The number of refugees arriving in Europe by sea has dropped dramatically. Between January and the end of May 2018, only 28,000 migrants and refugees arrived via the Mediterranean route. That’s a 53% drop compared to the same period in 2017, and an 85% drop compared to 2016 (when 193,000 people arrived).

Yet the fall in arrivals hasn’t made the politics any less divisive. Europe is still struggling over what to do with the people already here. Redistributing refugees remains a ferociously contentious issue (see, for example, the anti-refugee rhetoric in the recent Hungarian elections) and large numbers of people remain trapped in a legal limbo, many in reception centres in Greece and Italy waiting to be told they can move to other countries. Critics say EU plans to redistribute refugees have totally failed. Even if they had succeeded, many asylum seekers (including those from Afghanistan) were anyway excluded from the scheme.

Citizens in frontline countries, including Greece, feel they’ve been abandoned. Whilst Greece, for example, has received significant financial assistance to help cope with the refugee crisis, the country has been completely overwhelmed in terms of hosting and processing arrivals. Plus, the refugee and migrant crisis took place while Greece has been undergoing painful austerity measures, including mass redundancies and public sector cuts.

In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we have launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis is on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.

Today, we are looking at Athens. Greece is one of the frontline countries in the European refugee and migrant crisis. The number of arrivals by sea has fallen since an EU-Turkey deal allowing Greece to return new “irregular migrants” to Turkey in exchange for pre-processed Syrian refugees. Still, in 2017 there were roughly 60,000 asylum seekers and migrants stranded in the country.

Greece has a population of roughly 11 million (though it has been declining in recent years), with around 3-4 million living in the “Athens Urban Area” (i.e. the city of Athens itself, plus the greater metropolitan area surrounding it). It’s estimated that more than 2,500 refugees and migrants are living in squats in Athens occupied by anarchists and so-called “solidarity” groups. Conditions for asylum seekers and migrants in Greece have been heavily criticised by NGOs.

Yet, according to Eurostat, more than one in three Greeks in 2016 were experiencing conditions of poverty or social exclusion, including 37.8% of children under the age of 17 (the highest percentage in the EU since 2010). In recent months, there have been protests from both asylum seekers and Greek residents who feel like they’ve been abandoned.

Curious to know more about refugees in Athens and Greece? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Robert, who believes EU countries should show greater solidarity with border countries such as Italy and Greece and accept more refugees. Is he right? Have European countries failed to adequately support Greece and Italy over the refugee crisis?

To get a response, we put Robert’s comment to the Mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis. What would he say to Robert?

For another perspective we put the same question to Dr. Angeliki Dimitriadi from the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. Should EU Member States offer greater solidarity to Greece and Italy over the refugee crisis, including accepting more refugees as part of a quota system?

I would say that the answer is ‘yes’ to both. But what we mean by greater ‘solidarity’ for Greece depends on how we understand the notion of solidarity. The EU has shown solidarity in terms of financial assistance; significance funds have come through for the Greek government and NGOs to assist in the crisis, both for first reception, but also for relocation and caring for the vulnerable. So, greater solidarity in terms of funds exists already. What is missing, and this goes to the second part of the question, is the aspect of relocation or intra-EU transfer of refugees.

In other words: we need EU Member States to take more of the people who are already in Greece and also Italy, as well as future arrivals. So, we do need a permanent quota system, we need a permanent redistribution system in the EU because the frontline states simply cannot handle the processing, registration, care, and the granting of asylum to all those who enter through the external borders of the EU.

We also had a comment from José arguing that the core problem of the refugee crisis in Europe lies with border management in Mediterranean states such as Greece and Italy. He believes the frontline countries have a responsibility to tighten their borders and deal with this on a national level, without European support.

What would Mayor Giorgos Kaminis say to José?How would Dr. Angeliki Dimitriadi respond to the same comment?

I would say this is very much an EU issue, for one and only one reason: Schengen. The only reason we’re having this discussion about the external borders is because of Schengen. The rules of Dublin and, frankly, the whole European asylum system is a counterbalance to Schengen and internal free movement. If we didn’t have internal free movement – which, of course, is something we want to maintain – we wouldn’t be having a discussion about the external borders because we would have internal border controls.

From the moment we have Schengen and we want to function as a union were we have internal free movement, it means the external borders are everyone’s external borders, not just Greece’s or Italy’s or Spain’s. This means that all Member States need, in one way or another, to assist and contribute, both in the border management efforts but also in the effect of these efforts. And one of the side effects of heavy border management is the fact that vulnerable people in search of asylum – and, by the way, the right to asylum is a cornerstone of the EU – have the ability and the option to somehow reach a safe country, whether that’s Greece or Germany or any of the EU Member States, and present their application for asylum. If we prevent them from doing that we are going to be in violation of international and EU law, and we also have to question the norms and values of the EU.

