The integration of migrants in Greece

The dramatic developments in France have caused widespread concern in the West and in Greece. How close is the connection between what sparked rage in French cities and what goes on in migrant communities in Greece? Are we at risk of an upheaval? The statistics and news reports do not present such a worrisome picture. Of course, the situation is far from ideal: Migrants have considerable difficulties and racism has not disappeared. Despite the outrageous indifference of the state in the early 1990s, migrants – who have made such a valuable contribution to the Greek economy – seem to be gradually making their way into Greek society. Their situation is not idyllic, but it is similar to that of the poorest Greeks. So all indications show that similarities between Greece and France – which some people on television have hastened to discover – are very limited. In Greece, the vast majority of migrants come from our Balkan neighborhood; they are not religious fanatics, and those of them who do profess a creed are Christians. Hence, in time, they will all become «one of us» in the social melting pot. Most of the migrants here come from areas with massive socioeconomic problems that do not, however, come from other cultures. There is another crucial difference. Migrants in Greece see their struggle to survive as similar to that of Greeks who are on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. The youths rioting in France are French citizens who receive some state benefits such as housing subsidies which do not exist in Greece, but they see racial inequality and social exclusion – walls that rise up up in front of them because of their origins, and that ignites their rage. This is not to say that all is well in Greece. Systematic, long-term planning and determined efforts are needed to promote the smooth social inclusion for migrants. So far, we have only seen the first encouraging signs. But these initiatives must take into account the Greek picture; they should not simply adopt the French approach as a framework.