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European countries together must assume responsibility for the refugees

19 December 2013 / 23:12:29  GRReporter
2466 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

On 18 December the world marks International Migrants Day. It is one of the relatively new "international days" which is probably not strange because, according to experts, there were mass movements of populations on the planet up to the 1970s.

The migration flows to Europe have intensified especially after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Arab Spring and the ensuing civil conflict in Syria have further worsened the situation. According to the latest data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, from the beginning of the war in March 2011 to date, over 2.3 million Syrians have left their country. It is believed that this is one of the largest refugee waves in recent world history.

The majority of these people are in refugee camps in Syria’s neighbouring countries like Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and some of them have even managed to reach Europe. At the same time, the increasing number of refugees is provoking stronger reactions from the population in the countries where they are arriving. Bulgaria and Greece are, figuratively speaking, the eastern "gateway" to Europe, the first stop of the refugees in Europe, which has provoked manifestations of xenophobia, racism and violence.

Both countries most often ask, "Who should take care of them?" in relation to refugees and immigrants. It turns out that the European partners of Athens and Sofia are not particularly enthusiastic to receive the refugees on their territories. Recently, a Greek diplomat has said that Western European countries have stated that they can provide refuge for a ridiculously small number of refugees, in the range of several hundred people. Another side of the problem is the legislation, in particular the Dublin 2 Regulation, under which every immigrant should be returned to the first European Union member state, through which he or she had entered the European Union.

GRReporter has asked its readers, "How could the problem of refugees in Bulgaria and Greece be solved?" The answer which collects the highest number of votes in the three language versions of the website is that Europe’s immigration policy needs to be changed and the burden of receiving refugees should be distributed fairly. This is the categorical answer of 51% of the readers of the Greek, 49% of the English and 42% of the Bulgarian versions.

The second answer in line is that Bulgaria, like Greece, should build a wall along its border with Turkey, in order to be protected from the refugee flow. Mainly the Bulgarian readers, 28%, followed by 26% of Greek and 22% of English readers, support this option.

The highest number of Bulgarian readers, 19%, supports the option that other European countries should receive the refugees followed by 9% of Greek and 7% of English readers of the website.

12% of the voters in the Greek and English versions of the website argue that we have to share the little we have with those in need. This option collects 7% of the votes in the Bulgarian version.

The option "Both countries have signed the UN Convention on Refugees and are obliged to help them" collects the lowest number of votes, its strongest supporters being the readers of the English version, 10%, and only 2% of the Greek version. In the Bulgarian version, this option collects 4% of the votes.  

The meaning of the migrants day however is to think about how we treat the people who find themselves in a completely different environment, being separated from their homes and families in the most violent and brutal manner. The far right and racist attitudes in society and their expression through the increased support for xenophobic parties across Europe are leaving no doubt about the sad reality.

A variety of events took place in Athens today, one of which was the presentation of a campaign against xenophobia and racism, sponsored by the Embassy of Norway in Greece. Ambassador Sjur Larsen said that Norway is particularly interested in helping society eradicate these negative phenomena after its own bitter experience with the attack by far-right winger Anders Breivik in Oslo and on the island of Utoya.

The event drew the attention to issues such as the role of the media in fuelling racist attitudes, the legislation against racism and the speech of hatred against those who are different. The organisers also presented a "medicine" called "Xenophobil", which aims to eliminate the symptoms of xenophobia and finally heal Greek society from it. The "medicine" is nothing more than a chewing gum but the message contained in the directions for use can make even the most hardhearted person laugh.

Thank you for your participation in the poll and we are looking forward to your responses to our last poll this year, What do you expect will happen in 2014?

Tags: SocietyRefugeesImmigration policySyriaUN High Commissioner for RefugeesPoll
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