The AHEPAN - Spring 2016 - 5


AHEPA Voices Deep Concern about Refugee Crisis in Greece
AHEPA will not tolerate isolation of Greece during critical time
Supreme President John W. Galanis
issued the following statement, Feb. 25,
2016, on the refugee crisis and its impact
upon Greece ahead of two early March
meetings critical to Greece:
"AHEPA is concerned deeply about
the inability of the European Union and
Turkey to manage the flow of refugees
to Europe, specifically to Greece. The
American Hellenic community deems it
unacceptable and an outrage that Greece
is left to carry a large share of the refugee crisis burden based in part on
geographic location and its 8,700-mile
border-the largest in Europe-amid a
crippling economic crisis. Greece is a
reliable NATO ally and EU member-nation and finds itself under enormous
economic and social pressure.
"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.
"Because of recently implemented
restrictions by Balkan countries, at the urging of central European countries, Afghan
refugees are being turned away at the
FYROM border crossing at Idomeni, and a
restriction on the number of migrants from
other nations is in place. Consequently,
nearly 3,000 refugees are backed up at the
Idomeni crossing; and transit centers in
Athens and Thessaloniki are at capacity
with nearly 10,000 refugees. Some 1,700
refugees are camping out in Piraeus. Some

300 refugees are camping out in Victoria
Square in Athens. Groups of refugees,
including women, children and the elderly,
are to be seen walking along the AthensThessaloniki National Highway on their
way to the FYROM border. Approximately
3,000 refugees are arriving daily in Piraeus
from the Greek islands. It is estimated
that 25,000 refugees are presently within
Greece, and this figure is expected to double within the week. In essence, as one diplomat put it, Greece has become an 'open
air detention camp.'
"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."
Spring 2016 ยท THE AHEPAN



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