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Letter to the editor: Clever cartoon combines nostalgia, current events

Letter to the editor: Clever cartoon combines nostalgia, current events

Younger readers of your paper may not have appreciated the subtleties in the political cartoon by Rick McKee ( on Page D3 of the July 31 Telegram. With a current inflation rate of 9.1 percent, the cartoon character asked: “Will prices ever drop?” The answer was: “That’s a $69,985.25 question.”

James Egan, 40, left, and his brother William, 43, both from Hartford, Conn., listen to a question asked by master of ceremonies Hal March, right, during their Feb. 21, 1956, appearance on “The $64,000 Question” in New York City. A recently published editorial cartoon evoked the TV quiz show. Hans Von Nolde/Associated Press, File

Older readers like myself easily figured out that $69,985.25 is $64,000 times 9.1 percent. In the 1950s, there was a quiz show called “The $64,000 Question.” Contestants answered a series of increasing difficult questions, culminating in the hardest question and the top prize of $64,000. Back then, $64,000 was big money and the tension increased as contestants moved closer to the top prize.

The phrase “That’s a $64,000 question” is a metaphor that has become part of the American vernacular meaning “that’s a tough question.” Yes, knowing when inflation will peak is a tough question. Thank you, Mr. McKee, for bring the issue to our attention in a clever cartoon.

Tom McClain

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Behind The Lens – hypocrisy and addressing the underbelly of some current events


So, it’s been a few weeks since I did one of these… three to be exact.

Right off the bat, why is our city so hypocritical? We complain about lack of transparency yet don’t interact with stories or individuals attempting to fix that. We straight up bitch about the crime level and substance abuse issues, but negate any idea of workable solutions. Last but not least, we say we want to see our west end succeed on one hand, and yet seem to do everything to stunt growth in the area.

Oh, and how is it that there has been nothing but silence from the Ministry of Environment about holding those accountable for damaging our natural resources? Isn’t that what they are there for, to enforce the rules?

Where to start-

Let me start with point two. We worry about crime, especially in our downtown core, yet complain about anything which may attempt to possibly fix it, which ultimately, like it or not, may include a seemingly unpopular downtown revitalization strategy.

On Saturday, I toured (and took some readers) on a tour of the GFL Parking lot which was dotted with nearly 300 cars for the Queen Street Cruise Festival. Not only were there cars, a band and vendors, but also literally thousands of people, (including some I’m sure who have said that they won’t be caught at the Plaza), enjoying the collection of some rare and all beautiful automobiles.

While wandering the grounds I had the pleasure of speaking with Angela Romano board member of the Downtown Business Association, who was also touring the lot.

Our conversation bandied about the event, what else was going on in town, and the DTA’s relationship with the City but eventually fell on the Downtown Plaza project currently being built.

I admitted as I have before in other pieces, that I support the idea behind the project, but disagree with the timing.

Then, standing there, while I didn’t have an epiphany of sorts, in listening to her I did start to see a way of stemming downtown crime… and that way was people.

You see, among all the cars and the visitors to the GFL yesterday, what you didn’t see were any individuals the social media populations worry will overrun the new Plaza upon completion.

I’ve heard them called “unsavoury” or “the criminal element” and I’ve heard them called much worse. Amidst an epidemic of substance use, fatal overdoses and reminders all around of mental health issues in our community, at the GFL, I saw a glimmer of hope.

If the overall downtown revitalization strategy planned can bring more people downtown, it doesn’t eliminate the underlying problems, but it does bring a sense of life to the core. And also, with an increase in localized foot traffic and crowds, perhaps, decreased opportunity for illegal activities.  Perhaps.

With that sense of life and revitalization maybe comes a sense of hope for the future. Sometimes all anyone needs is a sense of hope to avoid substance abuse, sometimes it’s a sense of community – one that is thriving and growing and building.

Alright, so the Plaza won’t solve the opioid crisis, the homelessness issues or the myriad of other problems facing our community, but it might, with the proper execution and a lot of luck, bring a bit of vibrancy to a core that was lost, arguably years ago.

I still don’t think it’s the right time to execute the plan, but, with a lot of luck, a public who cares more about the event than the location, the investment could pay off.

