OPINION

Integrating immigrants into Greek society — avoiding the French example

With the recent events in France, Europe is now faced with a number of critical issues on immigration. Europe traditionally has been a tolerant society, and very much so in Greece. Contrary to what many in Greece believe, immigrants have been living in Greece for many years, either legally or illegally. These problems we see now in France will expedite through the European Union simply because Europe has failed on immigration policies that are designed to integrate and educate them. Being from an immigrant family from Australia, I know that immigration policies were set well before immigrants were accepted; the same goes for the USA and Canada. There are a number of fundamental policies that need to be in place for the successful integration of immigrants and to avert xenophobia. Firstly, immigrants must respect the law of the land, the religious and economic status of the country and the way of life. If these factors are not accepted by immigrants, they should go back to their country. On the other hand, the natural citizens of the country need to be educated about immigration and its benefits to the country. It is necessary to promote the good side of immigrants, success in education, business values, hard work and their religious needs. By educating both sides, we will see a stronger acceptance of immigrants being integrated into normal society. Immigrants must also never forget where they came from, support their homeland, but at the same time respect and support their new country. The scenes of violence that followed Greece losing the soccer and Albania’s pride were not acceptable. It is normal to see Greek Australians with dual flags, supporting both countries. Finally, immigrants must blend into the country and have the same rights as all citizens. Pensions must be the same, service the same and everyday life must be equal for immigrants. Immigrants should also be enlisted in military service if they wish to obtain citizenship. By offering citizenship of an equal value to naturalized citizens, integration will be easier. Finally, there is education: The state must provide Greek courses, teaching and history lessons to all immigrants. Greece now has the chance to begin this process. If left where it is, we will witness France in Greece in the next few years. KERRY KOUTSIKOS, Athens.