In an open letter to the Austrian government, Austrians living in Greece wrote to protest over their homeland’s role in border closures against refugees.
The letter, which was widely published in the media, says: “Austrians living and working in Greece, who feel deeply connected with this country, appeal to the Austrian government to take a more responsible position in dealing with the refugee crisis. Instead of putting on blinkers, pretending that by closing the borders the problem will go away, the situation has to be tackled head-on at a European level. The Austrian government needs to understand that individual, national approaches fail to produce results, also because solitary advances contradict the basic tenets of the European programme, which is meant to serve as the foundation for a new generation.”
The authors of the letter also noted that pushing solutions to the refugee crisis that rely on increasing the pressure on Greece is counterproductive, unrealistic and irresponsible.
“Dozens of boats continue to arrive on Greece’s shores on a daily basis, often carrying over three thousand desperate people a day. The unspeakable horror of the war, hopelessness in the adjacent countries and the desire to reunite with family members are a strong motivation for those who have nothing to lose to risk the journey towards European destinations. What could stop them? Coast guards? Warships? Walls? Barbed wire fences? None of these measures will have any effect, unless the acts of war are put to an end. Otherwise, traumatised, terrorised people will continue to do anything to escape their misery.”
As regards Greece, the letter notes that the country – since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2010 – has been publicly denied the capability to deal with its own administration, and now it is supposed to master a situation that would far surpass what Austrian authorities are able to shoulder.
“Greek volunteers, in cooperation with Greek NGOs and international organisations, are doing their best to save refugees’ lives, to offer medical care, feed and console the desperate. How, we may ask, can a country that is itself on its knees, economically as well as socially, handle this situation?”
As regards Austria, the letter noted that the country will be remembered as the trigger of a humanitarian catastrophe if it pursues unilaterally a “complete barrage against refugees”.
“We appeal to the Austrian government to act reasonably, use common sense judgment and apply the principles of human rights. Short-sighted neo-nationalism should have no place in Europe of the 21st century. This is the least we owe to our historic past.”