So, it’s not just a responsibility of the frontline states. It’s everyone’s responsibility. We can’t have a union that wants to promote and ensure internal free movement but at the same time says it’s the responsibility of only a handful of states to secure the external borders. And we cannot just tighten the external border controls because, at the end of the day, we need to create ways for people to reach safety… So, we have the responsibility and obligation to ensure some sort of pathway to asylum for those in need.

Should richer EU countries take more refugees? How exactly do we define which countries are “richer” than others? And which countries in Europe have the greatest capacity for absorbing refugees? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

The Debating Europe “Cities & Refugees” project is co-funded by the European Union’s “Europe for Citizens” program.
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Freedom House; PORTRAIT CREDITS: (c) Dr. Angeliki Dimitriadi
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

106 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Pier

    Now it’s the turn of non eu rich countries, muslim countries perhaps…

    • Björn

      Moust of Them is unfortently not democratic. And some like Turky have taking in mutch more than we ever have done

    • Luana

      Björn Eric Ingemar Grahn what about quatar? saudi arabia? israel? russia? oooh, they are not obliged to take any. Cool. Why is Europe then? Nope. No more refugees. We’re full.

    • Anita

      Luana depends who you consider as we, Belgium , for example is full, but in Poland they have plenty of space.

  2. Christine

    Why not start by stopping bombing the countries they flee. And stop screwing the economies of poor countries.

    • Jose

      someone making sense? how dare you? you are going to be scolded by the nationalist keyboard warriors…

    • Fatbardh

      no one are bombing: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, senegal, Gambia, Mali, Marocco, Tunisia, Nigeria ect, ect, the 85% of refugees arrive from these country

    • Björn

      Fatbardh Brami plenty selling arms into these countries and interfering with their economies

    • Augusto

      Christine Clifford it’s not like selling weapons to rebels or warlords. As much as I despise the selling of weapons to regimes like Saudi Arabia, every country has a right to a legit police force and an army, which has to be… you know, armed.
      If a country meets some basic requirements for democractic rule (i.e. is not a theocratic state or an absolutist monarchy and stuff) I find no reason to refuse to sell arms to it, granted that they’re going to security forces with no repression record.

  3. aguysomewhere

    The people who are coming are mostly islamic, there are over 50 so called islamic countries. They should take up their people first. If they are not doing this then sham eon them, not that they would care about this anyways.

    I will say this too the USA, UK, France and NATO are not innocent. They have done the entire world a disservice by doing wars, regime change and arming islamic terrorists under the pretense that they are freedom loving rebels. These insane policies have resulted in creating so many of the refugees that are now fleeing.

    We need a international law that obligates war faring countries to take up every single refugee that they produce.

    Americans complain about Catholic Mexicans just imagine the conversation if it was islamic Libyans, Syrians etc. They are already suspicious of the handful that trek through the desert to enter the us illegally.

    But instead countries like my Switzerland that have absolutely nothing to do with these wars end up having to take care of these people. I remember this all starting 30 or so years ago with the Kosovarians. It has changed my country in a way that I am not exclusively happy with. More crime, more violence, more anti social behavior and for the first time ever the threat of islamic terrorism, and the rise of political correctness.

    Have no illusions religion matters because religion is linked to a persons world view, their moral code, the basics of what they consider to be right and wrong, and who they consider valuable, it even decides over violence or lack thereof. We decadent westerners who are tipping more and more towards atheism have forgotten this lesson of history.

    • Simona Mamo

      Well said.

  4. Ivan

    Isn’t that up to the people of those Nation States ? . You can either have the EU or you can have democracy. You can’t have both.

    • aguysomewhere

      You mean the people who get to vote once every 4 years and even then it’s for a person and or political party and not for a ballot initiative. You must be joking. Not every country does it like us Swiss. Sadly.

  5. Spiros

    It s a pity to ask Kaminis and all those priviliged athenian politicians. They te clueless. You should emphasize in the comnunities that serioisly carry the weight, like chios or mitilini. Also the NGOs shouldn t have a say. They re dirty to the core. I ve seen them in accion. Rotten business…

  6. Alfredo

    No, by now the European countries should be preparing the return of all the “refugees” to their countries,and stop all immigration.

  7. Aris

    The reason is that they involved with us in army operations and business and they create more and more refugers and immigrants. So they have to accept more refugees.

    • Ivan

      Why should they ? Your comment assumes people in the rich countries care about the poor countries, they don’t.

