Monday 24 August 2015


This is not just a few boat people arriving illegally under cover of darkness on a few greek islands. Summer and calm seas has brought an invasion with boats arriving on the hour during daylight hours.  Imagine a plague of ants climbing up and over your doorstep and swarming all through your house.

Thousands of refugees are now on Greece's northern border with Skopje* .   The route for this onslaught of refugees mainly from Syria but also Iran, Afghanistan and other middle east combat zones, is from the shores of Turkey to a greek island by some sort of flimsy vessel (although some were brought across by jet ski before the human trafficker was caught by the greek coast guard).  On they go by ferry to Athens, train to northern Greece and the border with Skopje where they are let through a few hundred at a time.  There they are allowed as far as the nearest railway station where they board a train for Serbia.  From Serbia they hope to reach Hungary and eventually Germany and places east, west and anywhere European. 

Bulgaria has closed its greek border for refugees so Skopje is the only passage way for them. Thousands were repelled by tear gas and stun grenades as they stormed the country's border.  Skopje has declared a state of emergency and is calling for more trains to transport them to Serbia.  Serbia meanwhile is struggling to give them food and water on their passage through the country.  Hungary is reputed to be building a 13' high fence along their border to keep out or at least restrain this human onslaught.  At the moment thousands are camped out on the main railway station in Budapest waiting to enter Europe. 

100,000 have entered Austria and Switzerland over the alps from Italy. Many more thousands are arriving in Italy from Libya which involves a much longer sea journey.  Italian authorities are reputed to let refugees escape  from camps in Sicily because it is just too expensive to keep them.

There are riots and fighting at the channel tunnel entrance on the coast of France. Official reports say they have stopped 37,000 attempts to reach England through the tunnel since January.

In Greece thousands are now being washed up daily and big passenger ferries have been put into service to transport them a few thousand at a time to the Port of Pireaus. Riots  on the island of Mytilene ended in two refugee deaths.  It is no longer just a case of those few hundred camped in Athens parks being rehoused (where they are complaining about the lack of WiFi).  Many of those fleeing Syria were from the middle class, educated, with good jobs.

  On the islands they must be fingerprinted and receive an official paper so they can continue.  Delays are making the crowds angry and frustrated.  Police cannot process them fast enough.  The biggest worry is that Islamic militants are among those seeking asylum.

5,000  are  today at the border of Skopje waiting for permission to enter.  The guards are letting in 100 at a time, families first.  The rest are left in a no mans land between the two countries.  They have already cleared the fields of anything edible, from the seeds of fields of sunflowers to watermelons.  Human aid workers are trying to keep them supplied with food and water and the small villages nearby are providing what aid they can.

The weather is changing and nights are cold. Rain is forecast.

There are 200,000 more refugees in camps on the Turkish/Syrian border.  

This a human tragedy of huge proportions.  It involves families, pregnant women and hundreds of  children who are fleeing alone hoping for the chance to live their lives free and in safety.

*The foreign press know the country as Macedonia but Macedonia is part of northern Greece, the birth place of Alexander the Great.  Macedonia is Greek.  The country's offical name is Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia or FYROM.  The greeks call the republic 'Skopje after its capital city.

Greece's political and economic problems are minor compared to the surge of human beings from the inferno of the  middle east.

Tsipras has resigned and called for elections.  Opposition parties are now trying to form a coalition government but that is unlikely to happen.  Elections will probably take place on September 20th before unpopular new tax laws come into force.

25 radical members of his party have broken away and formed a new party called 'Popular Unity' saying that Tsipras has gone against party promises of no more austerity.    

Tsipras  is seeking a majority for the SYRIZA party and he is still well liked because of the tough stance he took towards the European creditors.   However the first poll puts him only slightly in front of the opposition New Democratic party.

So now we have a month of endless political discussion and the prospect of an unstable future with another coalition government. The caretaker government will be headed by Supreme Court president Vassiliki Thanou-Cristophilou and Greece will have its first female Prime Minister.     

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