On that note let’s move to point three, why does this City hate its West End so much? Why does it appear every time we turn around something else is being done to dissuade individuals from going anywhere west of the bridge?

I read one of our feature Op Ed contributor Mark Menean’s take on the hub trail and I want to go one step further. I believe decisions start at the top, and at the top, it appears that nearly everything that can be possibly done to reduce the allure of the canal district, is being done.

Practically speaking, millions of dollars have been spent, privately and by taxpayers, to enhance this district, to revitalize it and transform it into a portion of our city which brings tourists by the busloads to the area.  In this moment, however, it seems that not only have these efforts and investments been in vain, but that further efforts to continue progressive development have been stymied at every turn by City Hall.  And I truly believe that there are certain individuals inside City Hall, who, because it wasn’t their idea and their name isn’t on it, simply would like to see it fail.

Those individuals know who they are.

Consider the fate of the form Studio 10 property.  It was known that there were offers of private investment into the old property to turn it into parking, yet the City now owns it.

How about the relocation of the bus terminal?  To take it out of the downtown core which they are purportedly trying to reinvigorate, with all the pollution, traffic and noise that goes along with a transit hub, and bring it directly to the doorstep of the mainly privately owned tourist district.

Last but not least, we move a homeless shelter away from the core where it is needed to a location, under a bridge and a mere 5-minute walk away from the hoards of visitors that visit our most historic area of town- again, the Canal District. These decisions have all been made while this council has been in charge, while this mayor has been in charge and while the same heads of departments have been in charge.

In living here for almost two years I feel like, if the idea didn’t start at City Hall, it’s not a good idea and can never be a good idea because the right people in this City might not make the money off it that they want to.

Instead of trying to destroy a district that has already benefitted from investment and seen corresponding growth, why not try being a little more cooperative and a little more helpful? It can’t kill anyone, can it?

Point one is something I’ve spoken about numerous times also.

If you want transparency in the city, you have to demand it and interact with any form of it you can find. Right now, going into Week 12 this week of our Question and Answers from first our current council, and now including those who are running for it, the public response level is weak.

The collective individuals in Keeping the Soo Safe, Keeping the Soo Safe Explicit,  and numerous other Facebook pages dedicated to the problems in our community are fast to jump on a video of an individual stealing from Walmart and mock/chastise them. Yet when presented with stories about those who want to fix the problems, who have ideas and put the time to answer their questions… crickets.

Collectively, we are a bunch of hypocrites, as we complain about the issues in this community and then use them as a form of entertainment, ridiculing, chastising and laughing at the same people who are the “problem” you don’t want to hear real solutions to.

Finally, why doesn’t the Steel Plant ever seem to get rung up by different ministries for half the stuff they do?

I’m sure we all have our theories, but when inattentiveness to work processes and unwillingness to listen to employees who warn of imminent situations leads to environmental impacts on our community, we all pay the price.

I think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue with me that if this was Mom and Pa’s restaurant that dumped their cooking oil into the river by the thousands of litres, even if “by accident”, there wouldn’t be significant penalties imposed on those responsible.

I guess, when you get billions of dollars to stay open and upgrade from different levels of government, the rules might be different for you… who knew…

When I got back from vacation I had a myriad of messages and stories I was presented with and have started to work through. Including some, I had on my plate before vacation started.

With my new self-imposed limits on what I can and can’t do for stories, on occasion those stories are being addressed by other members of the SaultOnline team, help for which I am grateful.

To the others who may still be waiting, I apologize and intend to get to your stories as breaking news and more significant stories allow.

As always, let’s try to be a little nicer and work a little harder to get through these next two weeks, much like the way we did the last one.

That’s the way I see it, from behind the lens, I’m Dan Gray.


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Nickel Plate Arts summer events return • Current Publishing

Nickel Plate Arts summer events return • Current Publishing

By Chris Bavender

Nickel Plate Arts will coordinate three separate events from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 18 — the Maker Faire, the St. Michael’s Strawberry Festival and a Juneteenth Celebration.

