OPINION

Unchecked influx

It is common knowledge that the influx of illegal migrants to Greece, which went on mostly unchecked during the past 15 years, has created an irreversible state of affairs. In a policy driven mainly by humanitarian concerns, Greece will not deport the hundreds of thousands of resident foreigners who do not currently fulfill the legal residence and employment criteria. There is no going back to pre-immigration times, but neither can the situation be allowed to continue as it is now. Responsibility for the current mess lies with the previous Socialist governments, which proved unable – some might say unwilling – to filter the large inflows of refugees by implementing the necessary regulations. A largely indiscriminate legalization drive was launched a few years ago in order to impose some order, but it was eventually caught up in an unending bureaucratic tangle. That ended up perpetuating rather than solving the problem. Yesterday’s announcement of the proposed new measures, which are part of the pending immigration bill, underscored the government’s determination to streamline the legal framework and hammer out a pragmatic and constructive migration policy. The proposal to merge work and resident permits, coupled with handing over jurisdiction for this procedure to the regions, is expected to significantly trim the red tape. The government must make sure that it recruits enough people to staff the services that will have to process a huge number of applications. Good intentions simply won’t do. The government will be judged on the basis of its actual achievements. For years, migrants have constituted a bottomless well of illegal employment. The ample supply of illegal labor helped bring down costs in many sectors of the economy, but at the same time it created a number of social problems. These problems mainly took their toll on the low-income groups. In order to solve the migration issue, the government must put the brakes on illegal entries as well as stem the undesirable inflow of foreigners who look for work after entering the country with tourist visas. The presence of migrants who are beyond the absorption capacity of the domestic economy will perpetuate the problem of illegal labor and accentuate social problems. The legalization process is not enough. What we need is constant monitoring by the state.