Negative memories of early 1990s influx leaves many Greeks hanging on to their old prejudices

«There are Greeks who have very good relations with foreigners. Those who have no contact whatsoever with foreigners are likely to have some stereotyped image of the ‘Albanian thief’ or the ‘Romanian cat burglar’,» said Professor Nikitas Patiniotis, a sociologist at Patras University. «I believe,» he added, «that these sweeping, racist misconceptions are due to the events of the early 1990s, when Greek borders were opened and the country saw an influx of migrants from Albania, many of whom had just been released from prison. «For four or five years there was a dramatic increase in the country’s crime rate and this can explain why so many Greeks are extremely reserved when it comes to their [Albanians’] presence in the country. The migrants that followed came here as cheap labor, since the wages they earned in their own countries were negligible to nothing. «There were quite a few Greek employers who took advantage of them and then turned them in to the police, who had them deported. Some of them returned to Greece with the aim of exacting their revenge, or even committing murder,» argued the professor. «Also, the fact that in the 1990s there was no clear policy on migrants, and the matter of migrant management was left in the hands of local authorities and at the discretion, mostly, of police chiefs – who often acted arbitrarily – has had a negative effect. «Thankfully, this state of affairs has changed over the past few years; immigrants have been given ‘green cards’ and are now legally employed, and many of them have opened their own businesses. «In conclusion, I would argue that the most racist are those who have never come into contact with foreigners and those who believe that foreigners are a threat because they are ‘stealing their jobs’ (mostly in manual labor). «Therefore, what it comes down to is that people who display racist tendencies are expressing a negative view not toward foreigners per se, but toward their competition. «This is why we should probably take some time to ponder the notion of racism a bit more, so that we can give it a much clearer definition,» concluded Patiniotis.