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Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Brutal Politics of Economic Decline: Immigration Issues in Greece

Scapegoating ethnic groups during bad economic hard times is hardly new to Europe (See, e.g. The Third Reich). Here in Greece, the economic decline runs hand-in-hand with the rise of the radical Golden Dawn party, a "political" party that espouses the sort of nationalistic thought reminiscent of Nazi and fascist beliefs. Statistics reveal that that the Golden Dawn make up approximately ten percent of Greek voters and that supporters of the Golden Dawn tend to be drawn primarily from a demographic that is under age 30 and uneducated. One of my student groups is studying the impact of the economic condition in Greece on immigrant populations vis-a-vis reactionary politics and reports the following:

Student Y* - As the immigrant populations changes so does the immigrant make-up. Immigrants from Albania, Afghanistan and Pakistan make up the largest groups of immigrants to Greece. Greeks themselves are no strangers to immigration: prior to 2005, many Greeks migrated to countries all over the world, primarily to the U.S. and Canada. Police are members of the Golden Dawn and rather than protecting immigrants the police bully them. Although the Golden Dawn is known to use swastika symbols, the group denies either that it is related to the Nazis or that the party is fascist. The Golden Dawn claims merely to be an "alternative political party." It is ironic that the Greeks seem to be very accepting to immigrating to and resettling in other countries but that Greece is unwilling to accept immigrants in return.

Student L *-The vast quantity of immigrants to Greece are illegal. When Illegal immigrants are caught, they are transferred to "Hospitality Centers," described in interviews with Immigration Law professors in Thessaloniki as "concentration camps without the ovens." 500 square foot apartments with 40 people occupying each flat. Immigrants are required to stay in these "centers" for an 18 month period. Like a "detention center," (or some kind of quarantine) immigrants are not permitted to leave. If immigrants are able to "escape" from the Centers, they are charged with the crime of "illegal entry" and sentenced to a probationary term under EU law. The immigrants are threatened with deportation and fines but most often the police do not follow up. If immigrants do not return to the centers they end up wandering the streets. Neither lawyers nor notaries can take on any cases to help immigrants unless the cases relate to child custody or criminal matters - - no one can help them, they have no rights.

Student J* - Greece accepted a large influx of immigrants in the early part of the millennium in preparation for the Olympics and to do work that Greeks didn't want to do. While immigrants used to be accepted, now they are not. In patriotic parades, school groups often march with the top student out front carrying a flag. One university professor told us that prior to 2011 if the top student was an Albanian, for example, he or she would have carried the flag in the parade. Since 2011, however, an immigrant student would never be permitted to march at the head of the group with the flag. The Greek legislature is working on implementing new hate crime policies.

Next up: families find new methods of support.

The Brutal Politics of Economic Decline: Immigration Issues in Greece

*Students requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject matter.

Posted by DBorman on March 28, 2013 at 12:24 PM | Permalink

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