    • Aris

      Rich people care obly for their profit. Rich countries promote the facsist mode

  8. Björn

    Yes at least 3% of it’s population. If Turky can do about 30% and Libanon aboute 40-50% than Will this be a small number. And also a good way tu increas the population that is mutch needed.

    • Ludwig

      from whom is this statistic?

    • Fatbardh

      let us suppose that your data ar correct: “Turky about 30% and Libanon aboute 40-50%” have you any idea how these countries are treating these % of refugees, do you think if that Turkey or Lebanon gives to refugees the same rights and benefits as their own citizents, as the UE countries do, could survive. have a look what has happened in UK

    • Björn

      Fatbardh Brami it’s not on how they are treted. Ofcours they are not doi g good. But they are poor countries we are to walthy an can have afford. Mutch better than to waste money on som man playing with Guns.

    • Ivan

      Björn Eric Ingemar Grahn To ‘take’ money from your own citizens and give it to illegal migrants is theft, no matter what the barking mad left call it. Give them your money if you want but you do not have the right to give them mine.

    • John

      Björn Eric Ingemar Grahn Do you not think culture also plays an important role? While we may have the financial means to accommodate them, I think people are put off by cultural, social and political differences. Syrians going to Lebanon may not face such a strong cultural shock as those going to Sweden, for instance.

    • Björn

      Ivan Burrows the problem is many only count cost and neglating the winnings. Economly moust of The countries Will have bad Economy IF the do not take immigranter. It’s only the countries with hi immigrations rates that did good Economy the last 20 years. The immigrations generator hi Economy benifits. The only other way to get the same is to dorce birthrate to go over 2% but it’s not possibule to do. So it’s The only live the immigrations to regulate the population groth. Yust CE how long Japan and Ungary have had bad economic. Same got to Poland.

    • Björn

      John McTavish the culture is not n important things. It have always beeb chageing. Like The religion is from There anyway. Same foes for The number we are using

    • Ivan

      They have been fighting the same war in the Middle East for 1400 years so an arms trade embargo will achieve nothing except put millions of people in the EU out of work.

  9. Paul

    Countries have legal obligations to accomodate refugees.. economic migrants are another matter.

    • kevin

      And I would add a moral obligation but I would say the vast majority fall into the economic migrant category . These people should be turned round at the borders

  10. Paul X

    As the article states the EU, (i.e the richer EU countries) is already providing funds to deal with refugees and these countries are generally those with the highest pouplation density. Greece is number 20 by population out ot the EU 28 so has plenty of space, why should the richer countries not only provide the funds but also accept more people into there already overcrowded land?

  11. Daniel

    I think the question should be. “Should LARGER EU member states take more refugees”. My answer is yes. Malta is small and overcrowded. We dont need more

    • Ivan

      Then stop taking them, problem solved.

    • Daniel

      I wish

    • Anita

      Or rich European countries like China.

    • Anita

      Thanks for explaining your opinion.

  12. Τζινα

    I think refugees should stay to their homeland or to return to their country if they wish. A big financial penalty should be established for every country who is aggressive to another . These money will be used for the restoration of any country who was under attack . We must prevent war with all the means and I don’t agree with the title like refugees, rich countries,citizens, third world.. This is the 21 st century we have to step further. Is planet to share all the humans, equally,with prosperity .
    All we need is to terminate weapons paradises..oligarchy.. etc.
    We have to face the Truth ..and ..choose the Truth !

  13. A.c.

    The problem is les the number of refugees (less than 1% of European population) but their management. In fact, there is no management…

  14. Ελπίδα

    They should be serious in trying to stop the wars that make those refugees in the first place.

    • kevin

      When was the last war we had in Africa ? The vast majority of ‘refugees’ are young African males not as the picture at the top of this discussion depicts ,children from the middle east . The first step in solving the problem is to sort out those in need from those who just want to move to Europe

  15. Ciarri

    No. Now it is time for extraordinarily wealthy Arab states to help their brethren. Saudi Arabia has yet to help any refugees.

  16. Kwnstantinos

    The real refugees that have arrived in Greece in 2015-2018 are a mere 15% of total immigrants. The rest are illegal aliens, who then are called undocumented immigrants, and then suddenly all of them are syrian refugees. The actual problem is that some people earn big in this chaotic situation in tha Aegean sea. The solutions imo are:
    1. Stop this “political correct” terminology and stop calling everyone a refugee.
    2. Make the harshest of laws amd aply them to human traffickers that earn big.

  17. Tarquin Farquhar

    The question should be based on geographic landmass and not wealth ergo France would need to take the biggest number of refugees and pay for the privilege.

