A WAREHOUSE OF SOULS
The plight of Middle Eastern refugees entering Europe through Greece
2015 - 2019
In the middle of a profound economic crisis, in 2015 Greece became the gate to Europe for the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the search of a new life. The islands bordering Turkey have witnessed the flow of people coming mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and in lowest numbers from Pakistan, Iran and African countries. 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, and other 355 thousands in 2016, 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 EU has chosen pragmatism, signing a deal with the authoritarian Turkish government, drafted for “stemming the flow” of migrants and refugees.
Since March 20th 2016, the number of arrivals have consistently decreased. Refugees arriving on the Greek islands, with their meagre belongings and children on their back, are now “welcomed” in detention centres. More then 3 years after the deal they are still taken in militarised overcrowded hotspots and offered few possible legal options such as asylum request in Greece and the family reunification programs, which are both progressing very slowly, because of the lack of engagement of several EU’s countries. Many refugees decided, as a last option, to apply for asylum in Greece. The 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. The transnational network of organised crime is still thriving, offering the refugees the fastest, yet dangerous, and sometimes the only, solution to reach Europe. All others were instead stranded in Greece, in makeshift camps which multiplied throughout the country. Thousands of people are trapped in the country and an increasing number of them are suffering from anxiety, depression, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder, that in some cases led to self-harm and suicide attempts. Their stories are now intertwined with the ones of the citizens of a country that experienced nearly a decade of economic meltdown and austerity measures.