Greece Wildfires Expose Asylum Seekers' Vulnerabilities
Europe and Human Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defence.
The devastating wildfires in northern Greece have brought to light the challenges faced by asylum seekers in the region. Eighteen bodies, believed to be asylum seekers, were discovered in the Dadia Forest, near the national park, a frequent entry point for migrants and refugees bordering Turkey. The victims included two children aged between 10 and 15, and 16 adults.
The Evros region, known for being a common route for asylum seekers entering Europe, has been under scrutiny for reports of brutal pushbacks of migrants. Alarm Phone, an emergency hotline for migrants, revealed that they had been contacted by groups in the area who were threatened by the fires but were equally fearful of being pushed back across the border.
The Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum expressed sorrow over the deaths, emphasizing the dangers of irregular immigration and condemning the activities of human traffickers. The Civil Protection Ministry conveyed their condolences, noting that the victims had been in a restricted forest area and had not heeded evacuation warnings.
Conspiracy theories have emerged, suggesting that migrants were responsible for starting the fires. However, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) criticized such claims, pointing out the lack of evidence and condemning the manipulation of the tragedy to further anti-migrant sentiments.
The wildfires, exacerbated by hot, dry, and windy conditions, have been particularly severe, with the most intense fires nearing the northeastern port city of Alexandroupolis. International assistance has been mobilized, with six countries sending aid through the European Union's civil protection mechanism.
Sources and Further Reading:
Al Jazeera. (2023, August 24). Deaths in Greece wildfires highlight the plight of asylum seekers. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/24/deaths-in-greece-wildfires-highlight-the-plight-of-asylum-seekers
ARISENEWS. (2023, August 22). Greece wildfire kills 18 suspected asylum seekers in Dadia region. Arise News. Retrieved from https://www.arise.tv/greece-wildfires-kills-18-suspected-asylum-seekers-in-dadia-region/