What of Canditsa?

In a move meant to make an impression, one that was almost too easy, yet potently symbolic, Alexis Tsipras’s turning up at President Karolos Papoulias’s reception for the July 24 anniversary of the restoration of democracy escorting Canditsa Sankio, an African woman who was born and raised in Greece, hit the mark. He brought to the forefront, before the country’s politicians and political leadership, a world that numbers many people, a living active world that everyone pretends does not exist. Formally, this world does not exist either: It is a world of people who are not formally recognized as existing. For, in the 34-year-old Third Greek Republic, thousands of people of foreign extraction, born and raised in Greece, graduates of the Greek school system, insured with the country’s social security foundations, tax-paying and law-abiding residents, are not citizens, have no papers, are not recognized. The young hairdresser of Acharnon Street may hail from Sierra Leone, but everything about her is rooted in Greece. Canditsa enriches Greek society in any way she can and, in turn, makes her living in Greece. What does Greece do for her? It tolerates her only as long as she offers her labor, it forces her, and rightly so, to pay her taxes and social security contributions; it allows her to be educated and to learn Greek. And then what? It forgets her, ignores her, sees her as an annoying loose end, sweeps her under the carpet, includes her among the people who have no face, scorns her. Naturally 1-1.2 million migrants is a great burden for Greece, a country with a population of just 11 million, and it is a number that cannot be easily assimilated. But what is the country’s migrant policy after two decades of constant arrivals? Nothing. Or, rather, there is always the policy of putting policy off. Canditsa brought to light a world of people who are marginalized, whose lot has been decided from birth – and she did so with grace, with pride. It is not at all certain that other marginalized individuals would be so generous.