The island of Lesbos, located in the northeastern Aegean Sea, has been a point of contact for 1.3 million refugees seeking safety and asylum in Europe in the past two years. For many refugees, Greece is not a final destination, but merely acts as an entryway into the rest of Europe. Sky News recently published a short column, complete with exclusive footage, covering the immigration crisis in Greece as of July 2017:
In addition to the ongoing immigration crisis in Greece, an earthquake recently hit the island of Lesbos on June 13, 2017, destroying homes and neighborhoods and leaving approximately 800 residents homeless or dislocated. As of the time of the natural disaster, more than 3,500 refugees in Lesbos’s camp were awaiting the outcome of asylum applications. Greece responded to the needs of its citizens first by providing short-term housing in tents and giving citizens allowances from an allotted “emergency fund.”
Due to the above disaster undergone by the residents of Lesbos, the Greek government has unofficially put the status of pending asylum applications on hold for a period of time, allocating resources primarily to its own citizens before concerning itself with non-natives in need. But such is the duty of a country, to cater to the needs of its people primarily, and the needs of others secondarily.
In the face of this decision to resolve the national emergency, refugees in Lesbos’s refugee camp began to grow impatient towards the long waiting period many were experiencing. One female refugee in the camp had left Congo due to increasing social violence brought on by the Civil War that has been waging for nearly 20 years. In an interview, she says,
“Eight months, we’ve been here suffering… we’re sleeping on the floor. How can we sleep on the floor? How can you stay in your country when there’s a fight? When they’re killing people?”
Disputes and unrest between various demographic groups in the refugee camp have also played a prominent role in the ongoing crisis. In 2015, 90,000 Syrian migrants arrived on the island of Lesbos, surpassing the island’s native population. Many of those in Lesbos’s refugee center hail from various parts of Africa, with many others from Western Syrian countries such as Syria. One allegedly Western Asian man says that, “[the] Africans make the problem, we don’t want to live with them. They are putting all of us in danger. They are putting all of us in danger. Tomorrow they might kill me.”
In response to the waiting period necessary for having an asylum application approved, some of which being rejected, the African refugees in the Lesbos refugee center clashed with riot police, setting several tents on fire. Many of the refugees who set the tents ablaze did so because of the subpar living conditions brought on by the economic distress wrought on Lesbos. Many refugees in the camp are living in unsafe, unhygienic, and overcrowded conditions, according to the Human Rights Watch.
— Onlinemagazin (@OnlineMagazin) July 10, 2017
Despite the subpar living conditions experienced by the refugees, when those who had been denied asylum were told that they would soon be deported, more fuel was added to the fire. It is clear that those in refugee camps feel as if immigration is a human right and that any hindrance in their desire to migrate from one country to the next is a clear violation of their freedom as a human being. However, immigration is not a right. The country of Greece is not indebted to the African of Western Asian people and is not obligated to provide any aid to asylum-seekers. Any aid provided, regardless of the amount, is an act of humanitarian charity and should be treated as such. Rioting and setting refugee centers on fire because of a country’s inability or lack of desire to house an asinine amount of foreigners is absolutely absurd, because it feeds into a mentality that essentially believes, “I deserve this, and you are stopping me from receiving what I deserve; therefore, you are the enemy.”
Many refugees passing through Greece are angry at the current state of how they are being treated and the decline in accepting asylum requests, and understandably so. However, this is not the first time that Lesbos’s refugee center has experienced blaze at the hand of migrants. In September 2016, approximately 2,000 refugees from the same camp staged a protest, demanding that authorities “speed up the application process,” according to independent volunteer Ihab Abassi, who was on-site at the time of the ensued chaos.
The ethnic and national differences between some of the refugees had also inspired conflict during the 2016 riot, and some proceeded to set fire to the site of the refugee center, destroying approximately half of Lesbos’s refugee camp, one of the largest in Greece, in the process.
Mass immigration is a weighty issue, and it is a difficult task to undergo when those immigrating are unwilling to submit to the decisions of the designated country in question. In the light of the above context in Lasbos, Greece, one must ask themselves if the radical inclusion of non-native minorities is worth the result? Immigration from one country to another is not a right; it is a privilege bestowed by the communication between two countries’ hierarchs. Dissatisfaction with the state of a federally-given privilege (whether bestowed or withheld) is ludicrous, and is similar to an individual being upset at being denied federal aid in the form of Section 8 Housing, Food Stamps, or other privileges given to peoples at the discernment of the government.
It is clear that many refugees do not value the immigration system imposed by the European Union and will willingly resort to violence and uproar if they do not receive what they want, exactly when they want it. The socially regressive actions of those demanding asylum in the face of an emergency like the 2016 Lesbos Earthquake do not encourage native Europeans to welcome refugees with open arms; in fact, such violent manifestations do the exact opposite. When refugees throw tantrums similar to a seven-year-old child not receiving what he or she demands, reactionary movements grow, anti-immigration sentiment is fed, and a golden dawn becomes visible over the horizon.