An American Made Crisis: Europe’s Muslim Concentration Camp in Greece
By Jon Kofas
28 February, 2016
The entire world is well aware of the humanitarian crisis arising from Muslim refugees fleeing war-torn countries that include Syria, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The countries are all Muslim and the common trait they share is that the US and its European and Middle East allies engaged in military solutions to political crises that have not spilled over into a massive trans-continental refugee crisis. The refugee tragedy is a massive humanitarian one according to the United Nations, and it is becoming worse because the principal country, namely the US, causing the refugee crisis is absolving itself of any responsibility from this crisis and only focuses on where to create the next military intervention. This does not mean that Russia backing the Assad regime is free of culpability. However, the Russians are trying to weaken the jihadist elements in Syria that are forcing the mass displacement of people. http://www.thenation.com/article/europes-refugee-crisis-was-made-in-america/
In the official White House web site, the US states that 12 million people or half of Syria’s population has been displaced since 2011 and it is entirely the fault of the Assad regime. https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/09/15/what-you-need-know-about-syrian-refugee-crisis-and-what-us-doing-help\ The US position is that along with the Syrian government, Russia, Iran and to a lesser extent China are really responsible because they would not permit the US and its regional allies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states – to remove Assad from power and place a regime of their liking. In other words do exactly what they did in Libya where things have worked so remarkably well since the US and its allies along with al-Qaeda removed Muammar Gaddafi from power.
Although by no mean the sole culprit, the US was the driving force behind military interventions that destabilized every one of these countries and caused the dislocation of four million refugees from Syria lone and millions more from the other Muslim war-torn nations that the US and its allies decided to destabilize for geopolitical and economic advantages in the last fifteen years. Although the West presents itself as humanitarian, developing countries host more than 80% of the world’s refugees. According to the United Nations, the world refugee population hit 60 million in 2014 and it surpassed that figure in 2015, largely because of conflicts invariably created not owing to local opposing groups – government vs. rebels – but foreign interventions of one type or the other. http://www.unric.org/en/world-refugee-day/26978-new-report-developing-countries-host-80-of-refugees- \ http://www.unhcr.org/558193896.html
Those who read about the refugee crisis from a distance may see Greece as Europe’s warehouse. However, a closer examination of the refugees in Greece reveals that this tiny Balkan country could evolve into Europe’s concentration camp in many respects minus the “final solution”. This is not only because of the dreadful conditions that prevail for refugees everything from lack of food and medicine, but because the number one reason for the humanitarian crisis and the reaction of the entire Western World is racism. Non-white Muslims trying to enter the predominantly white European continent is an anathema to Europeans whether they are neo-Nazis, conservative or even liberal in many cases who do not want their way of life, social structure and culture contaminated with Muslim influences. Of course the European businesses love the cheap labor migrants provide, but they detest the people that provide cheap labor. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-25/greece-warns-of-humanitarian-disaster-from-isolation-on-refugees
European racism and religious prejudice toward Muslims has deep roots that date back to the crusades. The Muslim refugee crisis has intensified such latent prejudices and it has made the Muslims the scapegoats for all calamities that have fallen on Europe amid contracting economies and slow job and income growth. People would much prefer to blame the Muslims running from their war-torn countries that the West ravaged than their governments and corporations responsible for the crisis in the first place. The US war on terror resurrected racism and xenophobia to new heights and the Muslims are now the new Jews of the Western World. (J.L. Thomas, Scapegoating Islam; http://socialistworker.org/2016/02/08/europes-rising-tide-of-refugee)
On 25 February 2016, the EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels centered on Austria’s proposal to lock out all refugees from entering Europe by essentially keeping them in Greece. This would mean that Greece, which has lost an estimate 30% of its GDP because of IMF-EU imposed austerity since 2010, would be saddled with the Muslim refugee crisis that many around the world predict would explode into a massive humanitarian crisis very shortly. Considering that one-third of Greece’s population is in effect below poverty and official unemployment is 25% with unofficial rate at closer to 35%, the country would revert to its 1950s status as one of the world’s poorest nations, if the refugee crisis is added as a permanent feature to the rest of the economic problems it is facing. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/europe-braces-major-humanitarian-crisis-greece-row-refugees
Greece simply lacks the physical facilities to accommodate refugees that need housing, hospitals and clinics, food and clothing until a permanent solution is found at the EU and/or United Nations level that seems to be doing very little to solve this crisis. Imagine one nurse per 25-30 patients in a hospital that frequently runs out of bed sheets and all kinds of basic medication. Imagine a country that can hardly feed its own people having to feed an additional one to two million refugees in the next few years.
The EU expects Greece, a country that is in complete shambles because of austerity, to stem the refugee flow to Europe. Dimitris Avramopoulos, Greek conservative politician and EU commissioner for migration warned earlier this month that the humanitarian crisis in very real amid a deadlock among the EU members on the issue and the US wiping its hands clean and arguing it is a European problem. The irony here is that the entire world knows the culprit is the US that caused the crisis by going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and destabilizing the rest of the Middle East by backing various jihadist rebels from Libya to Syria that eventually turned against the West. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/10/eu-gives-greece-one-month-to-improve-conditions-for-refugees
Even a number of Republicans have argued that the Obama and Bush administrations caused the crisis in Muslim countries that gave rise to the refugee problem. However, no Republican or Democrat is willing to provide the appropriate humanitarian assistance or accept refugees that the US created. No Republican or Democrat is willing to open the borders for Muslim refugees. On the contrary, there are those like Donald Trump who want to keep all Muslims out and screen them on a case by case basis because the assumption is they are terrorists, even if they are children. Of the 50 states I the US, 31 have declared they will not accept Syrian refugees. If the US refuses to accept its responsibility for the crisis it has created with its allies, and the Europeans are very divided on this issue with Germany playing the role of moderate, this leaves the problem for Greece. http://time.com/4126371/these-5-facts-explain-americas-shameful-reaction-to-syrian-refugees/
Since January 2015 Greece has been under the SYRIZA Party that calls itself leftist but whose policies are a mirror image of the neoliberal ones that the previous conservative government followed. Under the SYRIZA regime, the country deteriorated faster because the IMF and EU demanded even greater cuts in pensions and wages, even greater cuts in social programs, including health and education, and higher indirect taxes that fall on the masses. On top of impoverishing Greece by imposing austerity, the EU plan according to SYRIZA leader and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to reduce the country into a refugee warehouse. On 24 February 2016, the prime minister stated: " We will not accept the transformation of our country to a permanent warehouse for human beings, while at the same time we continue to operate in Europe and at summit meetings as if nothing is happening. We will not put up with a series of countries that not only erect fences on their borders but at the same time do not accept to put up a single refugee." http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/
Greece is a country that is in shambles politically, economically and socially, and Tsipras is partly to blame because he won election on the promise to end austerity and he has continued it to the detriment of the popular base that elected him. The austerity measures that the Greek government has accepted and the capital flight by the country’s few thousand wealthy people has resulted in the complete de-capitalization and utter dependence on the EU. Instead of leaving the EU and making a fresh start under a national currency, Greece opted to remain under the German-imposed patron-client model of integration. This integration model relegates them to a status not very different from that of the rest of northern Balkan countries. On top of the financial and economic crisis that essentially dismantled society as the Greeks knew it before austerity, the EU imposes a refugee problem on a country that is essentially not much better off than its northern Balkan neighbors.
As I stated above, most refugees in the world are in fact in developing countries. There are more than four million Syrians who are now refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and even Iraq a country from which people are leaving for the West. Although the EU struck a deal with Turkey not to allow refugees across the Aegean Sea into Greece, the Turkish government accepted the promise of $3.3 billion payment from Europe in exchange for cracking down on the refugee trafficking business that is very lucrative for human smugglers.
Turkey has allowed about one million refugees through the Aegean Sea and by land into Greece. It is estimated that more than 3000 have drowned and many thousands died along the way trying to reach Western Europe. For its part, Turkey argues that it cannot perform miracles and stop refugees from crossing over to Greece. There are stories of tragic proportion with children having lost track of their parents and continuing to walk across Greece trying to reach northwest Europe only to be stopped somewhere along the way in Eastern Europe because Hungary is adamant about taking any refugees in the country. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/turkey-refugee-crisis-time-europe-action-160210115931274.html
Much of eastern and northwest Europe as well as the UK refuse to accept the slightly more generous German proposal for shared responsibility. If nothing else, the refugee crisis has fractured the otherwise weak EU solidarity threatened by the UK as well as Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and of course the perennial Greek crisis. German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has stated that his country could accept up to 500,000 refugees per year for several years, but he demands the rest of EU share the responsibility. Recognizing that Greece will simply become Europe’s concentration camp for Muslim refugees, the German government is asking for cooperation partly because the crisis has intensified nationalism at all levels and some countries are openly questioning the benefits of staying in the European Union. http://www.ecfr.eu/refugee_crisis
The tragedy of the US-made refugee crisis in the Middle East that has spilled over into Europe is that a) it will probably take a long time to be resolved and b) the US will continue creating such crises in the near future regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is elected president in 2016. The EU has shown that at its core racism, xenophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice runs very deep and it is unlikely to change. Muslims are as much the new Jewish scapegoats of Europe as they are for the US. Although anti-Semitism is not exactly erased in the Western World, the new focus of white Christian prejudice is on Muslims whose lands the West has been ravaging since the era of European colonialism in the 19th century. No European leader could win political office advocating a more tolerant policy toward Muslims any more than an American politician can win office without advocating a tough position on the war on terror, a euphemism for the continued military-solution option to US-instigated political crises in the Middle East.
The US will probably start another military intervention and most certainly continue to destabilize the Middle East under its next president, whether Republican or Democrat. This will lead to a more intensified crisis that will mean more refugees and an even greater humanitarian crisis than we are seeing in 2016. The defense industry in the US is very powerful and the political and ideological orientation toward militarism is deeply ingrained in the culture of PAX AMERICANA. War, intervention and destabilizing governments are all part of a way of life for the imperial America that continues to see itself as the world’s policeman and the world’s preeminent superpower despite its rapidly eroding economic role against the reality of China’s global economic hegemony.
Jon Kofas is a retired university Professor from Indiana University.