Greece balks at Portuguese plan to welcome 470 Yazidi refugees

A heroic plan to welcome an entire community of (Christian) Yazidi refugees to Portugal is being thwarted by Greek authorities in a scenario that has been described as “Kafkaesque”.

Champion of the plan, MEP Ana Gomes, is in despair.

Talking to Diário de Notícias she says the “whole process” of trying to bring in this group from a religion that has been “pursued by Daesh in Iraque” has been a nightmare.

From the moment “they demanded pre-registration of all those who want to come” to the record of Skype interviews requested, “when everyone knows that getting network in the refugee camps is extremely complicated”.

All down the line, Gomes’ brave plan has been thwarted, despite the fact that the PS government is all for it.

“I do not understand why they (the Greek authorities) do not accept our help”, she told DN. “They have to start placing the refugees they have somewhere”.

Reasons for the ongoing delay centre on the Greek contention that “according to European rules for placing (refugees) discriminatory criteria are prohibited”. In other words, countries are not at liberty to “choose nationalities or religions” and “priorities are situations of greatest vulnerability”.

But Ana Gomes’ belief is that there cannot be greater vulnerability than the Yazidis, whom by nature of their Christian beliefs have “already suffered so much at the hands of Daesh”.

DN explains: “Yazidis are the communities most massacred by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State”.

Ana Gomes herself has been in Greece to hear refugees’ dramatic stories face-to-face, and this is the root of her subsequent actions.

The group’s first choice of destination was Germany, she concedes, but once they realised this was not going to be possible, they “agreed to come to Portugal, instead of continuing in the camps”.

DN has also explained that Portugal’s policy in other cases has been to disperse refugees throughout the country, so as not to create ghettoes.

In this case however, the group of 470 Yazidis from the same village, “the large part families, women and children” shows “great cohesion, responsibility and a sense of community solidarity”, government 1st minister Eduardo Cabrita explains, and thus the plan is to “respect” these aspects of the group’s “strong sense of community”.

But, for now, it remains a waiting game, with as many as 60,000 refugees still camped in Greece waiting for papers to allow them further passage into Europe.

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