need volunteers.”
Use the prompts listed beside this article to guide your prayers. You can give to AMG’s refugee ministry here. Or, you can ask AMG about short-term opportunities through the website. Just mention this article when you submit your request.
“Over the last couple of years, we have seen a great number of refugees come to faith as we minister to them in different ways,” Ioannidis says.
“God is at work, even in the midst of this tragedy.”
Header image courtesy of AMG International.