“Nickel Plate Arts is contracted by the City of Noblesville to coordinate arts and culture activities within the Noblesville Cultural District,” Nickel Plate Arts Executive Director Aili McGill said.  “As such, we work collaboratively with St. Michaels Episcopal Church to build our arts and culture components around their long-standing Strawberry Festival. We also work to bring together groups that want to celebrate Juneteenth and have offered them a featured space towards the center of our festival setup.”


The Maker Faire offers handmade items by artists and artisans.

New this year is a section for Kid Entrepreneurs, made possible by a Hamilton County Community Foundation grant to support the development of resources and opportunities for those under 18 to show off and sell their handmade items.

Also on tap is the fourth annual Strawberry Festival, an event McGill said endures because of “the dedication of the St. Michaels Episcopal Church volunteers and our communitys eagerness to enjoy a tasty treat on a hot, summer Saturday.”

“The St Michaels team has boiled the process of serving 2,500 plus strawberry shortcakes down to a science, so the experience is fun, laidback and very delicious,” she said. “St. Michaels had to take a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic lockdown, but in 2021, they ensured success by adding a pick-up lane, which allowed people to work through the line more quickly and limited the amount of social contact required to participate. That pick-up lane worked so well that theyve decided to keep it for 2022.”

For the second year, there will be Juneteenth activities on the Square. McGill said it was a goal identified by the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and something that no one else was doing in downtown.

“We decided that we needed to be a conduit to celebrate this holiday and to help tell the important history of Black culture in Hamilton County and Noblesville,” she said. “Indy Music and Wellness, Noblesville Diversity Coalition, the Hamilton County historian, Roberts Settlement, Be The Change Indy and Freetown Village are all contributing something to our Juneteenth celebration, so it will be both informative and really fun.”

Visitors can also enjoy interactive live music from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the North Alley, actors from Freetown Village will be interacting with guests and reading the Emancipation Proclamation, The Fishers Maker Playground will be coordinating hands-on activities in the East Alley and demonstrating some of their tools, and the Hamilton County Artists’ Association will have plein-air painters set up in the South Alley, painting live, as well as a canoe from the White River Canoe Art Project, which artist Walt Thacker is painting for permanent installation by the White River Alliance.

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Current Events: Scott Street development, infrastructure plans

Current Events: Scott Street development, infrastructure plans

MISSOULA – This edition of Current Events with founding editor of the Missoula Current Martin Kidston takes an in-depth look at development efforts in the Scott Street area.

“That’s the ever-moving target out there with that project that’s unfolding on city property. The city owns 19 acres out there. They’ve given roughly nine acres to this development that is taking place off Scott Street. That project will include roughly 70 townhomes and condos on an affordable land trust to keep those homes permanently affordable,” Kidston explained. “It also includes 250 market-rate apartments along with a convenience store, a grocery store and a daycare, a big central plaza with a green space. It’s a really neat project. The problem is it gets pushed down the road because of economic headwinds — such as the cost of labor, the shortage of labor, the cost of lumber, and interest rates now going up. The developer said last week that this could get pushed off another year.”

Another project that is possibly being eyed for the Scott Street area is a new facility for Mountain Line.

“Yeah, the same area and kind of the same situation. Mountain Line received a letter of intent from the city to buy that property last week. Mountain Line needs that letter to apply for a roughly $50 million federal grant which they would use — if they receive it — to build a new transit facility and maintenance shop and garage in the Scott Street area on roughly eight acres. Three of those acres are on city property,” Kidston noted. “Mountain Line is looking to move over there as well, relocate their facilities from where they are currently at on Shakespeare Street. They need this new space urgently, they say. They can’t mean their goals of electrification and route expansion unless they have more room to operate.

One concern with the possible Scott Street projects is the additional infrastructure work that will be needed in the area.

“The city admitted this week — the first time I heard them say it — that Scott Street will likely reach its breaking point in the near future when all these new apartment units, housing projects, and transit facilities come online. Scott Street is really the only way in and out of that neighborhood,” Kidston said. “The city has received grant funding from the EPA to begin designing a road network in there. As far how they’re going to fund that road network still needs to be determined. That will include right-of-way purchases. A new interchange there at Interstate 90. Turner Street will be extended. So, there’s a lot of work there. It’s kind of pie in the sky thinking right now. All of this stuff is a vision, it’s a plan, it’s all in the works but none of it has come to fruition at this time.”

