By Negar Tayyar and Alan Zulch | Medium | 17 July 2018
© Help Refugees, Moria camp, Lesbos, Greece
The prevailing response crisis
In a recent learning visit spanning the Greek archipelago — from Athens to Lesbos and Thessaloniki — our team saw what is really taking place on the ground. While the number of refugee arrivals-per-month has dropped in the past year, the challenges in responding to existing and new refugees remain. To make matters worse, these “people on the move” (our preferred term) stuck in Greece are left in an intolerable limbo state, lacking agency and unable to predict how their journeys will unfold; they are suffering deeply.
Of course, neither the plight nor the suffering of refugees in Greece is new. In 2015 the world started paying attention to the influx of refugees crossing borders to enter Europe via Greece. Images of people crossing borders via boats and by feet circulated across the globe under the banner of “the refugee crisis.” But, the term refugee crisis is misleading as it implies that refugees are causing the crisis. The way issues are framed matters and influence public perception. Language is important. Framing people who are seeking refuge — because of a well-founded fear of persecution, war or violence — as people who are causing the crisis erroneously blames the victim. The term refugee crisis also falls short by failing to emphasize the real challenge: responding creatively to people on the move. Rather than a refugee crisis, what we are witnessing across the globe is a “response crisis” to the largest forced displacement in decades.
The term crisis denotes a time of intense difficulty, trouble or danger. It further suggests a time of difficult or important decision-making. Greece has been deeply impacted with 1,015,078 arrivals by boat in 2015 (according to UNHCR data). The number has dropped to 47,955 people in 2018 (as of July 9). Compared to initial reporting, the relative absence of current media coverage around the ongoing crisis in Greece leaves the global public under the impression that challenges in receiving and supporting people on the move has been addressed successfully. Read more >>>