Social integration between poor locals and migrants

«We are all of Balkan origin. We are fairly similar, unlike in France where havoc was caused by youngsters of African origin. They look different,» said a shy youth from Tirana. «My dad sold our house in Tirana and we came to Greece eight years ago.» Now 20, he has a good command of the Greek language and has chosen to go to a technical school. «I want to study so that I can get a job. There is high unemployment and that’s the most serious problem of all. And in France everything started because of unemployment.» Work The 20-year-old has a close friendship with a 17-year-old Greek schoolmate, just as serious and shy, who shares his viewpoint. «We are both worried about work. I’m lucky because I work in the Rendi vegetable market in the morning and then go to school.» There are no ghettos in Greece, they say, but a social osmosis between foreigners and poorer Greeks. They play the social game on the same terms. Pavlos, 19, has been working as an assistant electrician to a Greek for four years. He also attends evening classes at the Grava Technical School. It’s nine in the evening and he is just coming out of class with a Greek schoolmate, a rather aggressive 16-year-old. «What do you want? We’re in a hurry. I’m only interested in machines, women and going out till late. Why should I worry about work? I shall get a permanent position in the navy.» As for the foreigners: «I’m sociable with the sociable ones.» Another Greek who is studying computers approaches. What is he interested in? «My social circle. I want my family and me to have a good time. I want to have work, I don’t care if everything else goes wrong. These politicians, they don’t know what they’re doing.» What if a friend of yours is in danger? «If he’s a friend I’ll intervene, whatever nationality he is,» said the 16-year-old. A group of young Greeks approach with an aggressive stance. «What? A journalist? You mean a pimp. You’re a squealer. Who cares about what happened in France?» The following morning, written on the walls of the school was «In the classrooms of boredom life plays truant» and «Cops, TV, neo-Nazis, all the bastards work together.» Starting at zero The Greek youths leave and Pavlos remains behind. Why is there such a big difference in behavior? «When you’ve started out from nothing and get on in life, it’s different,» said Pavlos. «Most of the kids have motorbikes given to them by their parents. I worked years to get mine. Not long ago I was working as an electrician in the morning, then I would go to school and in the evening I would work in a souvlaki joint. Then I started getting dizzy in the street…» Pavlos set off on his own and crossed the mountains in Greece at the age of 15. Where’s his village? «Near the border with [the Former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia.» What made him do it? «When you haven’t had shoes to wear until you’re 12 you do it. I used to see the others return well dressed and well fed and I realized that there was hope in Greece. I left home secretly, at night. I had told the person who was giving us the lift that an uncle of mine would pay him in Greece.» The young Albanian is calm and polite. «Don’t misunderstand him,» he says with compassion about his friend, the 16-year-old Greek youth. «He’s a good guy. His father died recently. His mum works all day and there are three kids in the family. I try to help him. Whenever I can I take him with me so that he can earn some money.»

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.