Rania Mustafa Ali, 20, filmed her journey [in 2016] from the ruins of Kobane in Syria to Austria. She is cheated by smugglers, teargassed and beaten at the Macedonian border. She risks drowning in the Mediterranean, travelling in a boat meant to hold 15 people but stuffed with 52. Her footage shows what many refugees face on their perilous journey to Europe.
Mahmoud Khelife with his wife and children in Athens, Greece
Last September, the EU announced that it would relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other countries in the EU over the following two years.
But just 272 people have been relocated in the past four months.
Further to this, journalist Andrew Connelly, currently in Athens, Greece, writes:
Austria has suspended its participation in the relocation scheme, hardliners Hungary and Slovakia are challenging the numbers they are supposed to receive in court, and Denmark and the UK opted out from the beginning. Overwhelmed Sweden has reversed its involvement, asking to be a sending rather than a receiving country.
Refugees themselves have been ambivalent about the scheme or simply don’t know about it. Only six nationalities are eligible: Syrians, Iraqis, Eritreans, Yemenis, Bahrainis, and Swazis – based on the high percentage of asylum seekers from those countries who receive refugee status in the EU. Afghans, who represented around 20 percent of Europe’s refugee arrivals in 2015, are notably absent from the list as their likelihood of getting refugee status is well below the 75-percent threshold required for the programme.
[An Iraqi-Kurdish journalist and former producer for Sky News Arabic who fled Iraq] Aral Kakl says those who do qualify for relocation often wait for weeks, only to be told they will be sent to, for example, Cyprus or Bulgaria – countries they know nothing about. Many subsequently opt to leave the hotel and make their own way to a country of their choice.
Mahmoud Khelife – a 53-year-old electrical engineer from Aleppo – and his wife have three teenage children who all have severe learning difficulties. Abdul Malik, 16, Aya, 18, and Mohammed, 19, bounce around the confines of the family’s hotel room. After 47 days, they are still waiting to be accepted by a country for relocation.
“My dream is to go to Ireland,” says Khelife. “I hear the doctors are good there, and they speak English. But no problem – I just need an answer from any country soon. I’m an old man. It doesn’t matter about me. It’s all about my children. Where will they go? They need special treatment.”
Anna Christofides (above) and barrier-free Greek Parliament last night
How’s that going?
Athens-based, Galway-born political scientist Anna Christofides writes:
Despite threats and scaremongering from the EU, Greek voters have spoken; “no more austerity” and “no more EU imposed governments”. The message is loud and clear, the task is less so.
It is early days for Syriza and the new Greek government and Greeks are nervous. Many believe that change will not come fast enough or be radical enough. However, the streets of Athens are already showing signs of change. The gradual militarisation which had taken hold of Athens’ city centre has been rolled back since the new Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, took office on Monday.
The barriers in front of the parliament have been removed and the buses of riot polices have disappeared from the streets. Just as a palpable feeling of depression and desperation descended on the city following the Troika bailout deals in 2010, now there is a tangible feeling of hope and cautious optimism.
Nonetheless, Syriza must tread carefully. Though they have been elected with a political mandate for change and to put an end to austerity, the reality is, their first battle may lie closer to home than with their European aggravators. The fact remains that the country is deeply divided. Though Syriza won the elections by a clear majority, 6% of the population continue to support the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party and 34% continue to support the parties that signed the memorandums and implemented devastating austerity measures which have left more than half of the country’s youth unemployed. Representing and satisfying such a conflicted and confused society is no mean feat.
Moreover, the country’s state institutions have traditionally supported and implemented the policies of Right and far Right governments. In turn, they themselves are supported by the country’s oligarchy, who, up until now, have proved untouchable. Syriza is well aware of this. It is no coincidence that they contacted the leaders of the Army and Police within one hour of the release of the first exit polls on Sunday evening, to confirm their trust for both of these institutions. Despite this, election statistics indicate that, once again, police were amongst the staunchest supporters of Golden Dawn.
In addition to the immediate domestic challenges there is extreme pressure from the European Left. The political investment in Syriza is collossal, the future of the entire European radical Left relies on their ability to demonstrate that a valid, political, alternative to the current neo-liberal status quo exists. With so much pressure there is no margin of error for Syrzia.
For those of us that long for a radical redistribution of power and wealth and fairer society for all, let us hope that they get it right.
Thanks Bewildered Student
Nobel cat-loving Economist Paul Krugman
…So now that [Alex] Tsipras [leader of Syriza] has won, European officials would be well advised to skip the lectures calling on him to act responsibly and to go along with their programme. The fact is they have no credibility; the programme they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.
If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. But it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.
Still, in calling for a major change, Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country’s nightmare.