TRNN interviews Maria Nikolakaki, key organizer of the Crossing Borders Conference taking place July 7-10 in Lesvos, Greece
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network, I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015 alone, says UNHCR. It’s sparking the greatest challenge Europe has faced since WWII. While countries struggling to cope with the influx, it is creating a division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling the people. Our next guest is mounting a conference to address this challenge and much more. Maria Nikolakaki is Associate Professor at University of Peloponnese in Greece and founding member of Cooperative Institute for Transnational Studies. Maria thank you so much for joining us today. MARIA NIKOLAKAKI: Thank you Sharmini, it’s my joy and pleasure. Thank you for having me. PERIES: So Maria let’s get at the problem first which is this migrant and refugee crisis that we’re trying to deal with in Europe and Greece is bearing an enormous challenge right now in terms of the number of refugees coming through Greece. Almost half a million of them. Give us the magnitude of the problem at hand. NIKOLAKAKI: Well the problem is about, of course, wars, Middle East, and why people are forced to flee from their countries seeking security and safety away from bombs that the west are bringing on them. So, at this point at a global scale we’re living the biggest refugee crisis since WWII. More than 60 million people globally are displaced. Either because of war or because poverty, imperialism, and dispopulization has brought on to them and this kind of condition is a dehumanizing condition for the refugees. At the same time, it is a challenge for us the westerner who of course do not share any responsibility, immediately to what is going on with the wars. At the same time, it’s time to address how to stop this condition in order to bring peace on earth. Now this might be heard as a maximalizing idea but point is we need to start addressing the refugee crisis, not only at the basis of how to deal with the impoverished and devastated refugees but also the main roots of the refugee crisis. Again as I said it’s about wars. PERIES: Give us a sense of what Greece is facing at this time. Long before refugees and migrants started to arrive at your boarder, Greece itself was facing an enormous economic crisis as a result of austerity policies and of course the debt crisis and the Real News has been covering this for a while so people are familiar with it. But give us a sense of the molting problem as a result of the refugees arriving at the shores in Greece. NIKOLAKAKI: Well the point is that of course Greeks were very devastated by the austerity measures and all those class wars that have been held on their heads but at the same time I personally take it more because there is a long history of refugees. Greeks were refugees themselves, thousands of years old. There’s always a kind of mentality that you have to support the one in need. Also I think because there is a strong left support and so there were immediately made solidarity centers where people were trying to help as much as they could. Now there was a saying that comes to my mind when I think of this condition. They said I was sad that I had no shoes until I saw someone with no legs. At some point it’s like when you see the one that is trying to just live for now you kind of have nothing else to do but to support them despite the fact that you are indeed yourself in a very bad situation. So Greeks I think generally have helped as much as they could. But again the Greek state that came into the agreement with the EU in order to send those people back to Turkey and we all know that the conditions right now in Turkey are not so good. Many of them are being housed in cells. Others are being killed in between borders of Syria and Turkey. There are many especially Syrian children working for Turkish employers. So this is like a very bad condition they are sent to without any security about their lives.