The federal government would need to be involved in the infrastructure work if an additional interchange on I-90 were to be built.

“Yes, if it’s a federal route. All that road structure south from the Interstate between the railroad tracks and the Interstate needs to be grown as well. There’s really nothing in there but garbage trucks and school buses, so there’s a lot of work to do, and it’s going to require a lot of cash,” Kidston concluded.

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It’s imperative to keep up with current events. Here are 4 ways to do so over break

It’s imperative to keep up with current events. Here are 4 ways to do so over break

Summer break is here, which means most students want to shut off their brains for three months before having to return to school. This obviously isn’t realistic. Most of us have things to do over the summer, such as more schooling, internships and volunteering, while also trying to stay informed on what is occurring in the world.

At Syracuse, I’ve always found it easy to be up to date on news and politics occurring around SU, the country and the globe. If you didn’t hear about something from a news source, you might hear it from your friends, a professor discussing it in a lecture, or from overhearing people in the dining hall. According to a study done at Northeastern, the most common way college students get their news is from interactions with their peers, whether that be online or face-to-face. So, how will this change when these interactions cease for 3 months?

Even local sources for news and campus activities are much quieter over the summer, including The Daily Orange, the Tab, SU’s magazine publications and campus emails. While social media will continue to be an easy way to stay updated, lots of people might want a more tangible way to access information that isn’t an Instagram infographic. Thankfully, there are several other ways to stay up to date on news and politics while away from college, even if you’re busy with other obligations.

Listen to a podcast
Podcasts are a really easy way to stay informed. You can listen to your favorite show while getting ready in the morning, on your drive to work or while getting ready for bed. Podcasts can be more entertaining than reading the news and can be really informative in just 15-20 minutes if you don’t want to dedicate large amounts of time to them. Some that have been recommended to me include NPR’s Left Right & Center, Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie, FiveThirtyEight’s show or John Dickerson’s show Whistlestop.

Subscribe to email newsletters
There are several news outlets that provide something along the lines of “10 most important things that happened today/yesterday” daily for subscribers. Most students look through their inbox daily out of habit, so it would be easy to see and consume news during your routine email check.
My personal favorite of these emails is The Week’s, a magazine that pulls information from several other newspapers and magazines and sends an email every morning entitled “10 things you need to know today” to my inbox. Their daily email informs me about international and domestic news by giving a brief summary of the issues. Daily newsletters are an easy way to skim through the headline events of the day without having to read a full article or trying to figure out what to prioritize through an app, such as the Wall Street Journal or New York Times apps.

Follow journalists/news sources on Twitter and Instagram
If you’re not into keeping up with a specific news source, you can instead follow journalists on Twitter for their thoughts and reporting on certain issues. Often, these sources have more personal takes and opinions, going into more depth about an issue you care about. If you’re not willing to pay for a newsletter subscription or an app, you can follow the outlets directly on Instagram for highlights of their top stories that day. For both of these tactics, your news can be mixed in with your social media content, which makes access easy.

Download a news app to keep up with current events
If you want to dedicate yourself to staying informed this summer, the best thing to do is download news apps on your phone. I currently have 7 news sources on my phone (Washington Post, NYT, NPR, PBS NewsHour, USA Today, WSJ and The Week), and if you enable notifications, you can tailor them to your interests. I now instantly receive breaking news updates or notifications for sports, the arts, business, and more. When you have extra time, you can go into the app and read the breaking news articles, an international story that didn’t make headlines or take a deep dive into articles about your niche interest.

Just because the semester is over, students should not stop being informed about the world and their community. Students should take advantage of all the information accessible at their fingertips.


Hannah Starorypinski is a sophomore political science major with a minor in public communication. Her column appears bi-weekly, and she can be reached at [email protected].

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Niagara schools taking nuanced approach to teaching current events

Niagara schools taking nuanced approach to teaching current events

The war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Black racism, the impact of residential schools — there has been no shortage of concerns or topics of reflection in classrooms the past few years.

In response, Niagara school boards said they have taken a nuanced and thorough approach in bringing discussions about current events into the classroom.

That means relying on the relationships between faculty and students, and giving teachers tools and space to determine the best option to create a safe learning environment, said Michael St. John, superintendent of special education and mental health and well-being for District School Board of Niagara.

