Most Greeks grossly overestimate the number of refugees stranded in the country, according to a new study which, however, found that the majority view the integration of newcomers in a positive light.
According to the poll carried out by AboutPeople on behalf of VouliWatch, an independent parliamentary watchdog, six in 10 Greeks think that there are currently more than 100,000 refugees in Greece. Half believe the number is larger than 200,000, according to the same figures.
Official data show that fewer than 62,000 are in Greece.
The figures were released on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorated annually on March 21.
According to the survey, 72.8 percent said refugee children should be granted access to Greek schools, while 60.1 percent said young refugees should join Greek pupils’ classes.
Meanwhile, 55.7 percent of respondents said refugees who are trapped in Greece for an extended period of time should move into apartments and 35 percent said they should remain in camps.
A total of 60.4 percent said they would not mind if refugee families moved into their block.
“A first undeniable conclusion is that Greek citizens are starting to have a realistic view of the reality for refugees and, more specifically, what it means living next to us, in our cities and not in the isolated camps,” said Andreas Takis, assistant law professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University and a former general secretary for migration policy.
In a related development, a Turkish activist has backed claims by migrant rights groups in Greece that conditions at camps in Turkey, home to some 3 million refugees and migrants, are well below European standards.
“Pre-departure centers have prison conditions. Refugees are stuck in a room 23 hours a day, there are no interpreters and there have been problems with demands for legal representation,” Deman Guler, a member of the nongovernmental Lawyers for Freedom organization, told Kathimerini following a recent visit to the Greek island of Lesvos.
“Women and children become victims of labor and sexual exploitation. Seeing families out on the streets [with nowhere to stay] is a daily occurrence,” said Guler.
Greece’s Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, is expected to rule on whether Turkey can be considered safe for returned refugees within the month.