As if Greece didn’t have enough on its hands after its European creditors forced it to accept a damaging bailout deal last month, it is also trying to cope with more refugees crossing the Mediterranean to its shores than to any other country in Europe. It is unconscionable for Europe to expect Greece to shoulder this burden, yet that is exactly what is happening.
More than 107,000 refugees and immigrants have landed in Greece this year, surpassing the 80,000 reaching Italy. More than half are Syrians fleeing the civil war.
The refugees, arriving in Greece at a rate of 1,000 a day, are exhausted, dehydrated and hungry. The few reception centers operated by the Greek government are overwhelmed and cannot offer this population enough food, much less shelter or medical care. But for those who risked their lives to reach Europe there is no turning back.
With the Greek government in no position to commit more resources to the problem, residents on the island of Lesbos — where many refugees from the Middle East land because of its proximity to Turkey — have responded generously, providing meals, blankets and dry clothing. Their response should shame others in Europe, particularly the British government, which is panicking over the prospect that a mere 3,000 migrants in Calais, France, might make it across the English Channel.
Europe’s migration crisis, which is growing more urgent by the day, cannot be solved by citizen volunteers in the Continent’s most financially damaged country. The European Union agreed last month to take 40,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over the next two years, but that is a laughable number given the scope of the crisis. Even then, member nations could not agree on how many each would accept, something the European Commission says it will now try to get done by the end of this year.
Greece needs help from Europe, and it needs it now. The European Commission should immediately allocate emergency funds to Greece for refugee services. It must also compel member states to take action if the union is to have any credibility at all.