“The teachers in our system really pride themselves on, and take care in, knowing each of their students … knowing their learning, knowing their background, knowing their culture, knowing a great deal about their family,” said St. John.

“We don’t go in to teach about Ukraine, we respond to the needs of the students and the questions they may have, some of their natural curiosity and some of their musings and thinking.”

DSBN said its system works to create a foundation and a balance when it comes to world events such as Ukraine or Black Lives Matter, using resources from mental health and well-being teams in combination with resources that come from its curriculum department.

But it’s about more than academics, with teachers learning to how to identify struggling students, and how to appropriately respond.

It may involve a phone call home, or bringing in a counsellor, either for an individual student or for the entire classroom, to work on resiliency and social emotional learning, “which is a big part of our curriculum for kids and their mental health and well-being,” said St. John.

“It really is going to be a mixture and a balance and it’s pretty fluid with regards to what can, and is, being presented to acknowledge and honour all of the kids in the class.”

Jennifer Pellegrini, communications officer for Niagara Catholic District School Board, said students are encouraged to come forward about Ukraine or other global events, with conversations from a faith-based perspective, “focusing on the need for humanitarian aid, justice, compassion and empathy.”

“Questions and conversations may focus on the politics behind the war, and the history of the region. They may also focus on the importance of critical thinking about the information students are consuming online,” she said.

Conseil scolaire Viamonde, the public French school board, said in an email when it comes to the response to current world events, it relies solely on curriculum provided by the Ministry of Education.

DSBN student trustee Salony Sharma said the past few years have brought about “so much discussion and uncertainty” but has created a unique environment to learn and grow, especially as a high school student.

“It’s not like you’re reflecting on history, you’re reflecting on current events and news happening in the context of our own lives,” she said. “You’re starting to form your own perspectives and viewpoints on these things and be experiencing them in real time.”

Sharma, who is in her final year at Westlane Secondary in Niagara Falls, said those discussions have allowed students to use the classroom as “a hub of different perspectives.”

She credited teachers for that freedom, and for encouraging student-led conversations.

“That lets us have a very open conversation without the pressure of the teacher’s opinion or how that might be perceived as a student in their class,” she said.

“To have those conversations helped solidify my own voice … and make me think outside my own privilege or my own bubble.”

Jennifer McArthur, Niagara president of Elementary Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said teachers use their professional judgment and knowledge of their students to determine how and when to respond to current events.

Some engage students through visual arts by creating a lesson of painting sunflowers, while another may include the Ukraine war as a choice for a topic on written reflection.

But it goes beyond the age or grade of the student and their development, with teachers considering students’ social-emotional needs to make sure they “feel safe.” They also take into consideration the amount of understanding or exposure to current events students may have.

“A teacher with students who are refugees would consider previous and potential trauma that may affect how students react to the topic of Ukraine,” she said.

“If a child has friends or relatives directly affected, their understanding will be vastly different from a student living in a house where it is not being discussed.”

Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation District 22 president Shannon Smith said teachers throughout the province engage students in ongoing conversations about current events as an opportunity to teach critical thinking.

“They engage students in ways that are pertinent to their subject area. Whether it’s learning traditional folk music from different countries or incorporating more inclusive novels in their English class, teachers present students with opportunities to expand their understanding of history and social justice,” said Smith.

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‘SNL’: Bowen Yang’s Easter Bunny and Famous People Parodies Do Current Events Jokes in Cold Open (Video)

'SNL': Bowen Yang's Easter Bunny and Famous People Parodies Do Current Events Jokes in Cold Open (Video)

It’s Easter weekend and so it is that “SNL” kicked off its latest episode with an Easter-themed cold open. Well, ostensibly, as the Easter theme really just provided a different way for “SNL” to run through a grab bag of celebrity impressions and mildly amusing jokes about recent events without any real point other than “hey, remember this thing that happened?”

Also yes, James Austin Johnson’s Trump showed up because, we don’t know, apparently there is a law that says Trump is the only president “SNL” is allowed to notice anymore? But, Bowen Yang played the Easter Bunny, and he’s always great, and Cecily Strong’s impression of Marjorie Taylor Greene at least had some teeth, which was fun.

