This morning Annalisa was recounting stories of her encounters with refugees and volunteers from the day before. She joined a group of volunteers in Pireas helping to prepare sweets for Eid which was celebrated with gusto by refugees commemorating this happy holiday. She also had the opportunity to catch up with friends who were updating her on their plans to reunite with their families or reach what they consider their final destination.
From her conversations and in continuation of her previous blog about smugglers and the smuggling rings, phase two has already begun. Refugees with families in other European countries have grown tired of waiting for the official channels to reunite them, and after months some are taking matters in their own hands.
While success may not be guaranteed, they know that they can try again in the near future. Whatever happens, these attempts, they figure, will certainly reduce the waiting period that has already lasted many months.
Here are some interesting points that arose from our discussion: Refugees fled their country fearing for their lives. They paid to be smuggled to Europe. They landed there and perhaps to their chagrin found less that optimal conditions not only with regard to food and shelter but with regard to the clarity surrounding when and where their plight and flight will end.
They waited for their interviews. They waited for their second interview. They kept waiting. Some already had husbands working and settled in other countries, yet even their cases have been taking very long to process. So they waited, but they were not without means, and they were quickly running out of patience. Once again, the smugglers would come to the rescue, proving that they must have some kind of institutional links that are helping them supply the necessary documents needed to reach one’s final destination.
So people enter illegally out of fear, seeking refuge. The point of entry – in this case Greece – is still not as prepared as it should have been and should be over a year into the mass influx. European nations are squabbling over whether or not they want to receive migrants at all and how many. The process is complicated and takes a long time. When it works, it often creates disappointment for refugees who believe their best prospects lie in Germany first and foremost but northern Europe more generally only to find out that they are not going there after all.
Over time, they go back to the smugglers to finish up their trip as they had originally envisioned it. So they leave a dysfunctional corrupt war torn country to come to Europe, where member states are supposed to be functional democracies where law and order exist and rules are meant to be adhered to. However, because things are not working out as quickly or as efficiently as they could, they chose to again circumvent the laws to achieve their goals. Simultaneously they also seek to be protected as individuals, as new communities that have now entered a space about which they know very little. Of course, as my conversation with Annalisa revealed: What would most of us do in such a case, wait for the system to work in order to prove a principal? It is highly unlikely that we would. Time is short when one is pressed for closure. It does, however, underscore the problematic nature of seeing law and order only as a long menu of options from which we can select whatever suits us while expecting for it to continue to function properly when we most need its protection. If each of us reacts based on our individual needs and desires what would that signify for a state?
In the 21st century and in the information age time has lost its value and meaning. Everyone expects things to happen quickly, efficiently. They expect systems that had been created decades ago to serve other needs to now instantly adapt to the new pressing realities. There are many excuses for why inertia kills change and leads us to undertake other actions in order to satisfy our agendas at every level. Mostly, it’s the failure of government to perform its most basic functions combined with the fact that the economies of once stronger nations are now hurting, becoming less generous with their resources and their services.
The point of these observations is not to blame anyone but it is meant to spark a healthy conversation about how we need to preserve a functioning system that will not push individuals to take matters into their own hands to hasten outcomes and to survive during a difficult period. What some refugees are doing in trying to reach their final destination, Greeks are now increasingly doing to survive the unending and upending economic crisis where the state has had 7 years to perform its duty and has failed repeatedly to move the ship forward. This explains why now it seems increasingly clear that people in Greece are scrambling more than ever to circumvent a system that makes it impossible to stay afloat. And why in their case as well, there are many reasons that make the choices they make to select only the parts of the menu that best fit their circumstances so understandable.