Commenting on Brexit recently, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for Scotland to have its own strategy on immigration and asylum, separate to that of London. Sturgeon noted that Scotland is facing a demographic crisis as a result of dropping birth rates and an aging population, arguing that the economy and public services are dependent on migration. Studies have shown that pensioners are seen reaching 23 percent of the population by 2043 from 19 percent in 2018.
In Greece, pensioners made up 24.5 percent (2,656,000) of the population in 2015. This means that we are in an even more precarious situation than Scotland, yet we don’t believe that we rely on migration at all. As with so many other issues, we have allowed migration to become an arena of petty political confrontations and populism.
On the one hand, SYRIZA is taking advantage of the situation to hold talks about open borders and promise support for the local communities hosting migrant camps. On the other, the local communities are reacting in a primitive fashion, as they did in 1923 and later, after the fall of communism, in the early 2000s. The majority take advantage of the migrants at every opportunity while simultaneously calling for them to go. Even the regional governor of the North Aegean, Kostas Moutzouris (a former rector of the National Technical University of Athens), lashed out with some childish comments suggesting some nefarious involvement by billionaire George Soros, while posing as the best friend of the island communities.
All together, the number of migrants and refugees Greece is currently hosting from the recent immigration crisis is estimated at around 73,000, just a tenth of that received in the 2000s. The argument that the new wave mostly comprises Muslims who cannot be assimilated into Greek society just doesn’t hold water, given how many already have. The real problem is that the majority of the new migrants are trapped on the islands in squalid conditions. Yet not a single “local community” on the mainland has welcomed the transfer of migrants and refugees to their area. And what’s more, we like to rail against the hard-hearted Europeans who don’t want to let in more refugees.
The problem will become manageable once the government, society and the migrants come to terms with the fact that they’re here to stay, and that their children need to go to Greek schools and that they need to lead a normal life.