  18. catherine benning

    Should richer EU countries take more refugees?

    Over the weekend we Brits heard on our news more excuses for once again opening the door to more immigrants? We need them for the NHS we hear. Yet, our government, paid for by our tax payer, the ones who want a halt to more entering our country from outside our borders getting in to use our streets as gangland highways, cannot persuade those elected by us to train our own safe British citizens. Now why is that. Why is that do you think? What is the attraction to migrant labour? And more importantly why are the British putting up with this?

    It has been going on since the 50,s. Always with the same excuses. We need immigrants to swell our country labour force. Even when, as now, they witness the horror this is causing in our law abiding society. The murders, the acid attacks, the mutilation and abuse of women, the hatred on our streets. Makes no difference. Like robots it’s as if they have been programmed to only speak these unacceptable words, we need more. Add to that the threat we have received of, the intention to give open door health care on the NHS to the world. Expecting us to pay for it whilst going without proper health care ourselves. The ones they bring in are pathetically inadequate. Which again is why they cannot accept our Brexit vote. It does not compute. They line up like simpletons drooling at the door, telling us, we didn’t know what we voted for.

    I cannot understand how the voter here is not taking serious action to stop this torturous behaviour of our politicians and simply stop paying taxes which enables them to do this. It is our money they are using to deny us the services we are paying for. And it is getting more and more blatant. The disdain these people have for those who foot the bill for their whims is chilling.

    Should richer EU countries take more refugees?

    No, unless politicians give each state a referendum asking if we want to pay more for their political and inane policies of denial. Reject, reject, reject is where they are stuck. Even now they see the brave Italians finally making a stand to stop their social decline. We need proper leadership in the UK. Not moron like individuals who appear to have rings in their noses as they are pulled one way around a self perpetuating circle. Freeze taxes has to be an answer. With no money in the pot they cannot pay for the outrageous deception we have been subject to for so many years.

  19. Rob

    Why are we even talking about refugees when over 60% of the global asylum seekers get rejected because they come from safe countries? The problem mainly consist of economic immigrants. Richer EU countries should spend more on illegal immigrant repatriation.

  20. Alexandre

    Imposing is never a good way. However the close arms and lack of humanitie should reflect a decrease of some rigths in the Union. EU only sustain itself keeping Humanism and Democracy.

    • Alex

      The EU is only gonna sustain itself if it brings obvious advantages to its member states. And unqualified migrants forming ghettos all over the place is hardly something the EU would get celebrated for in many EU countries

    • Alexandre

      Why you assume it will be forming ghettos? I ve seen refugees in Portugal..setled in small village farming land their own, fully integrated in local community. Older people helping them with languages and local costumes.
      EU will not perish. EU can only be proud to safe and rescue humans set to death. I do agree they should be equaly shared among the countrys.

  21. Bódis

    Countries profiting from the sale of weaponry and responsible for military conflicts should take in more refugees — or they should simply pay a part of the weapons industry’s profit as “humanitarian tax” to the UN.

    Besides, first you should find a solution to sending all the fake refugees home before importing more.
    When is there going to be a discussion about all the fake refugees? They use up tons of resources, they are sometimes a security and crime risk. Those resources are taken from real refugees while real refugees, for example, in Yemen are starving.,_selected_Member_States,_4th_quarter_2017.PNG

  22. Giovanna

    Yes, they should…expecially Germany and France.
    Italy has already too many to take care of.

  23. Constantinescu

    They are not refugees! Their status of refugee was stopped in the first country where is peace. Their actual status is immigrants!

  24. Manuel

    Yes, many millions more, they are very rich, no problem, and not send those to Portugal, because we are very poor gays :)

    • Ivan

      The last thing you poor gays need is a people who throw gays off roofs.

    • Manuel

      Ivan Burrows I mean that “we are cheerful people”
      or in Latin: “beati simus”.
      In England the Latin language was studied when you were an empire.
      Then someone decided to skip the study of Latim from the schools and then,consequently, you have lost your empire :)

    • Ivan

      Manuel Alonso Sorry comrade but the word ‘gay’ as only one meaning now. lol , Empire ? been there, done that & invented the t-shirt so we leave empire building to those pro EU fanatics to stupid to know any better. 8|

  25. Péter

    I’m sure you wanted to say human trafficking.

  26. Ana

    Yes. The larger and wealthier countries should receive and integrate proportionally more refugees as they also have a larger share in EU decision making formal and non-formal process. Also the EU must do a thorough review of European development aid to third countries in order to make it depend upon human rights respect, namely women rights, and national governments accountability and transparency. Furthermore EU external relations policy must advocate concrete measures for refugees burden sharing with third countries.

