Setting up Solidarity Houses in Greece

The asylum policy of the European Union has broken down and the treatment of migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable groups in Europe in the midst of financial and political crisis is an issue of ongoing concern.

I have always believed that the European Union is the embodiment of an open society, but today these values are being eroded. The European Union was conceived as an instrument of solidarity and cooperation. Today Europe is held together by grim necessity. That is not conducive to a harmonious partnership, and so I set up the Open Society Initiative for Europe to help recapture the spirit of solidarity and shared values.

Together with the new director, Jordi Vaquer, I decided that Greece, where current policies have created the greatest human suffering, would be the place to start as the country struggles to cope with the economic crisis and hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are stranded there.

The people who are suffering are not the people who abused the system and caused the crisis. Within Greece the fate of the many migrants and asylum seekers stuck there is particularly heart-rending. But their plight can’t be separated from that of the Greeks themselves. 

The problem seemed intractable. I was unsure of how best to approach it until recently when I visited Stockholm to commemorate the centenary of Raoul Wallenberg’s birth. This reawakened my memories of the Second World War—the calamity that eventually gave birth to the European Union.

Wallenberg was a heroic figure who saved the lives of many Jews in Budapest by establishing Swedish protected houses. During the German occupation, my father was also a heroic figure. He helped to save his family and friends and many others. He taught me to confront harsh reality rather than to passively submit to it.

That lesson gave me the idea to set up solidarity houses in Greece that could serve as community centers for the local population and also provide food and shelter to migrants. There are already many soup kitchens and civil society efforts to help the migrants but local emergency efforts cannot cope with the scale of the problem. The solidarity houses would reinforce existing government and civil society efforts. 

The asylum policy of the European Union has broken down and the treatment of migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable groups in Europe in the midst of financial and political crisis is an issue of ongoing concern. In Greece, and elsewhere, far-right parties campaigning on anti-migrant policies have grown in popularity. 

The plan to create community centers will not be the ultimate solution. We will continue to pursue long-term solutions to the crisis in the European Union but the short-term need of the most vulnerable is too great to ignore. This has to be a European project and eventually it must find its way into the European budget.

8 Comments

Monsieur Soros,

I love the idea of "Solidarity Houses" and "Community Centers" in Greece. Certainly easier to develop in Greece rather than in Cuba or Venezuela. Too complicated politically, maybe, but far from Iran Greece is wonderful culture-wise and climate-wise and one thing they do have is lots of sun. They are even inviting investors on superb available lands where autonomous communities could be built with a program of local solar renewable energy allowing more than food and shelter because sustainable energy is key to permanent progress and stable work to produce, to build, grow, and develop their own local sustainable survival communities giving them pride and dignity for at last not be a begger or a migrant with no permanent home, no land, and not welcome anywhere...Chavez did not do such a good job because the poor who had nothing today have just a hut or a small land, no coordination, and still he got reelected. But he has the wealth of oil he could manage much better.

I wonder actually at this stage of the European situation if they would consider in their budget a place for support for migrants as these people are very much in conflict with the Greeks something like the jews in Germany? But your universal approach would open the door to all poor Greeks and migrants included. So why not make a move now? Why wait? I love your Greek ideas.

Can i become the first volunteer?

I applaud the choice of Greece as the right place to start the creation of Solidarity Houses - it is here that European people are suffering most from the EU-imposed austerity measures and also Greece is the main entry point for migrants seeking refuge in Europe. Mr Soros' proposal also re-focus attention on the political (=solidarity) dimension of the EU, which the current EU austerity measures overlook. For Greece, with its history of civil war, and the junta dictatorship, the political dimension of the EU is especially important. Mr Soros is right to point out that ordinary Greek people are not the cause of the country's economic problems, yet they are the ones hit by the austerity measures. At fault is a corrupt political class - an oligarchy is the cradle of democracy - but the EU is ignoring the cause of Greece's economic problems. Recently when travelling in Greece I spoke to many people who feel hurt, angry and disappointed that they are being blamed. I would like to help the Solidarity Houses project.

Bra initiativ med ett och förhoppningsvis många solidaritetens hus i Grekland! För egen del är jag inblandad i ett projekt som handlar om demokratiutveckling i betydelsen av en närvarande politik i det lokala sammanhanget. Vilket är tänkt att vara ett samverkansprojekt mellan Grekland och Sverige, varför detta med solidaritetens hus gör mig väldigt nyfiken.

