Greece’s Position on the Refugee Crisis

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After the events that developed as a result of the Arab Spring in 2010, a migration movement originating from the Middle East geography began. Especially after the events in countries such as Afghanistan, new waves of migration are occurring; The lack of stability in the region causes these migration movements to continue even today. On the other hand, with Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine at the beginning of 2022, a new one has been added to these migration waves. Especially Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine are turning to European countries; The anti-war Russians are also known to have joined this wave.

Greece, which is a transit country in terms of its location in terms of asylum seekers, has become a target country with the effect of European Union (EU) membership in this period. Especially with EU countries such as Italy and Spain, Greece has come to the forefront as a key country in the refugee crisis due to the fact that it is one of the first countries to meet these migration waves. As a matter of fact, the fact that it is coastal to the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea due to its location has increased the importance of Greece.

In this regard, Greece should act in accordance with the EU acquis. However, when we look at the recent developments centered on Greece, it is seen that a grave picture has emerged in terms of refugees. While the “pushback” policy implemented by the Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea has led to deaths; it is stated that the situation is no different in the existing refugee camps.[1]

Various non-governmental organizations have raised the issue of human rights violations within the framework of some reports. While it is stated that there is a hunger crisis in these camps; the government appears to have denied the allegations.[2] According to the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force at the end of 2009, EU member states accept a condition that asylum seekers should not be returned. Moreover, according to the Geneva Convention, signed in 1951, asylum seekers who reach the country’s borders should not be sent back.

As can be understood, Greece’s immigration policy is contrary to both EU law and international law. Moreover, it is seen that the Athens administration has been trying to strengthen the Evros border in the recent period. In doing so, a strategy is being carried out aimed at preventing illegal entries into the country from outside by laying a fence at the border. Although it is normal for a target country to control irregular migration, Greece’s adoption of a policy of pushing back asylum seekers by using violence at the border in this process is a serious human rights violation.[3]

Greece wants to engage the EU, arguing that irregular migration and asylum seekers are increasingly a burden on the country’s economy and security. As a matter of fact, Greece has asked the EU to provide more assistance in migration.[4] At a time when the economic crisis is deepening as a result of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War and difficult days are experienced due to the energy crisis, it is clear that the EU wants to avoid a new wave of migration and refugees. Therefore, it is understood from the statements made by EU officials that the Greek border is perceived as a European border.

As can be understood, Greece does not hesitate to use the refugee crisis as a trump card against the EU by turning the migrant issue into a tool. While this situation increases Greece’s influence in the EU; It causes some of the steps of the Athens administration to be ignored. In particular, the EU’s silence on recent grave events confirms this.

In addition to all this, it is understood that Greece, which has been criticized by non-governmental organizations over this issue, has called on the EU to get rid of these accusations. At the beginning of 2023, the Athens administration, which showed the barbed wire built on the border along the Evros River and the measures taken to the Ambassadors of the EU countries, wants to convince the member states that it is making efforts on migration.

On the other hand, it can be said that both Greece and the EU apply double standards against asylum seekers. In particular, the allegations that Greece, which has abandoned its harsh measures for Ukrainians fleeing the Russian-Ukrainian War, has displaced existing refugees to make room for Ukrainians in camps are also noteworthy. [5]

As a result, there can be a dilemma in Greece’s migration policy. While the increase in tough measures and the taking of steps contrary to international law in this process reveal the impasse; The EU’s silence on this situation constitutes another dimension of the problem. In this context, it can be argued that the EU implicitly supports Greece in order to prevent migration movements. On the other hand, it is also possible that the double standard applied to Ukrainians can be considered as a reflection of the increasing racism and discrimination in other EU countries.

[1] Eleni Siapikoudi, “Refugee Crisis: Pushbacks and Harsh Sentences for Refugees”, Friedrich Naumann Foundation,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[2] Helena Smith, “Greek Government Blamed for Hunger Crisis in Refugee Camps”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[3] “Greece: Migration Policy Having “Suffocating Effect” on Human Rights Defenders Says UN Expert”, OHCHR,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[4] Costas Kantouris, “Greece Expanding Border Wall, Calls for EU Help on Migration”, The Associated Press,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[5] “Hot and Cold: Greece’s Treatment of Ukrainian and NON-UKRAİNİAN REFUGEES”, The New Humanitarian,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

Mustafa Çuhadar, İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi İngiliz Dili ve Edebiyatı Bölümü mezunudur. Lisans döneminde disiplinlerarası çalışmalarına ağırlık veren Çuhadar'ın başlıca çalışma alanları, Balkanlar ve İstihbarat çalışmalarıdır. 2021 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü’nde yüksek lisans eğitimine başlayan Çuhadar, halihazırda Bosna Hersek’teki siyasi partileri inceleyen yüksek lisans tezini hazırlamaktadır. Çuhadar, iyi derecede İngilizce, Boşnakça, Hırvatça ve Sırpça ve temel seviyede Almanca bilmektedir.