A little more is a little less less…

European Diary, 18.9.2020: It works after all. Or at least a little bit. To quote Claude Juncker: “A little more would be a little less less”.

Germany now apparently wants to take in an additional 1553 refugees from the burnt down Moria camp. For a long time, there was no movement between Minister of the Interior Seehofer and the 150 German cities and municipalities (including Berlin) that demanded to be allowed to take in refugees. Again and again there was talk that Germany should not go it alone. After the catastrophe on Lesbos, Chancellor Merkel, Minister of the Interior Seehofer and representatives of the SPD have now agreed on a different approach. The more than 1500 refugees from Moria are said to comprise a total of 408 families, among them already recognized refugees who were stuck on Lesbos despite their asylum status due to Greek asylum policy and the still upheld “Dublin rules”.

In reality, of course, the problem is much greater, because the conditions in the Greek “reception camps” on the islands were and are not only catastrophic on Lesbos, but as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on September 16, also on Chios, Leros, Kos and last but not least on Samos. In the local camp Vathy there are also almost 7000 people housed. About ten times its capacity. The fact that the possible repatriation of migrants whose asylum applications had been rejected – as agreed in the so-called EU-Turkey deal – did not come into effect was, as the FAZ dryly notes, not primarily due to Turkey. Instead Greece did not even build up the resources on the islands to be able to properly examine the asylum applications.

Thus a fatal development took its course, which primarily increased the suffering of the refugees. The FAZ reports alarming conditions. A woman, who has been there for six months with her husband and her small child, tells of her rescue from the sea by the Greek coast guard – “but above all of the torture afterwards: of a housing container with beds without mattresses, of queuing for several hours every day for meals in heat, rain or cold. Of an impassive police force that does not intervene when the weaker ones are beaten or robbed. By a single doctor for several thousand people – and above all by the uncertainty of how long all this will remain their own living environment”. In the camp, frustration grows, competition between different groups whose origins are not always compatible – after all, they come from war zones – and of course desperation breaks out violently, in demonstrations and protests against the guards, and mostly against each other. How could it be otherwise? The inhabitants of the nearby Greek towns also demonstrate, and they too no longer always remain peaceful.

The mayors of the islands demand in vain government solidarity on the mainland, Greece demands, mostly in vain, solidarity with Europe, and even a hardliner like Horst Seehofer meanwhile bursts his collar when he thinks of Austria, and explains in the Spiegel interview: “I am disappointed by the attitude of our Austrian neighbors not to participate in the reception of a manageable number of people in need of protection from Greece. (…) If we do nothing, we will strengthen the political fringes”. Well, the political fringes have long since reached the Vienna Chancellery.