Imported crime

Should a Greek official dare claim that the increase in domestic crime is largely due to the big influx of illegal immigrants mainly from the north, he would most likely to be tagged a racist, a xenophobe or an anti-democrat. It was thus a surprise to see Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras escape unscathed last week after producing a similar suggestion. Papaligouras said that Greece has in principle agreed with Tirana to build a jail in Albania to house Albanian prisoners currently serving in Greek prisons. The minister explained that Greek prisons have exceeded their maximum capacity by 80 percent and that of the 8,541 prisoners housed in local jails, almost half are foreign and Albanians make up half of these. Notably, imported crime has nothing to do with the deprivation or economic exploitation of foreigners. In fact, the past 15 years, during which Greece has been the main recipient of migrants in Europe, have seen a marked improvement in migrants’ living conditions. Many of them have bought property here or in their home countries, set up their own businesses and, in some cases, have themselves become the bosses of Greek employees. Those who insist that absolving crime is an inevitable response to the conditions facing those who are forced to migrate are either deluding themselves or have a bizarre perception of human rights. Greece hosts a migrant population (not always legal) who already make up a tenth of the population. Does that mean that the Greek State should assign the policing and prosecution of migrants to international bodies or migrants’ representatives? If Greece’s self-proclaimed guardians of democracy agree, they should say so. However, should their recipe fail, they should be prepared to protect the nation’s borders against illegal migration at any cost.