« Refugees, Then and Now », the Thessaloniki International Book Fair opens to the migration crisis

NEWS – From the 12th until the 15th of May 2016, the 13th edition of the Thessaloniki International Book Fair is thematically dedicated to the refugee crisis affecting Greece and the region. The biggest literary event of the year in Greece opens, as a mirror of the Greek society, to the current challenges induced by the despair of thousands of refugees fleeing from war-torn countries through the Greek shores. Through the cultural vectors of literature, photography and other artistic performances, the Thessaloniki International Book Fair proposes tools of understanding linking the past migration issues to the current ones. 


Greece second largest city has long been famous for its cultural and religious diversity. Indeed, Thessaloniki, as a merchant port city at the crossroads of Asia, the Near-East and the Balkans, has shaped through history its pluralistic culture thanks to successive migration waves. Today, the city of Thessaloniki, as a reflection of the Greek society’s hospitality, opens a cultural scope on the refugee crisis deeply affecting Greece. The 13th edition of the International Book Fair of Thessaloniki from the 12th until the 15th of May 2016, the main literary event in the country, gathering tenths of international writers and attracting sixty-five thousands of readers in 2015, is dedicated to the refugee crisis. As a matter of fact, the theme of the year in entitled “Refugees, then and now”. 

Thessaloniki’s longstanding understanding of migration

Due to its longstanding experience on the matter, the citizens of Thessaloniki, within their very-own family stories of displacement and diversity, present an inclusive cultural understanding of migration, such a complex and politically controversial issue in other parts of Europe. Several writers, the committee of “Ex-ils” artists and other creators will exchange with the audience at round-tables to explain their artistic approach on migration. In partnership with several regionally based memorial institutions such as the Historical Archive of the Refugees of the Municipality of Kalamaria and the Central Municipal Library of Thessaloniki, the exhibitions of books on the matter will be enriched by an historical perspective explaining the current issues at stake thanks to previous experiences. Also, in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Film Festival, several screening of relevant movies will be organised during the Book Fair. 

Greece’s lonely management of the humanitarian crisis

Despite the arduous realities of the financial crisis, the loss in purchasing power parity, the rise of unemployment and poverty rates, Greeks are demonstrating since the eruption of the refugee crisis their sense of generosity and solidarity towards deprived populations looking for a safe shelter. Northern European nations, frightened by the scale of the influx of refugees decided to tighten drastically their humanitarian assistance to the refugees by closing gradually, in a domino effect, their borders. As of today, more than fifty thousands of refugees are being stuck in Greece as the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia remains closed. The pictures of the Idomeni, Piraeus or Lesvos camps have hit the headlines of global newspapers. However, the humanitarian response from the international community and the European Union remains under-estimated to the scale of the human urgencies. Therefore, it is a constructive step for the Greek civil society and local authorities to support the organisation of a major cultural event aimed at de-stereotyping migration issues and offering a more comprehensive approach on human beings that are not so distant from European stories. 

Jean-Baptiste Allegrini - Research assistant at the CIPADH. 



The 13th Thessaloniki International Book Fair, <http://thessalonikibookfair.helexpo.gr/en>.

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