NEWS

‘We want to stay in Greece permanently,’ say 36 percent of migrants in MRB poll sample

Migrants in Greece: Who are they? How do they live? What are their aims? As a State and as citizens, we often treat them as an undifferentiated mass, despite their obvious differences. A threatening mass which, the more it swells (and that more in our minds than in reality), the more solid it seems (once we were only bothered about Albanians, now we are troubled by Arabs, Asians and Africans). We know that we have become a complex and changing unit, with more and more different features. But we make one distinction: Greeks and foreigners. In reality, it is Greeks and Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, former Yugoslavs, Moldovans, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Indians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Kurds, Syrians, Nigerians and Ethiopians. Detailed profile What are the characteristics of these new groups in the population? What are their intentions and their views? We know very little about them. An MRB poll conducted in Athens a year ago provides a detailed profile of the economic immigrants and political refugees who live in Greece. Some 500 personal interviews with foreigners revealed a wealth of differences among different kinds of migrants. Albanians and others who have been living here for more than 10 years feel one way, while newly arrived Arabs and Asians feel and fear something else. Those who feel «closest» to us are the Eastern Europeans, while the Asians feel the «least close.» However, the first choice of all these groups is to live and prosper in Greece. This is a vital conclusion which the State must take into account when formulating policies that will transform legal migrants from being a negative component in Greek society into a positive force, a means of development, and which will reduce racism. Because the greatest problem of migrants (most of whom are heads of families) is the racism of Greeks. They want to integrate into Greek society and say they are satisfied with their lives here (though they have economic problems), but they do not feel they are treated equally and they feel insecure about the future. Nobody denies that there are pretexts for the expulsion of foreigners. Some Albanians steal, some Africans sell imitation goods, and some people from the Balkans are involved in organized crime. But the fact that crime is usually a consequence of marginalization and that exclusion is not a solution rarely crosses our minds. What is foreign can be frightening, and ignorance gives birth to stereotypes. But apart from ignorance of the other’s culture, societies with major influxes of foreigners who take up jobs and places in schools suffer from a new fear. Is it possible that these minorities, who have more children than we do, may one day take power? Even if they work on building sites, in restaurant kitchens, as domestics, in cattle yards, poultry farms, pig farms, as farm laborers, fishermen, miners and gas pump attendants. It is true that in Greece, a country with an extensive unofficial economy and widespread smuggling, favorable conditions have arisen for the creation of much illegal employment. That has scared native-born Greeks threatened by unemployment. And it has created an unfavorable climate for the government and for the foreigners themselves. Shouldn’t this state of affairs be brought to an end at last?