Yesterday on BBC World News, Emeritus Professor Dawn Chatty spoke on the actions by the Greek authorities to clear the informal refugee camp at Idomeni and transfer the inhabitants to processing centres elsewhere in Greece.
She said: “I think the Greek authorities have several reasons for trying to clear the camp… It sits directly on a rail line which is the main freight line between Greece and Macedonia so the country has lost about £3million every month. They’ve been unable to use it because of the makeshift camp that was set up there. But I am a little bit concerned. Certainly the reports are that…people are leaving voluntarily but it does seem to be that there is a great deal of intimidation. Many of the Syrians who have been interviewed and others have said that they really don’t want to be going backwards. Many are waiting to find opportunities to be reunited with their families, many of the women with children have husbands and sons already in Germany and Sweden, and they really are fearful of being pushed back and…being put in a situation where they are forced to claim asylum in Greece.”
When questioned on why people would not simply wish to stay in Greece, which does offer, at least, a safe place, she said: “I think that family reunification is almost more important. They want to reach their husbands, they want to reach their sons, and they want to be together. And the idea that they must register in Greece is something that, certainly as far as the Syrians are concerned, doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to them.”
The interview then turned to the flow of refugees and migrants, and how this might develop over the coming summer months. Professor Chatty acknowledged that while the flow through the Balkans land corridor is being slowed down, other routes are likely to be opened up, particularly as smugglers cater to the demand of Syrians seeking reunification with families in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. She states that “In the end we have to find some kind of comprehensive plan of action which allows for some kind of temporary protection within Europe and other parts of the world, and at the same time tries to find ways of finding a political settlement in Syria. We really have to look at this holistically. It’s not just a matter of trying to block people from reaching their families or reaching safety.”