Amid the rancorous bickering this week by European leaders over a relocation plan to spread asylum seekers around the Continent, a Coast Guard officer stood on the dock here at Greece’s main port screaming a blunt command at a throng of rain-soaked new arrivals: Hurry up and relocate yourselves.
“Get out of here. Get on the bus! Go, go, go,” the officer shouted, ordering another shipload of Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis and others who had just been ferried from outlying Greek islands to keep moving to wherever it is in Europe they want to go.
The scene at Piraeus underscored the huge distance between decisions made in the conference rooms of Brussels and the often chaotic realities on the ground for a refugee crisis that keeps thwarting promises of a “European solution.”
This sprawling port southwest of Athens is where many of the various tributaries carrying desperate people fleeing war and poverty converge to form an unstoppable human river flowing northward, usually to Germany or Sweden.
It is also the place where Europe’s disarray is on full display, particularly its failure to follow through on plans — no matter the pledges repeated in Brussels — to secure Europe’s outer borders and help front-line states like Greece to deal with the largest movement of refugees in Europe since World War II.
In fact, this week’s plan to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers — bitterly contested as it was by Eastern European nations, which were overruled — was just the latest faint stab at a unified European Union policy in the face of underfunded and embryonic blocwide institutions to deal with the crisis.
Earlier this year, the European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s executive in Brussels, unveiled what it called the “European Agenda on Migration.” It detailed an ambitious program to “build up a coherent and comprehensive approach” to the migration crisis.
SOURCE: ANDREW HIGGINS
The New York Times