The number of immigrants and refugees that arrive in the Greek islands is constantly growing, while the government still faces difficulties in its efforts to integrate them.

This blog was originally written for and published at Justice and Peace Netherlands website. 

The past two years thousands of refugees have crossed the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, in their efforts to rescue themselves from war. According to recent researches almost 60.000 refugees live in Greece right now while more than 150 arrive on the Greek islands every day. As a result severe problems have risen among the local people, the government and of course the refugees. It is generally considered by many, that after the “voyage” life gets better for most of them, as they escaped from war. How possible can this be? Ioanna Spanou talked with Mahmut, a 26 year old refugee from Halepi, who lives in Greece for eight months now.

«I am from Aleppo, a city quite known to everybody. In Aleppo the war broke out suddenly. It wasn’t expected 2 years ago when the first bomb exploded. The entire situation was horrific. Men, kids, women were dying in front of our eyes, one after the other. When I found the chance to leave this mess and eventually crossed the Aegean coast, I thought life would get better. It is true we escaped from war, but my life was still in danger. I wanted to travel abroad and find my relatives. So, I asked for asylum, as many others have already done. I knew I had to wait. However, due to the large number of asylum seekers the entire procedure has temporarily stopped and we have stuck in a waiting period». Mahmut compared to others, was in the lucky position to have his passport with him. He stayed for 15 days in Kos where he was waiting to get transferred to any refugee host center.

Mahmut has sought asylum since the day he arrived. Unfortunately, he has received neither residence permission nor the possibility of travelling to a different country. «Every day that passes becomes even more uncertain. It is true I have the privilege to stay in a host center, rather than in those makeshift camps. Apart from that, I know it will take a long time until the day I will get out of here and go abroad to find my relatives. The general background in Greece is problematic and I must be patient. Within this panic, if there weren’t the volunteers and the local people who bring food and first aid kits for our needs, we wouldn’t have any future. The help we receive from the volunteers is incomparable to the help we receive from the government».

Mahmut as many other refugees and immigrants, has been relocated to newly constructed host centers, which have been built the past few months. These measures have been taken by the government in order to reduce the number of those who live in makeshift camps. These particular host centers are provided with medical care ( a couple of times per week), and help from independent volunteers. However, due to the continuously increasing number of refugees, the available posts are getting fewer and more people end up without any help. The last two months certain makeshift accommodations have been created by volunteers in their efforts to help as much as they can. In this type of places unfortunately, no special facilities are provided, just a few rooms to sleep.

The Greek government due to its financial problems and the large number of refugees, cannot cope efficiently with this issue. The number of asylums has decreased dramatically. There are immigrants in Greece who have asked for asylum five years ago and they still have no response. Unacceptable makeshift camps, such as the one in the old Greek airport, continue to be habitable. At the same time, racial conflicts between local people and refugees are on a rise, more and more European countries close their borders and the war in Syria is still going on. «Refugees arrive in Greece, because it’s the only thing left to do», Mahmut and other Syrians keep repeating, in their attempt to gain an equal post in the new world.