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What's Going On With the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Greece?

On the Greek island of Lesvos, volunteers and refugees are facing violent attacks from locals.

Each day, dozens of refugees wash up on the shores of the Greek island of Lesvos. They come at all hours and from many different shores.

These refugees will be in the midst of dangerous journeys across the ocean, having fled their homes. Some come to the shores of Greece for a shot at a better life, but most come simply to survive.

One Border Falls, Another Closes

Last week, Idlib—one of the last rebel strongholds in Syria—began to crumble as Russian-backed airstrikes eviscerated its infrastructure. Surviving residents fled in huge numbers to the neighboring nation, Turkey.

Turkey has been shouldering the vast majority of the world's refugees since the worldwide crisis coalesced in the 2010s, and they currently host over three million refugees. Following Idlib's fall, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that Turkey's borders were officially open because his nation could no longer handle the flows of refugees rushing out of Idlib.

This action was in violation of a 2016 Turkey-EU deal, in which the EU promised $6 billion to Turkey in exchange for their closed borders (though Turkey has only received roughly $3.2 million, which is perhaps the cause of Erdoğan's violation).

Many of Turkey's migrant population, aided or pushed by Turkish police, immediately attempted to flee Turkey for Greece, embarking on a journey across the Aegean Sea. Across the nation, Greek citizens and law enforcement officials have reacted violently, greeting refugees with tear gas, water cannons, and brutal attacks. Millions of refugees are now in prison-like camps on Greece's borders; others are still at sea, blocked by government ships on both sides.

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Lesvos: A Microcosm of a Macro-Disaster

The island of Lesvos has seen a particularly harsh fallout from these recent events. Since the news from Turkey broke, local islanders have launched huge protests, establishing roadblocks and patrols to prevent migrants from moving from the sea into the camps.

In February, seven Lesvos inhabitants were arrested for planning violent attacks on migrants; following Turkey's announcement, journalists and aid volunteers have been injured by locals, and warehouses containing supplies and donations have been burned. Many of the organizations providing life-saving resources to refugees have been forced to shut down, and locals have been forcing boats to turn away from the island, resulting in the death of at least one child.

A far-right neo-Nazi party known as the Golden Dawn, which may be gaining prominence on the island, may be behind some of these actions.

Crumbling Patience: Lesvos Takes Fallout from the Syrian War

Lesvos's inhabitants were once praised for the strength of their solidarity. The island is vast and full of empty stretches of land, and the makeshift camps only take up a tiny fraction of its dry mountainous areas; but lately, the influx of migrants from Turkey and the threat of new government-built migrant centers have catalyzed a new wave of xenophobic violence.

The horrors of Lesvos's one major holding camp—Moria—are difficult to describe. The camp, designed to hold 3,000, currently holds over 20,000 refugees. Many languish there even though they have family and job prospects in the EU, held in limbo and exposed to disease and traumatizing violence, both of which run rampant in the camps.

In light of the recent riots, North Aegean governor Kostas Moutzouris has called for the declaration of a national emergency. However, politicians and human rights organizations have constantly called for an end to the misery on Lesvos since the crisis began five years ago.

Lesvos Waterfront Greeka.com

Of course, all these events are tragic consequences of much bigger political movements. The EU's failure to accept more refugees—and its failure to support the people living in its nation's camps—have burdened the island with far more refugees than it can handle. "The Lesbos community has been abandoned by its own government for almost five years to deal with the consequences of a failed reception system. Like the refugee community, it is tired," said Sophie McCann, a Doctors Without Borders advocacy advisor.

Al Jazeera

In turn, the proliferation of refugees is the result of a complex humanitarian disaster, one that often has unfortunate consequences. "Refugees are not a bargaining chip to be played with at the whims of political leaders," said EuroMed Rights President Wadir Al-Asmar. "Europeans cannot look away from what might become one of the worst humanitarian disasters the war in Syria has brought on its people. Respecting international humanitarian law as well as the human right to protection and refuge remain the sole possible answer in the face of such indiscriminate violence."

The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has killed 500,000 people, coming out to nearly 1 in 10 Syrians. The conflict was caused by many complex forces—including climate change, which led to a drought that resulted in congestion and economic stagnation in Syria's inner cities.

Turkish President Says Khashoggi Killing was “Premeditated Murder”

"It is clear that this savage murder... was planned," Erdogan said.

In the developing situation regarding the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Tuesday that Saudi Arabia give the international community more information.

Erdogan asked the rival government to hand over the Saudi suspects in the case, and said that he would reveal "the naked truth" about Khashoggi's death. This is the latest in a string of Turkish reports alleging foul play on the part of the Saudi government, indicating that the government is not inclined to let the case fall by the wayside amidst international furor.

According to Erdogan, a 15-member team of top Saudi officials arrived in stages in Istanbul to carry out the murder earlier this month, including generals, senior intelligence officers and forensic officials. Reconnaissance operations were allegedly planned in the surrounding rural areas of Belgrad Forest and Yalova, where investigators have been searching for the journalist's remains.

