Correspondent in Athens
The list of asylum seekers in Greece is long, as is the long list of Afghan names: this nationality it has been a majority in reception centers for a long time where there are no longer almost Syrians, but many other nationalities and Africans abound. But the Greek authorities tend to put Afghans together and not with other Muslims, since the fights between young Afghans and Syrians, Palestinians, Kurds or Pakistanis are constant.
This year they entered Greece (with data from UNHCR until August 22) a total of 5,124 peoplecompared to 9,714 last year, almost 60,000 in 2019 and more than 800,000 in 2015. This year 45.3% are from Afghanistan, followed by
Somalia and Congo, while only 5.8% are Syrian.
At the Malakasa camp, less than an hour from Athens, there are now two large groups. The first is in the so-called Malacasa 1, officially 1,500 people with another 300 not yet registered and 90% Afghan, while 10% is Iranian. In the second group, Malacasa 2, there are about 900 people of many nationalities, who were arriving during the confinement. In this second group there are few Afghans.
All Malacasa now depends on the Ministry of Migration and has a Greek director, Jarlálambos (Járis) Jrístu. He was the one who effectively led the evacuation of all its residents during the major fires, taking them all to another camp, Ritsona. The fire did not come and everyone returned safely. In the case of Malacasa 1, to their “houses”, prefabricated units where each family organizes and cooks. In Malacasa 2, where these units have not yet arrived, they are in huge stores divided inside by family units. Now there is no longer the mess that was in previous years in which asylum seekers and other immigrants came and went as and when they wanted: a three-meter wall surrounds the camp, the entrance is small and names are controlled. And once a month, who is in each house is verified: if they are not present, the name of the list is scratched and they will no longer receive the monthly money. Because many disappear to continue their trip to another European country with a stolen or purchased document, by plane. Or by sea, to reach the Italian coast. Or through the mountains to continue your way to central Europe and reach Germany.
The ones left behind
Pablo Fernández, from the NGO Remar, the organization that has been helping Malacasa for more than six years, tells ABC that the environment is of concern. “Concern for what is happening in their homeland, for their families”. Only a minority is satisfied that the foreign troops are withdrawing but does not consider returning. Nor do they stay, even if they are granted asylum. Afroditi, a social worker who deals with Afghans confirms that the vast majority with family wait years to get the asylum decision (if it is denied they can appeal). And already with legal documents, they have the right to travel in Europe for three months. The result is that they go to a country where a member of their family is found and… they do not return to Greece. “Few want to stay here legally anymore. They study other languages and although their children go to school, they know they will leave.
The situation of illegal immigrants in Greece has changed notably under the government of Kiriakos Mitsotakis. Camps are shrinking across the country (less than 30) and the number of migrants in reception centers on the Aegean islands is now less than 7,000. More than 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers have traveled to other EU countries since April 2020. But the concern of the authorities, seeing the situation in Afghanistan, is growing: it is considered that in a month, maximum month and a half, there will be half million Afghans trying to enter Europe. And Notis Mitarakis, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, has now declared that Greece will not be “the gateway to Europe for illegal Afghan migrants.” A vocabulary away from words like refugees in distress. And the ministers of Citizen Protection, Mijalis Jrisojoídis; and Defense, Nikos Panayotopulos, visited the border with Turkey a few days ago, where a huge fence is being completed and there are police and army as well as new digital media to control any attempt to enter the country illegally.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism