Greeks Think Country Has More Refugees Than Cited, But Welcome Them (Greek Media – The National Herald)nazan
Most Greeks think there are more than 200,000 refugees and migrants stuck in the country, far from the official estimates of 64,000 given by the government and human rights agencies.
That was the finding of a poll taken by AboutPeople on behalf of VouliWatch, an independent Parliamentary watchdog, which said 60 percent of Greeks have vastly overestimated the numbers, and that half of those think the real figure is more than 200,000.
The figures were released on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorated annually on March 21 but the survey also showed that most Greeks were welcoming to the newcomers who have been abandoned by the European Union, which shut its doors to them.
The refugees and migrants, including nearly 14,000 on Aegean islands, are in limbo with the suspension of an European Union swap deal with Turkey because of the overwhelming number of asylum applications.
According to the survey, 72.8 percent said refugee children should be granted access to Greek schools, while 60.1 percent said young refugees should join Greek pupils’ classes. A minority, including the extreme right anti-immigrant Golden Dawn opposes letting them attend schools and has tried to block them.
Some 55.7 percent of respondents said refugees who are trapped in Greece for an extended period of time should move into apartments and 35 percent said they should remain in camps.
A total of 60.4 percent said they would not mind if refugee families moved into their block.
“A first undeniable conclusion is that Greek citizens are starting to have a realistic view of the reality for refugees and, more specifically, what it means living next to us, in our cities and not in the isolated camps,” Andreas Takis, Assistant Law Professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University and a former General Secretary for Migration Policy told Kathimerini.
The refugees are living in conditions cited as uninhabitable by human rights groups and a Turkish said that conditions at camps in Turkey, home to some three million refugees and migrants, are well below European standards. That’s where those shipped back from Greece would be sent.
“Pre-departure centers have prison conditions. Refugees are stuck in a room 23 hours a day, there are no interpreters and there have been problems with demands for legal representation,” Deman Guler, a member of the non-governmental Lawyers for Freedom organization, told Kathimerini following a recent visit to the Greek island of Lesbos.
“Women and children become victims of labor and sexual exploitation. Seeing families out on the streets (with nowhere to stay) is a daily occurrence,” said Guler.
Greece’s Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, is expected to rule on whether Turkey can be considered safe for returned refugees within the month.