“More than 850,000 refugees reached the Greek islands from Turkey in 2015, according to the UNHCR. Already in 2016, 102,500 refugees have reached the Greek islands of Samos, Kos, and Lesvos, according to the International Organization for Migration. In 2015, it took until June to reach this level of refugee arrival.Each day, anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 migrants arrive on the Greek islands. On February 22 alone, 1,130 refugees arrived at Athens Piraeus port.
“Moreover, Austria’s exclusion of Greece from a conference it called this week with nine Balkan countries to discuss the crisis is baffling. The conference announced its participants would not comply with a previously agreed-to EU policy of facilitating refugee flows until the March meetings. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz stated Greece had shown no willingness to reduce the influx of refugees. He did not explain how Greece – with an immense maritime border – was supposed to do this. Calls for an end to Schengen by some in European circles further exemplify a fragmented and dysfunctional Europe.
“We applaud the statement of United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees Filippo Grandi, who presently is in Greece and said, ‘…with every passing week, it appears that some European countries are focusing on keeping refugees and migrants out more than on responsibly managing the flow and working on common solutions…‘
“The refugee crisis in Greece, and the resulting instability it has created, is not in the best interest of the United States or the European Union and has left the American Hellenic community and Diaspora perplexed and indeed angry. Although AHEPA is encouraged with a NATO mission aimed to dismantle the human trafficking rings and to reduce refugee flows has begun, we call for much more support, cooperation, and coordination from the European Union, Balkan nations, and Turkey, all of which can play a far greater role in controlling the flow of refugees to Europe in a more responsible manner. Turkey, especially, can do more to squash the workings of human traffickers and smugglers who are profiting as much as six billion dollars, according to Europol, off the desperation of the refugees.
“AHEPA calls for the United States to remain engaged and to support Greece in the crucial weeks and months ahead as the ramifications of a continuation of the refugee crisis and the growing instability it promotes are serious and beyond measure. President Barack Obama’s video conference call with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week is welcomed and appreciated. Their discussion of the Syrian crisis and the consequent refugee crisis can only be helpful.
“AHEPA will not tolerate an isolation of Greece, a valued and trusted NATO ally, during this critical time. We call on the community, individuals and organizations alike, to reach out to Congress and the president to express their dismay and concern about the refugee crisis in Greece, and to make clear the source of this crisis, namely Turkey.”