According to an EU agreement on relocation of asylum seekers in 28 countries members, which is not even respected, Europe cannot afford to host 160,000 refugees but bears ... more than 4 million homeless!
Thanks to social networks, came to the spotlight an article of The Guardian |1| dated February 2014, stating that there are now in Europe more than 11 million empty homes while at the same time there are 4.1 million homeless.
The article refers to empty homes, and not to, God knows how many, empty hotels |2| or other abandoned facilities –because of the crisis- especially in southern Europe. Thousands of outcasts who seek a better future and are fleeing from the massacres and misery could be easily hosted there.
Seeking even more information concerning the number of abandoned hotels in Europe, I came across a recent photographic report of the British newspaper «Daily Mail», listing at least 100 abandoned luxury hotels in the area going from Graz in Austria, to Germany and Italy ...
Many of these abandoned hotels are in Austria, a country with already closed borders, whose government is advocating the shutdown of the so-called Balkan Corridor, thus trapping more than 13,000 refugees in awful conditions inside Greece, at the Idomeni border with FYROM.
Some of the data published by The Guardian in the above-mentioned article, are shocking and that is why the article’s title is so eloquent: “The scandal of Europe’s 11m empty homes”.
In Spain there are more than 3.4 million vacant homes, in France and Italy, two million, in Germany 1.8 million and in the UK 700,000.
Many of these homes have never been inhabited because they are located in enormous holiday resorts. They have been built in the period of the real-estate bubble which contributed to the international financial crisis of 2007-08.
Beyond these 11 million vacant homes, most of them bought as an investment by investors and not by residents, there are thousands of never completed half-done buildings due to the financial crisis. While in Spain and Ireland this financial crisis has been caused by the real-estate bubble, in Greece it has been the result of the memoranda, harsh austerity policies and unbearable taxation.
Most of the empty homes are located in Spain, where in the 2000s there has been a massive construction boom, with a bad environmental impact, aiming to attract mainly German and British holidaymakers seeking a place in the Spanish Sun...
According to official statistics for 2013, quoted by the newspaper, more than 3.4 million homes, thus 14% of all houses in Spain, lie vacant. Spanish government estimates that there are still around 500,000 half-done buildings abandoned by the construction companies.
While in the United Kingdom there are more 700,000 empty vacant dwellings, refugees are left in awful conditions in Calais, and the Cameron government made a key issue of the “massive” immigration from the countries of the former Eastern Bloc States - now EU citizens and hence beneficiaries of the acquis of the free movement of persons.
In Greece, according to the above article there are 300,000 vacant homes.
Waiting for the development ...
In Greece, 80,000 (!) State properties are included in a list of HRADF |3| (Hellenic Republic Asset Asset Something belonging to an individual or a business that has value or the power to earn money (FT). The opposite of assets are liabilities, that is the part of the balance sheet reflecting a company’s resources (the capital contributed by the partners, provisions for contingencies and charges, as well as the outstanding debts). Development Fund) waiting to be developed (read sell out). Many reports have been written describing the appalling conditions in which migrants are living inside two of the most famous abandoned buildings in the center of Athens occupied from time to time by them, the IKA (Social Security) building on Pireos Street and the Court of Appeal in Socratous Street.
In my Athens neighborhood Patissia, two hospitals have been closed, the “General Patission” and the “6th Hospital of IKA”, in which, I suppose, the basic infrastructure (beds, toilets) remain operational. They could easily be used to host the suffering refugees wandering around Victoria square, in the center of the Greek capital. And in addition to all that there the closed hotels in downtown Athens, the chain of the long ago abandoned XENIA hotels all over Greece or the empty or sub-operating army camps in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Even if one considers sacred the right to private property, thus buildings belonging to individuals can not be used because their owners retain the right to, the Greek government and the other hypocrites of Europe could claim most of them, in order to, even temporarily, accommodate those who run to save themselves from the war in Syria or elsewhere.
The, according to The Guardian article, 11 million empty homes are more than enough to accommodate not only the 4.1 million official EU homelessness, but also the more than one million refugees who – officially - got to Germany and Austria. And there is room left to host many many others…
Contemporary… wretched of the earth
The nominal EU GDP
Gross Domestic Product Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another. is totaling 14.3 trillion euro and even the Greek GDP in crisis period, amounts to $235.6 billion, an amount multiple of the GDP of Jordan ($31.35 billion) and Lebanon ($49.92 billion) taken together, countries that not only accommodate millions of refugees from Syria’s civil war, but are still harboring Palestinian refugee camps from the wars of 1948 and 1967. Turkey’s GDP which also gives shelter to more than two million refugees is $721 billions.
So, there exist enough money and infrastructures to address the refugee crisis. But the hypocrites of this supposedly open and tolerant Europe, are closing the borders to the ... wretched of the Third World, as in the 30’s the US, Cuba and Canada closed their borders to the asylum seeking Jews persecuted by the Nazis. And their arguments at that time were similar to the ones heard in the islamophobic paranoia of our current leaders…
Translated by Filippos Filippidis
is a journalist in Greece, former trade unionist and member of the Greek Committee against debt. (http://www.contra-xreos.gr/) He worked for many years in the daily newspaper Elefterotypia, where he was member of the workers’ committee, now works for the financial daily Naftemporiki. He participated also in the Truth Committee about Greek Debt of the Greek Parliament.
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