Are immigrants scapegoats for the failure of the Greek State?

In recent days we have noted a trend of Greek politicians seeking to make immigrants in Greece a scapegoat for the failure of the State, and also for the failures of policymakers. Your recent article «Immigrants blamed for State’s failure» (July 9, 2003) is a welcome and serious contribution to the debate: However, we wish we could say the same of the article published a day later – «Are immigrants a threat?» written by Mr Theodoros Katsanevas. It is unfortunate that this article cites no data, other than a low-quality UN projection, which is not taken seriously by scientists claiming that it is quite likely that in 20 or 30 years immigrants will outnumber Greeks. We should like to point out to Mr Katsanevas a few incontrovertible facts: – The only official data on immigrants are from the 2001 National Census, which shows some 7 percent of the total population are non-Greeks. Of these, 1 percent are European Union nationals, Australians and North Americans. This ratio, although higher than in Italy and Spain, is considerably lower than in the rest of the EU – contrary to Mr Katsanevas’s claims. Furthermore, in most EU countries (but regrettably not Greece), many long-term immigrants have been naturalized and no longer appear in the statistics. – The immigrant population in Greece has remained stable for some years and we do not expect significant increases. Indeed, there may well be future outflows owing to the worsening economic situation. – Illegal immigration by sea into Greece is at low levels in comparison with Italy and Spain, with recorded arrests of about 4,000 immigrants last year. – The illegality of the immigrant population in Greece is caused almost entirely by the failure of the State to manage immigration and to process applications properly. By our calculations, Greece has never had more than 200,000 migrants with legal status, out of some 650,000 recorded in the census. – Greece is the only EU member state where immigrants, along with minorities, have no voice on committees and no role in the policymaking process. Greece has no anti-discrimination protection legislation and has, to our knowledge (along with a small number of other EU member states), not yet taken any steps to transpose the relevant anti-discrimination European directives (2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC). Greece is fortunate to have no serious problems of racism, although there is endemic racial bias in state institutions; however, we worry that the antics of vote-catching politicians with no electoral platform and a history of failed policy might damage the fragile stability of Greek society and its recent arrivals. I. N. Dimitrakopoulos, Director ANTIGONE – Information & Documentation Center.

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