The images of the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty to reach Europe have for months made international headlines. But lately the audience has become increasingly numb toward the plight of these human beings in transit, seeking a new future. The migration phenomenon has became hostage to politics as it has been steadily manipulated by rising xenophobic movements throughout Europe. The biggest refugees exodus the continent has seen since WWII has managed to undermine the foundations of the European project. While over one million refugees and migrants entered Europe through Greece and the Balkan route in 2015, national egoisms were surging in the Old Continent, hindering the EU’s quest for a solution to what has been superficially dubbed “the refugees crisis”. The word crisis, in the etymological sense of the Greek word, can also mean “opportunity”, an opportunity that the EU was not able to see, hiding itself behind pragmatism, culminating in the controversial deal signed with Turkey. Since March 20th, refugees arriving on the Greek islands, with their meagre belongings and children on their back, are now “welcomed” in detention centres. All but a very few will be deported to Turkey.
In recent years, the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Izmir have become hubs for refugees seeking smugglers, who offered a place in an overcrowded dinghy for anywhere between $800-$2000 per person. As the refugee crisis deepened, the transnational network of organised crime grew, making vast profits by offering the refugees the fastest, yet dangerous, solution to reach Europe. When the Balkan route shut down in early March, refugees who still had money and courage left, resorted again to these smugglers to continue their journey overland from Greece to Germany, or by flying with fake passports. All others were instead stranded in Greece in makeshift camps which multiplied throughout the country. The relocation program, which was supposed to relocate 160.000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU countries, has proven disastrous, moving approximately 1500 people (barely 1%) since most EU states refused, or accepted pitifully low numbers with great delays. The stories of more than 54.000 people stranded in Greece are now intertwined with the ones of the citizens of a country that experienced nearly a decade of economic meltdown and austerity measures. Greece became “a warehouse of souls”, as termed by Greek migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas, lost souls looking for a solution for starting a new life and cannot or wish not to go back from where they came. Lost souls still trying to believe that they didn’t sell their houses and belongings in vain, not wanting to accept that their dreams have ended on the barbed wire of the border of Idomeni.