Promising signs of integration

Greece is frequently accused of abusing migrants and fostering xenophobia. These charges are also leveled by Greeks themselves, who make accusations against the country, sometimes unjustly, without examining how deep the issue goes. There is no argument that bad things happen to foreigners in this country, which cannot afford to feed the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants and refugees who cross its borders. There are also incidents of cruel and inhuman behavior at ports of entry, at detention camps, on farms, in factories and in the human dumps of our cities. But the reality is not all doom and gloom. There are pockets of light, such as the most recent display at the October 28 parade in Thessaloniki, when young Roma students earned the applause of the public and a bow from the Greek president after showering the parade route with flowers. They used to be seen as second-class citizens and today are just citizens who participated in national festivities. Officially they were equal to everyone else, though they did not quite conform, as they had the prettiest girl carry the flag rather than the student with the best grades. The young Roma girls, with their flouncy skirts adding color to the military parade, reveal, among other things, the hidden richness of our society, our real strengths, stronger than guns. They show us that assimilation and coexistence make a people richer and stronger. This was also the case with the Albanian pupils who led the parade for their school a few years ago and have now gone on to graduate at the top of their university classes and to demand equal rights to Greeks. Integration is never a smooth process and it cannot be an all-inclusive one. But, after 20 years of dealing with mass migration, and with 680,000 legal and hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants, at least we know that it will always be worth the effort.