A Three-Part Report on the Escalating Migrant Crisis on the Greek Border.
Part One – Introduction.
On the fourth of March, I decided to travel to the Greek/Turkish border; I had seen many photos and videos documenting the Migrant Crisis, read multiple reports and first-hand accounts also—but so much of the “news” coming from the border was clearly fake, if not propaganda…
I had to see the unfolding crisis for myself, only then would I know if the massed forces attempting to breach Europe’s borders were refugees—or something else entirely.
The announcement that I was departing shocked friends and family alike due to leaving less than 30 hours after friends and loved ones had been informed; there was of course a reason for this urgency … Corona.
You will discover in Parts Two and Three (of this report) that for as much as Corona is a bad thing for Europe, it has managed to achieve a small miracle, namely it has almost entirely stopped the migrant flow into Europe due to the EU ‘locking down’ the continent…
Before leaving, I wrote down my objectives:
1/ Investigate the incursions at both the Greek and Bulgarian borders.
2/ Ascertain whether or not the estimated 4+ million migrants/displaced people in Turkey were genuine refugees, economic migrants or ‘invaders’.
3/ Speak to local people/Police Officers/Border Guards about how the Migrant Crisis has affected them.
4/ Investigate whether or not George Soros, his foundations or groups he funds were supporting the mass influx of migrants into Europe.
5/ Spend as much time as possible in Europe (before the inevitable lockdown) in order to gauge the mood and feeling of EU Nations (and their people) in a Post-Brexit World.
What follows is my report; I will warn you in advance that it may be perhaps overly lengthy (especially Parts Two/Three), but due to the events and experiences I witnessed and indeed was a part of during the course of my trip, it will certainly make for interesting reading.
Parts Two and Three pertain to the Crisis at the border; Part One is how I came to be there—you may wish to skip this Part and wait for Part Two (coming in a few days) if you don’t wish to read about someone you don’t know driving across Europe.
Part One is a brief summary of the first three days of my trip; in the later Parts I revisit much of what I will touch upon in this introduction.
Before leaving, I planned my route.
Planes (I had decided) were a no-no, guaranteed Corona-spreaders, or so I thought.
Coach? Train? Little better than flying. I decided to drive.
For a bizarre moment, I found myself checking my car’s tyre pressures—that was, until I remembered it was an ELECTRIC car…
Great for short distances, great in town, but for Europe … driving across the Continent? No.
In short order I had arranged a rental car. Not knowing how long I would be away, I took out a month’s rental—the thing is still parked on the drive, haven’t checked if I’m able to return it yet/if the rental company is still operating due to the Pandemic…
I’ve driven through Europe in the past and as a result I had become familiar with how our European cousins drive—very fast. A compact was out, so was a saloon. To ensure I could get ‘there and back again’ in one piece I hired a vehicle that in every way is the opposite of my Tesla—a diesel Range Rover.
Honestly I will be sad to see it go, it’s a great car, a tribute to British engineering and quality and very comfortable on long (unexpected) journeys.
So, I know where I’m going and how I’m travelling, just need to plan the route. This is where things got interesting.
Driving west to east, there are a number of ways to reach Greece, none of which greatly appealed to me.
First option: The Italy route.
I read about car ferries that operated between Southern Italy and Western Greece, it seemed like a simple, scenic and preferable choice (over the others), but then I remembered the ‘C word’, dreaded Corona had reached Italy—I discounted my preferred choice at once, not wishing to contract the ‘Wuhan Flu’.
Second Option: The Serbia/Bosnia route.
Those who know me will laugh when I say I discounted this route very early on due to neither nation being members of the EU.
Yes, I said it; as much as I dislike that Political/Economic Union of nations, when it comes to freedom of movement it is always best to travel from A to B within EU nations—in Serbia there are different rules/practices/insurances … I discounted this option also.
Third Option: The Romania/Bulgaria route.
It was fortuitous that these former Communist nations had joined the EU a few short years back as it would (and did) afford me the ability to dive unhindered all the way to the Greek/Turkish border. This is perhaps the only good thing about the EU, which is taken advantage of by criminals/people smugglers—more on that in Part Two.
I had my route, I had my 4×4; I was ready.
The satnav that came with the hire car told me the location of services and hotels throughout most of Europe, with only Romania and Bulgarian information being somewhat lacking.
The car was big enough to sleep in, but I’d decided to ‘hotel it’ there and back—I’m not 18 anymore…
I departed with two digital cameras and a half-dozen high-capacity memory cards for the photos and videos I’d planned to make throughout my journey; what I captured may be compiled into a video production at some future point.
I made the recordings/took photos primarily to help me write the latter parts of this report, to jog my memory as it were.
The beast I was driving can really move; before I knew it, I’d arrived in Germany, at which point I retired to a hotel.
My pigeon-German managed to secure a room; the chap on front desk, however, had to write down the WIFI password.
After trying three times to verbally inform me what the secret code was, I mimicked writing in thin air before he got the hint, which enabled me to stay in touch with home base/check the news and Twitter.
I had announced on Twitter that I wouldn’t be able to tweet for a period of time due to being ‘on the road’; I walked this back almost immediately. Perhaps I am addicted to social media. There are, I guess, worse things to be addicted to.
In my downtime at each hotel stop, I continued researching the bizarre links between the American billionaire George Soros and the Migrant Crisis in Turkey, Greece and Italy. When I wasn’t driving, I was researching—more on that in Part Two.
Leaving early, I managed to drive through Austria in what seemed like two hours and then Hungary in another four/five. I had wanted to ‘hit Romania’ as early as possible having read much online about crime/poverty in that Eastern nation, I was not overly enthralled with the prospect of finding an elusive hotel or having to rough it in the Range Rover.
As with all other EU nations I’d just driven through, entering Romania was a breeze. Showed the passport. Showed the driving licence—‘Welcome to Romania.’
Roads became worse, much worse.
The capital (friends who’ve visited had informed me) is worlds apart from the provinces, which have seen little improvement since the 1960s.
Small villages are peppered along the highways and always the same architecture, always the same colour scheme. So THIS is Communism, I thought, shuddering.
Romania may have embraced Capitalism but the past is ever-present in the north, central as well as the southern regions of that nation.
I put my foot down after topping up with very watery-looking diesel—made a mental note not to revisit THAT petrol station…
I had looked forward to seeing the Danube in the East, having only hitherto seen sections in Germany, but all I saw was a jet-black slick of water; after all, it was pushing midnight. I will see it on the way back, I promised myself, hoping to deride some enjoyment from my jaunt.
I said goodbye to Romania in the border-town of Turnu Magurele, a long narrow road led directly to the famous river, where I was informed could be found one of the smallest ports in Romania, which operated a car-transporting ferry service, which operated at irregular intervals.
If you are familiar with entering Bulgaria from Romania, you are perhaps wondering why I didn’t choose to cross the Danube into Bulgaria via one of the two modern bridges that link those nations.
I chose this port, this section of the river, for one reason: Nikopol can be seen from the banks of the Danube where I’d chosen to cross, the ferry linking Turnu Magurele and Romania to that ancient Bulgarian town.
Nikopol, a place I had to see for myself, a place I had read about in books, where Christian Bulgaria fought and lost the last battle against Ottoman invaders.
Nikopol, a mighty fortress dating back to the seventh century.
Nikopol, where Christian Knights from Western European nations had arrived by boat to help defend their Christian cousins in 1396.
Nikopol, where the Ottoman sultan Bayezid defeated the defenders of Christendom, which led to the Turkish domination of the Balkans for five centuries…
Part Two is coming soon; updates will be published on Twitter – @TheBruceMasters