Greece (MNN) – Turkey’s deal with the European Union kicked the refugee crisis in Greece into high gear.
This wave came as the result of a crackdown on migrants in Turkey at the same time fighting intensified in Syria. Two months ago, Istanbul began pushing unregistered migrants to find other places to live, although the push is coming in earnest now.
AMG International’s Tasos Ioannidis explains, “There are about 4 million people who are refugees in Turkey. It’s very expensive to take care of them. President Erdogan wants the European Union to give him more money to keep the refugees there; he’s basically using the refugee flow as leverage to get more money out of the European Union.”
However, Ioannidis believes Erdogan has another motive for moving people around; he’s also using them as a buffer zone. “Erdogan considers the Kurds unfriendly, or enemies of Turkey, so he’s trying to dilute the Kurdish population. He’s pushing to get the United States and the European Union to sign off on him moving refugees in that area. So he’s basically using the refugees for political leverage and to achieve his goals.”
Erdogan also warned that unless a ‘safe-zone’ became a reality within Syria soon, he would force Syrian refugees out of Turkey.
Aid workers warn of catastrophe in Greece
Ioannidis says that for several years, the flow of refugees coming to Greece slowed down. This latest from Turkey ended the respite for Greece. “Now, in the last two months, we have seen a significant increase in refugee flows. The week before, there were almost 3000 people that crossed into Greece. Yesterday, there were about 300 that cross the different places in Greece. Yesterday, the main crossing point was the island of Samos.”
For illegal immigrants, Greece, Italy and Spain are the EU’s busiest entry points. Because Greece has a vast coastline, it is hard to stop people coming by boat. Smugglers are cashing in on desperation, dumping thousands on the beaches of Lesvos, Samos, Kos, Leros and Chios.
But even if the boat makes it to an island, the conditions aren’t better. “Moria and Lesvos, which are the best-known hotspots in Greece, (were) designed for 3000 people and it is way over 11,000 people right now. The conditions are bad because it is overcrowded, and you have similar situations in other hotspots in the other Greek islands.” Aid workers warn that the overcrowding is ballooning into a humanitarian crisis.
Stretching the resources
Given how near Greece came to insolvency during the peak of the refugee crisis, will the resources stretch? Ioannidis says, “So far, we have been able to manage, but we are seeing more people coming and that the demand for resources is increasing. There is no question about that. We do feel like we are under increased pressure.”
AMG runs a HomeSpot Center in Lavrio, along with a second care center in Thessaloniki. They also recently opened a HomeSpot in downtown Athens along with a HomeSpot Lab near the center in Lavrio.
Ioannidis points out that, “As the refugees are coming, people are becoming less welcoming because of the drain on the resources. We need to be praying about the situation that there is no violence in the refugee camps that people continue to do what they can.” It takes $30,000 to cover annual staffing and operational expenses to run the HomeSpot refugee care center in Athens, Greece.
He says they’re keeping an eye on another issue, too. “Among the refugees, there is a number of unescorted the children—we are talking about young children–at least 70 that came recently that are in a particular center in Athens.”
Pray, give, go
A final thought: as AMG’s staff works with the displaced coming to Greece, they have a platform from which to share the hope that they have in Christ. A troubling story can find resolution in a time of desperation, but it doesn’t come without spiritual intervention. “Pray for everybody that is involved in this process, that they will have patience and also that God will continue to work in their lives; (pray) that the doors will remain open to share the Gospel.”
(Headline photo courtesy AMG International)