Tired of wait­ing in Greece, Syr­i­ans bid to re­turn home

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

“I want to go back to Syria. There is war in my coun­try, but we’ve been liv­ing for seven months in Greece like pris­on­ers.” Adan, from Aleppo, has aban­doned his dream of build­ing a new life in Europe, like thou­sands of other Syr­i­ans trapped in Greece. He’s just ar­rived at the sta­tion in Didymoteicho, a vil­lage near the GreeceTurkey bor­der, with his wife, three chil­dren and five other rel­a­tives, and is prepar­ing to go through a po­lice check­point be­fore try­ing to get into Turkey, the start of a long jour­ney home.

“We’ve been on the streets for months, with nowhere to live. When we ar­rived in Greece we went to the Idomeni camp where we stayed for three months,” hop­ing to cross the Greece-Mace­do­nia bor­der to head for Ger­many, says Adan. He de­scribes their mis­er­able time in the makeshift camp where over 10,000 mi­grants were thrown to­gether in wretched con­di­tions, be­fore the Greek govern­ment even­tu­ally de­cided to dis­man­tle it in May and trans­fer them to nearby re­cep­tion cen­tres.

Adan and his fam­ily then tried their luck in Thes­sa­loniki, the near­est ma­jor Greece city to Idomeni, be­fore re­turn­ing to Athens. “We re­al­ized that we are trapped by the clo­sure of the bor­ders and fi­nally we’ve de­cided to go home, he says. More than 60,000 refugees are cur­rently trapped in Greece, in par­tic­u­lar af­ter the March 18 EU-Turkey ac­cord aimed at send­ing mi­grants ar­riv­ing from Turkey sys­tem­at­i­cally back there.

Refugees and mi­grants find them­selves with no way ahead, their hopes to travel on­ward to a Euro­pean coun­try prov­ing to be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. Pro­grams for re­lo­cat­ing or re­u­nit­ing fam­i­lies, the only le­gal way of mov­ing to live and work in Europe, have proved slow and com­pli­cated due to the reluc­tance of many coun­tries who don’t want to take in any more refugees. The EU com­mit­ted it­self in Septem­ber 2015 to re­lo­cate 66.400 refugees from Greece over two years. So far only 4,926 have left in 13 months. A last hope for mi­grants is to ap­ply for asy­lum in Greece-but that is also a lengthy pro­ce­dure, and daunt­ing in a coun­try still mired in cri­sis, with the high­est un­em­ploy­ment rate in the eu­ro­zone.

Cross­ing the river

Adan shows the Didymoteicho po­lice his iden­tity pa­pers handed out by au­thor­i­ties when they first reg­is­tered on the Aegean is­land of Les­bos, the main en­try point to Greece for mi­grants from the Turk­ish coast.

“With their doc­u­ments they can travel freely within the coun­try. But we know they came here to find peo­ple smug­glers who will help them cross the Evros river on the bor­der at night, to get into Turkey,” one bor­der guard told AFP, re­quest­ing anonymity. “This kind of case hap­pens ev­ery day .. it’s crazy: these are mis­er­able peo­ple, they’ve al­ready paid to come il­le­gally to Greece, and here they have to pay again to re­turn home,” he said.”The peo­ple smug­glers are the only ones who profit.”

The river level on the Greece-Turkey bor­der is cur­rently quite low.”Some peo­ple use boats but at some points you can cross by foot,” says Chryso­valan­tis Giala­mas, bor­der guard chief for the Evros re­gion. Dozens of refugees ar­rive ev­ery day at the Didymoteicho sta­tion in re­cent weeks. Some even have Ger­man refugee pa­pers, and so ap­pear to be re­turn­ing from Ger­many, dis­ap­pointed that they have not in­te­grated there.

“We can’t re­ally ver­ify if they are genuine or fake,” said one of­fi­cer, cau­tiously. But apart from those who want to leave Greece, the flow of mi­grants in the op­po­site di­rec­tion-from Turkey into Greece-has also in­creased in re­cent months, and po­lice have been forced to bol­ster the land bor­der be­tween the two coun­tries. Since July, 70 peo­ple smug­glers and over 1,000 mi­grants have been ar­rested, po­lice say. On Thurs­day an al­leged Greek peo­ple smug­gler was ar­rested near Thes­sa­loniki trans­port­ing 40 Syr­i­ans in­clud­ing 15 chil­dren in a truck. They had paid 1,500 eu­ros each to get to the Greek city, where they hoped to find a way to travel on­ward to north­ern Europe, ac­cord­ing to po­lice. — AFP

REYK­JAVIK: Politi­cian and co founder of Ice­land’s Pi­rate Party Bir­gitta Jons­dot­tir (C), Asta Gu­drun Hel­gadot­tir (2nd,L) and fel­low ac­tivists re­act as the elec­tion re­sults are an­nounced at their elec­tion gath­er­ing. — AFP

DIDYMOTEICHO: Adan’s fam­ily mem­bers from the Syr­ian city of Aleppo cross the rail­way as they ar­rives at the train sta­tion of Didymoteicho some 400 km North-East from Thes­sa­loniki, near the Greek-Turk­ish bor­der. — AFP

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