So, Yang’s Easter Bunny started it off with some jokes about how maybe he’s actually at Coachella on drugs, inroduces himself as the “freakiest man-sized bunny with no-backstory” who doesn’t use elf slave labor like Santa. Then he says that Easter is “about renewal and rebirth,” which is why he invited “people form all walks of life” to detail their hopes for Easter.

Of course, they turned out to not be from “all walks of life,” which might have been interesting, just from recent headlines. First up was Kate McKinnon as Anthony Fauci for some jokes about COVID-19.

Next was Cecily Strong as Greene, who had two pretty good jokes at the expense of the extremist right wing politician.

The first was, “I’ve been saying to my Muslim and Jewish colleagues, ‘happy Easter.”

The second came at the end of her appearance when she said “happy Easter and God bless Russia, I mean America.”

Next, Chris Redd came out as New York Mayor Eric Adams, playing him as a vaguely sexual harass-y weirdo. But, the joke had teeth when Redd mocked the way the NYPD and Mayor Adams have gloated about catching the Brooklyn subway shooter.

“We got him. We got the shooter. Sure it took 30 hours, and the suspect turned himself in, but we got him. Case closed,” Redd joked.

This was followed by Mikey Day as Elon Musk, who joked that he wanted to buy Easter for $43 billion peeps. Next was Chloe Fineman as Britney Spears, followed by Kyle Mooney as “Jesus Christ… just kidding I’m Jared Leto.” And finally, Johnson showed up to do his increasingly exhausting Trump impression.

That’s about it. And you can watch parts of it Below.

But first, real talk: Johnson’s impression is quite amazing, we obviously think he has some talent. But it’s 2022. Literally, it’s 20 – [f-word]ing 22. It’s been 13 months since Joe Biden, a guy with many things to make fun of or even just notice exists and is running the country, took office. He’s even been in the news for something other than “calling in to Fox News and saying bigoted stuff and lies.” And Johnson, who by the way is very talented, could even do the impression.

Yet for some reason, “SNL” still does several-minutes-long *Trump* bits like it’s 2017 and we’re all still processing the fact that the electoral college exists. Who can say why but if we’re being honest, it would be nice to have like, even a month off. Like maybe limit Trump parodies to when he actually does something newly weird, or alarming, or tries to overthrow the election again, or when he inevitably runs in 2024.


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Why current events in Ukraine (should) raise questions about refugees in Greece

Why current events in Ukraine (should) raise questions about refugees in Greece

Migrants stand behind a fence at Karatepe refugee camp on Lesbos island, Greece in March 2021. EFE/EPA/VANGELIS PAPANTONIS

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 and the following events  have overshadowed all other developments and topics in Europe. The origin of violence and the threat of even greater destruction are not only at Europe’s doorstep; they have kicked in the door and are laying waste to entire cities and lives. With this development, the topic of and the rhetoric around asylum seekers and refugees has resurrected in Europe, having last been omnipresent in its media in 2015 and 2016. 

We, the team of our humanitarian maker space “Habibi.Works” in Greece, stand in solidarity with people affected by the war in Ukraine. While we are convinced  that it is the responsibility of safe countries to provide full, immediate support to all people  fleeing from the Ukraine, those of us who have been involved in the humanitarian response in Greece throughout the past years cannot help but wonder why solidarity is so easily extended by European countries now after hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who have arrived in Europe in search for freedom and safety throughout the past years have been  humiliated, criminalized, neglected and excluded. To put this into context: while you are reading this piece, roughly one third of asylum seekers living in Greek refugee camps are suffering from hunger.

Each measure of control imposed by the Greek government is a stepping stone for yet future measures of control. 

The aim of this article is not to argue who is in more dire need of support. This article intends to shed light on some of the latest developments, human rights violations, and (entirely unnecessary) suffering of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, at a time in which the topic of refugees is being harshly brought back to public awareness. 

The exact number of asylum seekers in Greece is unknown. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) only includes people who have officially registered at refugee camps or facilities, but not people who remain unregistered or undocumented. According to their website, at the end of 2019, the UNHCR puts the number of refugees and  asylum seekers in facilities in Greece at 186,000. The International Rescue Committee published a more updated figure, which estimates that 119,700 asylum seekers and 50.000 refugees currently reside in Greece. 

