Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s remarks after chairing an interministerial conference on illegal migration attended by nine ministers and the deputy foreign minister were explicit. We will not allow Greece to become a trespassers’ heaven… Immigration must be legal and controlled… There is a limit to the number of immigrants each country can receive. Our country has reached that limit, Simitis said. No sober observer can question the contribution of migrants – including the vast majority of illegal ones – to the growth of the Greek economy, especially during the last decade. At the same time, no reasonable person can fail to see the serious social, economic, even national perils that loom if the inflow of migrants remains unchecked. As Simitis said, the total number of illegal migrants caught in the current year will come to about 150,000. This is not a case of planned migration based on the needs of the Greek economy and its ability to absorb them. It is, rather, an anarchic wave which serves the interests of the social and professional groups that hire cheap and uninsured labor. The social cost, however, is no longer tolerable. A growing wave of the surplus migrant population that is not distributed to the rest of Europe results in poverty and crime. This inevitably entails racist and political consequences. Unfortunately, the ultimate solution to the problem – which lies with creating the economic conditions that will encourage migrants to remain in their own countries – cannot be undertaken by small countries like Greece. It is a long-term vision, and the international community does not appear to be moving in that direction. Hence the need for immediate measures in order to tackle the current situation. Greece, being one of the transit points used by migrants to reach other EU countries, is rightly pushing for the creation of a European border police force and a common fund to support the return of refugees. Furthermore, Greece has to take measures at the national level to stop the flood of illegal migrants. The joint action by police and the armed forces on the borders, announced by Simitis, shows that the government has realized how acute the problem has become. However welcome it may be, humanitarian support for the impoverished masses of migrants cannot continue beyond the point where it entails a threat to Greek society itself.

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