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Europe's Questionable Refugee Policy

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 26/02/2016 Justine Frangouli-Argyris
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The refugee crisis is an open wound in the heart of Europe and the western world that has reached acute status as a result of the ongoing Syrian civil war. To date, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have accepted the largest number of those fleeing the conflict, while Greece has become the stepping point on their long journey to other European destinations.

This massive and uncontrolled influx across the Aegean Sea, where countless lives are lost every day, or through the land border with Turkey, has brought the Greek government to its knees. With the European Union offering minimal assistance, the country has become a massing area for refugees seeking asylum in its richer neighbors. Lately, the Europeans have begun threatening to exclude Greece from the Schengen passport-free travel zone, thereby shuttering its northern borders and, in effect, isolating the country from the rest of the continent.

To everyone's knowledge, this illegal "ring-fencing" of Greece will not lay the matter to rest as there will always be other migrant routes, such as the one to Italy through Albania or via the Ionian Sea. Moreover, even a temporary exclusion of Greece from the Schengen bloc would deal a devastating blow to European unity, fomenting the notion of a continent unable to protect its borders and resorting to disruptive solutions with respect to its own existence. Such a development would provide fodder to the supporters of Europe's dissolution, many of whom appear to be congregating in Britain in order to propel the "no" side to victory in the upcoming referendum this summer.

Looking back, the European Union should have been prepared to deal with the refugee crisis as this is a matter that has been building for years. The Europeans were badly amiss in their request that Greece create numerous "hot spots" in order to receive and document thousands of migrants. For, the mere mention of such a policy could be expected to encourage even greater waves of refugees to attempt the often fatal voyage from the Turkish coast, turning Greece into the weak link among a chain of errors.

Apart from serious efforts to provide the only obvious long-term solution, that of a negotiated peace in Syria, the European Union has a duty to clarify the situation with Greece. If it wishes to avoid an influx of refugees, it must cease using Greece as a "stopover" and immediately close this chapter by establishing Turkey as the sole selection center for those requesting asylum in Europe.

Funds have been amassed for the improvement of the living conditions and for the creation of more centers for refugees in Turkey. The next step is to designate Turkey's borders as the last point on their way towards their final European destinations. If the European Union is serious about remaining intact, with its borders as they are today, this is the only viable solution. The exclusion of Greece from the Schengen zone will not solve the problem, but, rather, simply defer or reroute it through Italy, create new difficulties for the unity of Europe and further complicate the refugee issue itself.

Greece, which has shown its humanitarian face by embracing close to one million migrants, should not become the scapegoat of a tragic situation as a result of the mistakes and half-measures of its European partners. .

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