    • Ivan

      Why should they ? you want the migrants, you have the migrants and leave the rest of us in peace. .

    • Forget about her. She is portuguese. In Portugal we have close to zero immigration problems because we are an extremely closed country with very few immigrants, so we have a lot of people that are absolutely obviously to all these issues and just think that it is a good idea to receive tons of illegal immigrants.

    • Ana

      Forget about people who dismiss other people’s opinions! Instead of dismissing other people’s opinions they should go back to school to learn about democracy, the democratic way of behaving, and to learn how to listen to and respect other people’s opinions.
      Portugal is not a “closed country” rather the opposite. As it is a well known fact, Portugal is a country open to foreigners like most of the ancient colonialist countries are, it’s a natural consequence of “having hold” a multicontinental “empire” for a few centuries. Furthermore, so far I couldn’t find anywhere “a lot of people” who “think it’s a good idea to receive tons (sic!) of illegal immigrants”! Portugal is open to refugees as any country should on an humanitarian principle. Concerning economic immigrants, Portugal public policy on immigration has been considered at EU and international level an excellent one and a good practice to be replicated by other countries, and this is enough to show that there is in place a set of measures well-designed to properly deal with immigration issues, namely immigrants integration in Portuguese society. So instead of people who want “to receive tons of illegal immigrants”, there is people who addressed this issue in a very responsible way with very good results.

  27. Ivan

    As long as you keep the financial migrants in the EU who cares ? 8|

    • Alex

      That’s the entire point of the EU. A bigger enthity has more to say. Sorry UK. If the EU wants to bully a country in the region to make a camp there it probably could. The EU is eventually gonna bribe some of the local “chiefs” to stop migration and stuff. That’s how the big boys take care of their interests

  28. Mataroa

    Rich countries must remain rich or become richer so yes. they must have all the pay peanuts-immigrants they can get their hands on. Screw the citizens- they are paid a lot, no good for rich countries. So let’s replace them.So,Yes.

  29. Julia

    Does the EU genuinely feel sorry for refugees or do the rich EU countries just want labour to exploit and more potential tax payers? Because if the EU genuinely felt sorry for refugees they wouldn’t be paying Turkey €3 billion of EU tax payer money to sell refugee adults and children into slavery, for sexual abuse and to work in factories for 1 Turkish lira a day.

  30. Aris

    NOOO. Luxemburg is a very rich country. If it takes 500.000 refugees then Luxemburg will become an Islamic Sultanate..

  31. Klaus

    Yes and no

    Momently the side effects of globalism (economic imperialism) are causing allot of havoc.

    A focus on allround economic autarky should be implemented

    This includes improvement of underdeveloped countries which tend to be easier to implement new practices (agricultural, etc)

    This also means avoidance of creating/stimulating massive diasporas

  32. Zoltan

    This question is a joke…because if yes it will be never over….

  33. Michail

    Showing kids and women, while the majority are young able men illegal intruders. Soros propaganda is strong in this page!

  34. Rob

    No richter countries should spend more on the repatriation of refugees and on local shelter camps.

  35. Mario

    refugees are not the problem. different story for illegal economic migrants.

  36. Philip

    Damn straight they should yet Merkel approaches Greece, Italy and France???? Wtf!!

  37. Ivan

    No, send them all to Germany, the German people wanted them so let the German people have them. EU solidarity is a myth. .

    Just heard Merkel say ‘either we share the migrants or the EU is finished’.

    Then the EU is finished. Hallelujah ! 8|

  38. Hartmann

    Damned, there no diskussion about refugees, because there are no refugees: should richer countries take all migrants? YES, of course – no mercy.

  39. Christine

    Climate Change will give us
    5° increase in temperature which will lead to the death of approximately 50% of the world’s human population. So why worry about people desperate to leave war zones or poverty hoping for a better life now. It might be you in a decade or few

  40. Dave

    Unfortunately the uk can’t tell a teenager or younger from a man or woman with a nice new iPhone and gold that clearly in their 30s or 40s so taking refugees or migrants and looking after their own people is a problem for them so no.

    • Ivan

      Won’t be our problem for much longer lol 8|

  41. Valentin

    Money does not come from heaven ,tax payers must produce them.Instead open borders we must have same GDP per capita in the EU.With more welfare immigrants this is an impossible task.

  42. Kamil

    There are 22 arab countries, of which many are oil-rich. They should help their own people. Turkey should extradite the 4 million refugees to the arabic countries where they belong. Europe should resist to the extreme.

required Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More debate series – Cities & Refugees View all

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.