As a Greek i would like to welcome this initiative of Mr Sorros and thank him for this project, setting up Solidarity Houses for migrants and Greeks as well. They really need it. The current regime in Greece doesn't care for both of them. The current PM of Greece is a pseudo-nationalist and being secretly backed by far-right political parties such as the Golden Dawn. It's a real shame for Greece. I am saying he is a pseudo because he has become after his election a puppet of Mrs Merkel. Shortly, Greece is ruled by Quislings.

I firm believe that the future of Greece is to be found outside the EU and eurozone. A disorderly default would be the best option for Greece even if the most painful one. I would prefer an one and for all death than a slow one for Greece. That's why i believe that the opposition must come to power. To pull Greece out of the EU at any cost. I and the majority of the greek people don't believe in the EU and their democratic values, in their preaching for nations cooperation and mutually assistance among them. We don't want to be part of a autocratic EU - in many ways reminds the EU under the Nazi occupation - simply because the EU project has failed - its single currency policy included.

To conclude, i believe that a divided EU has no future, it's going to split up sooner or later. On the other hand, i want to thank you one more time for your helping greek ordinary people overcome this plight, because it is not their fault. It was the corrupted political establishment right after the restoration of democracy in 1974, which drove the country to the abyss. And its a shame for Europe as well, that it is behaving to Greece in a such miserable way.

I wish i could help you in this matter.

Solidarity houses sound like a disaster for Greece.

People need to be helped to stay in their own houses, not enticed into communal living arrangements that will become centres of abuse of societies most vulnerable, women and children.

Illegal immigrants and immigrants who have had their right to remain revoked should leave and in the absence of that they need to be deported. Asylum seekers need to have their cases assessed, quickly and effectiently, and those who don't qualify for protection should go home or be deported.

Solidarity houses are not a solution. Sorry George.

How selfish of you, Juan....compassion for those...
out there...hungry. They could be even cultured people
who could become important in building communities. If you were in their place....would you hope for help?

προβληματίζομαι. είναι αλήθεια ότι αυτή η πρωτοβουλία του ιδρύματος είναι πολύ σημαντική και από την ταπεινή μου θέση οφείλω να συγχαρώ τον εμπνευστή της κο σορο. είναι βέβαιο ότι σε αυτές τις δύσκολες στιγμές που περνά η Ελλάδα όπου δοκιμάζεται και περιορίζεται το κράτος πρόνοιας, ιδιωτικές παροχές είναι ευχάριστα ευπρόσδεκτες και ελπιδοφόρες. η Ελλάδα τα τελευταία χρόνια και λόγω των πολιτικών, κοινωνικών αναταραχών αλλά και πολέμων στα βαλκάνια, ανατολική Ευρώπη, ανατολική μεσόγειο και Αφρική, αποτέλεσε χώρα υποδοχής οικονομικών μεταναστών και πολιτικών προσφύγων. μέχρι πρόσφατα το οικονομικό σύστημα, η ευμάρεια των ελλήνων αλλά και η κοινωνία στην συντριπτική της πλειοψηφία, συντηρούσε οικονομικά και συμβίωνε με τους μετανάστες. η πολιτεία ακόμα περισσότερο, εφάρμοζε προγράμματα κοινωνικής ενσωμάτωσης τους. σήμερα και μετά τις περικοπές στα κονδύλια για την πρόνοια, πολλοί, ίσως χιλιάδες μετανάστες αλλά και έλληνες πολίτες, ζουν σε συνθήκες εξαθλίωσης και φτώχιας. η πρωτοβουλία σας αυτή θα βοηθήσει και θα ανακουφίσει σίγουρα αυτούς τους ανθρώπους. κατά την προσωπική μου άποψη όμως είναι και εδώ τοποθετώ τον αρχικό μου προβληματισμό, να μην δοθεί το μήνυμα ότι στην Ελλάδα ΄΄ χαρίζουν ΄΄ σπίτια. αυτό θα αποτελέσει το έναυσμα, η χώρα να προσελκύσει νέα καραβάνια προσφύγων τους οποίους δεν μπορεί να διαχειριστεί πλέον. οι άνθρωποι αυτοί, με την προσδοκία της καλύτερης ζωής, θα δοκιμάσουν την τύχη τους σε μια χώρα με τεράστια οικονομικά και κοινωνικά προβλήματα, αλλά με αβέβαιο και μη σταθερό αποτέλεσμα. η ΕΕ δεν μπορεί να δώσει λύση στο πρόβλημα αυτό. η βοήθειά σας θα αποτελέσει σημαντική βοήθεια για το κράτος μας αλλά περισσότερο για τους δοκιμαζόμενους έλληνες και μετανάστες. αισθάνομαι την ανάγκη να σας ευχαριστήσω.

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