"It is clear that this savage murder did not happen instantly but was planned," Erdogan said, challenging the official Saudi account.

Government representatives in Saudi Arabia have said the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was committed by rogue killers and a "tremendous mistake." They have sworn they would capture those responsible and bring them to justice. Currently 18 officials are under investigation.

The Turkish president has called on King Salman bin Abdulaziz directly to address the situation, pointedly leaving out the Crown Prince, whom some think is suspect. He also asked that the case be adjudicated in Istanbul, not in Riyadh or elsewhere in Saudi Arabia.

Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

"This murder might have been committed at a consulate building which may be considered Saudi Arabian land, but it rests within the borders of Turkey," he said. He later added that international agreements on the status of consular property "cannot allow the investigation of this murder to be concealed behind the armor of immunity."

Erdogan's widely-anticipated speech is timed to coincide with this week's showy Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. The 'Davos in the Desert' conference had U.S. government officials and western chief executives deciding not to attend, such as JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs partner Dina Powell, due to pressure over Khashoggi's death. Still others are in attendance, like PepsiCo Vice Chairman Mehmood Khan.

While careful not to insult King Salman, Erdogan made the argument that the investigation should be conducted by those with more distance from the crime. "I do not doubt the sincerity of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz," he said. "Still, such a critical investigation should be conducted by a fair committee which has no tiniest doubt of connection to the murder."

Outstanding questions still remain, including why the Saudi consulate building had not been opened until days after the killing, why the Saudis have made many inconsistent statements involving the case, and ultimately—why is the body still missing?

President Trump commented on the Saudi Arabian account of events on Tuesday, calling it "the worst cover-up ever." He told reporters his final judgement on the case would be reserved until C.I.A. director Gina Haspel returned from Turkey by the end of the week.

Joshua Smalley is a New York-based writer, editor, and playwright. Find Josh at his website and on Twitter: @smalleywrites.

Saudis to Confirm Jamal Khashoggi's Death

The Saudi government prepares to confirm that the journalist died during "an interrogation gone wrong."

On a Tuesday afternoon, a Turkish woman's fiancé walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in order to confirm their wedding plans for the following day. Two weeks later and after international outrage over his disappearance, the Saudi government is reportedly preparing a statement that confirms his death within the government building, according to CNN.

The ominous disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, 60, a well-known dissenter of the Saudi government, has resulted in taut political tensions between Saudi Arabia and western governments calling for a "credible investigation" into his whereabouts. The journalist was captured on CCTV entering the Saudi Consulate at 1:12 PM, as his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside at a distance. He was not seen again.

CNN

Khashoggi has been presumed dead after Turkish officials alleged that he was tortured and murdered at the hands of Saudi agents; what's ensued is international condemnation of the Saudi government's lack of transparency. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini spoke for 28 foreign ministers after meeting on the matter: "There was full consensus around the table on the fact that we expect transparency, we expect full clarity from investigations to be done by the Saudi authorities together and in full co-operation with the Turkish authorities," she said. Over the weekend, President Trump vowed there would be "extreme punishment" and directed Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to immediately travel to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

CNN

Turkish officials were admitted to the building, alongside a Saudi team, to investigate after unsubstantiated claims that Khashoggi's torture and murder were recorded by his Apple Watch and transmitted to his iPhone were widely publicized. While the Saudi government initially claimed that he exited the consulate safely on October 2, Turkish authorities have insisted that the journalist was brutally attacked by as many as 15 Saudi men who'd recently arrived in Istanbul in a coordinated government plan. To date, their investigation has not uncovered substantial evidence.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Saudi government will propose that "rogue" dissidents within the regime murdered the journalist, acting under their own power and not under any governmental orders. President Trump echoed the sentiment on Monday after a phone call to King Salman, stating, "It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers," he added. "Who knows?" The Saudi's report is expected to allege that Khashoggi died as a result of "an interrogation gone wrong," but disavow a premeditated plot against the outspoken critic.

Khashoggi and CengizCNN

Khashoggi's fiancé is still demanding information from the Saudi government. Cengiz has taken to Twitter in both English and Arabic to implore a response: "I request #SaudiArabia to officially respond to the status of my fiancée #Jkhashogji who entered the #SaudiConsulate in #Istanbul. 10 days ago and his whereabouts are still unknown to date. @JKhashoggi #whereisjamalkhashogji." Prior to Tuesday, she'd shared her plans to throw Khashoggi a surprise party for his 60th birthday, which passed this Saturday.

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

What Happened to Journalist Jamal Khashoggi?

The writer and critic of the Saudi Crown Prince has been missing for one week.

Prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last Tuesday, but never came back out.

A vocal critic of the regime of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi left his home country to live in the US where he is a legal resident and columnist for the Washington Post. On Saturday, Turkish officials told the press that the writer was murdered at the consulate, however no evidence was given to verify the allegation.

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