Greece’s Aegean Islands are Overflowing with Migrants

Greece has been struggling to handle the flow of migrants since the European migrant crisis in 2015. So far in 2019, 59,448 migrants have arrived in Greece, most of whom came from either Afghanistan or Syria. Most migrants live in cramped camps in the Aegean islands, in accordance with a 2016 agreement between Greece, Turkey, and the European Union, that migrants would remain in Greece’s Aegean islands in the hopes of curbing illegal immigration further into Europe. These camps, however, hold too many people. Migrants staying there have limited access to basic necessities such as space for shelter, food, medical care, and sanitation. In 2018, 66,966 people applied for asylum in Greece, most of whom were young men. Of these people, 12,618 (41.0%) were granted refugee status, 2,574 (8.4%) were granted subsidiary protection, and 15,559 (50.6%) were rejected. After receiving their decisions, 15,297 migrants then appealed their cases. Because the Greek government rarely forces deportation after migrants are rejected for asylum, many remain in the country because they cannot afford to leave and/or lack the proper travel documents. To combat this, the government worked with the European Union to create a program of voluntary deportation, in which migrants who wish to return to their countries of origin are provided with a small sum of cash, as well as one-way travel documents and tickets. The Greek government plans to deport 10,000 people within the next year and move 20,000 off of the islands. Despite this, the camps remain overpopulated, with the migrants living in rough conditions. These camps show the European Union’s failure to properly handle the increase in migration to Europe over the past decade; countries such as Greece must hold the majority of migrants as they wait for their asylum cases to be processed. Greece cannot support so many migrants and refugees with its own substantial economic issues. Until the EU handles the situation properly, the United States can help by funding NGOs such as the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The UNHCR addresses asylum and migration in Europe by gathering data and trends on the subject and using the data collected to create programs that help migrants, as well as by helping governments form a stable asylum process. Governments use the data collected by the UNHCR, and the UNHCR has played a substantial role in the creation of an international refugee framework. By funding the UNHCR, the United States would help create the laws and agreements regarding migration which would resolve the current issue, and prevent this issue from repeating. One example of this is the Global Compact on Refugees, a plan to ensure that refugees receive the support they need via recognition of the necessity of international collaboration, for which the UNHCR led the talks.

The IRC provides relief for migrants and refugees. Since 2015, they have helped more than 50,000 migrants in Greece, providing them with care packages, giving them emotional support, and providing women and children with safe spaces. They work to ensure the employment of migrants, provide and teach healthy emotional habits as well as sanitation practices, help clean the areas migrants live in, and provide drinking water at sites in Eleonas (near Athens) and Kara Tepe (on Lesbos). Funding the IRC would provide immediate aid for migrants in need.

To address the immediate concern of the dreadful living conditions in Greece’s migrant camps, the State Department should provide funding for the IRC, which provides support for migrants and refugees in need. To address the larger issue causing the problem in Greece, the state department should fund the UNHCR, which gathers statistics and addresses the need for Europe as a whole to accept responsibility for migrants, rather than just a few countries. In funding these two NGOs, the state department could help the migrants in Greece, as well as help to fix the issue of migration to Europe as a whole.

Domestic Violence in Albania

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) has been a continuous issue in Albania. Over 50% of the women in Albania claim that they have encountered a form of domestic violence at least once in their life. Over 100 women and girls have been killed by domestic violence in the past two decades.

Albania isolated itself from other Western countries for more than forty years after WWII, as the country adopted a communist system. Gender equality failed to be noticed by the government and the people until recent years. The country carried over traditional ideals to the present day. Due to the underdeveloped economy in Albania, a large portion of the country is in poverty. Albanian women who are from poor families tend to have pre-arranged marriages in order to improve their lives. The males and elders of a family also favor boys over girls. A birth of a female infant could lead to disagreement between the wife and husband, which would cause domestic violence. Traditional values that consider daughters and wives as property of the males are also reasons for violence, sometimes even murders. The women are also greatly affected by the social values. According to a survey initiated in Albania by United Nations Development Programme, 50% of women believe that violence between a husband and wife is a private matter and that others should not intervene, and 46.5% believe that a woman should tolerate some violence to keep her family together. 27.5% of women believe that when a woman is beaten by her husband, she is partly to blame or at fault and that a woman should be ashamed or embarrassed to talk to anyone outside of her family about abuse or violence in her marriage. The victims are held back by the social norms and morals, which is another factor to be taken under consideration.

Over 4000 court protection orders were given to women and girls across the country in 2018, but the victims couldn’t receive prompt action from the police. On 23 July 2018, the Albanian Parliament approved amendments to a domestic violence law; women and girls who experience violence in Albania will now be granted immediate protection by the police. As soon as they report violence cases, they will be placed in safe shelters immediately, along with their children. Still, the victims are likely to be in danger due to the lack of law enforcement, and only big cities like Tirana have well-functioned shelters established.

Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) is a formal network NGO that fights for the equal treatment towards women and children in Europe by seeking to reduce and eliminate all forms of violence. The WAVE network has 146 members, both organizations and individuals. Members serve as sources of information about violence against women and children and exchange ideas and disseminate information throughout Europe. The Civil Society Strengthening Platform (CSSP) is one of the programs initiated by WAVE. It advocates for actions of the government, pushing for reforms and legislation to help fight violence against women and children. By funding WAVE, the U.S. gives this network more human resources to push for governmental actions more effectively.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNPD) and the Albanian government cofounded the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse with the support from Sweden. It is located in Tirana, the capitol city of Albania. This shelter provides psychological counsellors, social workers, a medical doctor, and a legal adviser, as well as career trainers to help the women to become independent. But this facility only operates in Tirana. With the help from the State Department, UNDP and the Albanian government could expand the coverage of this national shelter to help more victims in other areas in Albania.