Walls instead of integration 

In 2021, the Greek government began constructing concrete walls around the refugee camps on mainland Greece. Facilities that accommodate men, women, and children for the time they have to wait for authorities to decide over their asylum claims (which can range from months to years) are being turned into prison-like enclosures. 

But refugee camps, while urgently needed and crucial as a first response in situations of emergency, especially in regions that generally or temporarily lack infrastructure, are not suited to accommodate people over extended periods. 

In Greece, empty buildings have existed in abundance since the financial crisis in 2010. There is no need for  anybody to live in a tent or container. The Greek state, instead of providing dignified living conditions in  existing buildings and thus, investing in the Greek housing market and the country’s economy, chose to let millions of euros seep away into the sand of unsustainable refugee camps. 

In 2016, the first year of our involvement in Greece, we assumed that the Greek government’s response reflected a refusal to admit that the arrival of people at their borders would be a long-term challenge. With the years passing, another likely motivation became apparent to us: the desire to control refugees and asylum seekers in centralized locations. 

Control in this way, however, leads to ever-increasing restrictions on people’s rights and freedoms. A refugee camp allows for walls. Walls allow for curfews (which already exist in some camps). Walls allow for the complete exclusion of local and international human rights observers, further reinforcing censorship already prohibiting NGOs from reporting about events occurring inside the camps. They prevent integration and understanding between the host communities and newcomers. In other words, each measure of control imposed by the Greek government is a stepping stone for yet future measures of control. 

The rest of Europe has been shamefully quiet in light of these developments and serious criticism  from political bodies is unlikely. After all, the budget of 28.4 million euros for the construction of the wall was largely provided by the European Commission. While walls are being built, Greece claims to lack the resources to provide formal education for  all refugee children. The budget invested in the construction of walls is the equivalent of the annual average wage of 1352 schoolteachers in Greece. How Greece chooses to invest this sum speaks volumes. 

The walls dramatically impact people’s daily lives and well-being. Moreover, they send the  clear message that refugees are not welcome here and as long as they stay,  they will be treated as prisoners. 

Hunger and human rights violations  

Turning refugee camps into prisons is not the only measure the Greek state has taken to  discourage refugees from attempting to find safety in the country. Last January, monthly financial support was reduced from 150 euros to 44,50 euros per adult asylum  seeker. The reduction in social allowances implemented in January took effect after three months during which no money was provided to people within the asylum process whatsoever. This level of audacity does not shock us anymore. What does concern us, however, is the impression that nobody in Europe seems to be asking where the money went that was supposed to allow men, women, and children to buy food, hygiene items, clothes, and other essentials.

The budget invested in the construction of walls is the equivalent of the annual average wage of 1352 schoolteachers in Greece.

As mentioned earlier, one consequence of this cut in allowances is that roughly one third of  asylum seekers living in Greek refugee camps are believed to be suffering from hunger. There  is no excuse for this situation. It is an absolute disgrace and completely unacceptable. 

Between March 1 2020 and January 31 2022, at least 26,755 persons experienced illegal  pushbacks by Greek border controls at sea, which put their lives, health, safety and freedom  at risk. During one particular case of illegal pushbacks, which occurred along the land border of Greece and Turkeyat the beginning of February after at least 12 persons froze  to death. Turkish Interior Minister Soylu accused Greek border guards of first stripping a group of 22 people of their shoes and clothes and then pushing them back into Turkey. The Greek Migration Minister Mitachari has denied this.  

Remembering solidarity 

The fact that people are being treated this way and that they live under the conditions  outlined in this article is not due to a lack of infrastructure or resources. It is, sadly, politically  intended. The current expressions of solidarity of various European countries towards  refugees from Ukraine need to reignite the discourse about Europe’s response to refugees in  general. 

The conversation must encourage a new level of accountability and solidarity towards refugees and asylum seekers, who have spent the last months and years of their lives  in some of the darkest places our continent has created. Treating people with respect and dignity, fostering integration and providing structures that allow them to become  participating, active citizens would ultimately have a positive effect on all of us.