August 3, 2015; WGBH (Boston, MA)
One might expect Greek activists to be entirely focused on their own well-being at this point, but growing numbers of volunteers have made themselves available to the 400-plus refugees, many of whom are families with small children, camped in Pedion tou Areos, a park in central Athens. Mostly young and tech-savvy, the volunteers are organizing themselves largely through social media to help meet the immediate needs of these largely Afghan asylum seekers. This has resulted in documentation of that effort, as reported here. Most of the refugees are looking to try to leave Greece and settle elsewhere.
Solidarity With Refugees in Greece is described here by PRI as an “Occupy-like group which started as a network of young, political, leftist and anti-fascist activists and now has expanded to run more than 400 groups, including health clinics, that help refugees and Greeks around the country.”
Its statement about this most recent response reads:
“Over the last couple of days, hundreds of refugees—in their majority families with small children—have found refuge in the Pedio Areos park in the center of Athens. People, haunted by wars and poverty, desperate, caught within the internal walls of Europe, helpless and persecuted by the Greek and European authorities.
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“All anti-migration reflexes of Europe and Greece are currently reflected in the humanitarian crisis which is unfolding in Pedio Areos. If the refugees are lucky, and do not drown in the shipwrecks caused by the Fortress Europe that FRONTEX is creating in the Aegean sea and the Mediterranean, if they are not being collected during one of the ‘roundups’ performed by the Greek police in order to be ‘hosted’ in concentration camps or hellish basements of police precincts, they end up homeless, helpless, and hopeless in the city parks and squares.
“While the flow of refugees from warzones (like Syria and Afghanistan) to Europe is increasing constantly, the anti-migration policy of Europe and the Greek state, and their indifference when it comes to protecting the refugees and their immediate needs, creates phenomena like the one in Pedio Areos.”
Greece has long been a major threshold into Europe for migrants from Africa and the Middle East, but over the past six months the number of refugees crossing that threshold has increased by 300 percent, with at least 77,000 arriving since January.
Pedion tou Areos is not the only or the largest such camp in Greece. Kara Tepe on the island of Lesvos is temporary home to about 3,000 migrants, and in Idomeni on the northern border, there are another 2,000 migrants.
As readers will recall, a similar Occupy-like effort emerged in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when others, like the Red Cross, were slow to respond to the more inaccessible of the affected communities.—Ruth McCambridge