OPINION

Restricting the immigration debate

The granting of citizenship and voting rights to immigrants is too serious an issue to be reduced to an exchange of empty slogans or accusations. Most of Greece’s immigrants have entered the country without permission. Greece has, over the years, legalized a great percentage of them but the trend continues unabated. Thousands make it here every month and end up trapped, because it is easy to get in but almost impossible to get out. Claims that the borders will be closed are groundless. Most coast guard operations are, after all, rescue operations. The only solution is to adopt a common European policy on returns and refoulement of immigrants who are not entitled to political asylum. The burgeoning number of illegal immigrants is threatening social cohesion. Clandestine labor is bad for manual workers who work legally. The strain on social infrastructure is growing. Many find it difficult to survive, more turn to crime. Cultural differences prevent even Muslims who have acquired citizenship from integrating into Western societies. In Greece, it is pointless to talk about large-scale integration, as the number of immigrants is constantly rising and, as a result, most live in appalling ghettos. The challenge is, on the one hand, to curb the influx and, on the other, to manage existing migration problems. Instead, the government is ducking the issue, granting citizenship and voting rights. This is a leap into the void rather than progress, since the bill has many loopholes. Lax legislation will fuel illegal immigration. The granting of citizenship and voting rights must be part of a comprehensive strategy – not ideology. Respecting the human rights of immigrants is one thing, granting citizenship is another. Those who scorn public criticism as «right-wing» and «racist,» are only playing into the hands of ultranationalists like LAOS. They are trying to confine the public debate between Scylla (of those who see Greece as a place rather than a country) and Charybdis (those who fear contamination of Greeks’ supposed ethnic purity).