The refugee problem is testing the endurance of Aegean islands where thousands of residents have protested with the slogan, “We want our lives back”.
The crisis is also testing the endurance of the government in which there are conflicting views – some more humanitarian and others with great reservations – on how to handle refugees and migrants.
It is also testing society and extremist political forces may exploit society’s malaise and rage.
At massive rallies on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, and Samos speakers used language unfit for public speech. Though a few protesters were holding banners with an image of gallows for migrants, that does not mean that all demonstrators are on the extreme right or racists, as SYRIZA once maintained.
Every effort must be made for the islanders not to fall into the hands of far right elements and racists.
That entails building the trust of local societies in the government.
There must be swift moves to alleviate the burden on the islands which are hosting all the migrants and to construct facilities that will provide the necessary social services and humane living conditions.
Moreover, one must speed up the process of processing asylum (international protection) applications and tend to the problem of NGOs that are breaking the rules.
The refugee problem has again taken on explosive dimensions.
It cannot be confronted without the implementation of a diptych or two-pronged policy – saying no to open borders and at the same time rejecting any violation of human rights.
The former is mandated by realism and the latter by civilisation.