OPINION

The cycle of exploitation

The solidarity shown for Constantina Kouneva, the 44-year-old Bulgarian general secretary of Athens’s association of cleaners and domestic staff who was attacked by assailants who threw acid in her face in December, shows us that Greeks have not lost their sympathy reflex despite the huge influx of migrants. What this case also tells us is that the conditions under which the majority of migrants work are deplorable and a complete disgrace. We have realized that the people who keep our hospitals, public buildings and offices clean are often victims of exploitation by the companies that employ them, who disregard laws, their workers’ rights and all rudimentary safety and sanitation regulations. Who benefits from this particular form of bondage? Only these shameless peddlers, while tolerating these lawbreakers is tantamount to abetting them. Assigning the dirty work to dirty contractors does not absolve the state nor the private company from moral responsibility. Their see-no-evil attitude also has repercussions on society: Illegality and clandestine labor go hand-in-hand with retarded social development and give rise to organized crime rings and desperate people. Unfortunately, these phenomena will increase in intensity with the numbers of migrants and refugees arriving in this country as long as the state keeps ignoring the problem. According to the most conservative estimates of the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute, 250,000 of the 1 million immigrants in Greece today are here illegally. Meanwhile, the unlawful use of illegal migrants puts an even tighter squeeze on the wages of those working legally, less so for Greeks but especially for foreigners. The excess of cheap, illegal labor is lining the pockets of ruthless contractors and debasing society as a whole: Disgraceful refugee camps, rising crime rates and human trafficking are the byproducts. The acid thrown at Kouneva was directed at our tendency to turn a blind eye, but will we pay