NGO personnel go on trial in Greece

Imagine a universe slightly different to our own. The north Atlantic land bridge that in prehistoric times allowed people to cross between Europe and the Americas on foot still connects the continents. 

The northwest Atlantic region is war-torn, a site of geopolitical feuding over the Arctic’s rich resources. A brutal civil war breaks out, sending millions on the move.

Ireland is on the front line as people flee to Europe. A narrow stretch of sea separates the land bridge from Donegal, and desperate people begin making the crossing in flimsy boats.

Tory Island and Árainn Mhór locals rise to the challenge, organising food and clothing for those washed up on their shores. Heart-rending images and repeat tragedies as boats of men, women and children sink in the waves draw in NGOs, who help with rescues and accommodation, with volunteers arriving from Italy and Greece.

Mediterranean countries’ jadedness over migration has become established as the predominant view across national leaderships and in EU institutions

In the worst year, 50,000 people arrive. Tory Island and Achill become home to sprawling makeshift camps where thousands share just a few taps and toilets, waiting to be processed in a backlogged system.

Ireland appeals for European Union help. Most of the people arriving aspire to travel onwards to wealthy Greece and Italy. But those countries are reluctant to take in asylum seekers, and plans for a shared response stall.

As the years drag on, local people on the islands become angry about the camps. Relations are bad between the British and Irish governments, and many suspect the British coast guard of allowing – perhaps even causing – crossings into Ireland.

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