Greece is facing an imminent humanitarian crisis

greece migrantsre-posted with permission from authors:

by Roman Gerodimos and Sofie Edlund

On Tuesday, March 1st, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency warned that Greece is facing an imminent humanitarian crisis. Over the last few months UNHCR has been monitoring arrivals to South-East Europe on a daily basis and collating data from various sources into a daily infographic showing the movement of refugees across the Balkans and Central Europe.

While the UNHCR page features a slider that allows the user to pick a particular date, we thought it would be useful to present that data as a video showing the flow of refugees over the whole period in an accessible way. We therefore produced this ‘timelapse’ video in which each second represents a day from 24 August 2015 and up to 1 March 2016.

This video shows several things and challenges a few stereotypes:

1. It is estimated that approximately 1 million refugees arrived in Greece since January 2015. However, the big majority of these have moved on to central Europe, and in particular Germany.

2. Despite the adverse weather conditions and increased talk of shut borders and strict controls, the flow of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe from the Middle East and North Africa via Turkey, Greece and other routes is not subsiding.

3. The border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is a key passage for refugees to get to the rest of Europe. As FYROM has just closed its border, building more fences and enforcing strict movement controls, thousands of refugees are now becoming trapped in Greece on a daily basis.

There is no evidence that the incoming flow of refugees will stop anytime soon. This means that unless the borders between Greece and its northern neighbours remain open and unless the EU’s policy of relocating refugees across the Union is immediately enforced, the country will face a massive humanitarian crisis.

The Greek economy is already under immense strain following six years of successive austerity measures with high unemployment and poverty rates. The political system is highly fragmented with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn having come third in September’s elections. Following a year of tense negotiations and with the public administration on autopilot, the infrastructure and civil protection mechanisms of the Greek state have been severely weakened. A humanitarian crisis would not just be a crisis of limited resources (food, medication and essential supplies); it could potentially lead to significant social and political unrest.

Roman Gerodimos is Principal Lecturer in Global Current Affairs at Bournemouth University and founder and convenor of the Greek Politics Specialist Group (GPSG) of the PSA. Sofie Edlund is a Research Assistant at the School of Journalism, English and Communication at Bournemouth University.

Image: International Federation of the Red Cross CC BY-NC-ND