OPINION

Heads buried in the sand

Just a month from now, Attica residents will be voting for mayors and governors. The public discourse on critical problems such as illegal migration, the ghettoization of the historic center and rising crime so far has been nothing short of superficial. As a rule, illegal migrants move into specific neighborhoods. Driven by fear, locals respond either by moving away or reacting strongly and the result is the kind of tension we have seen expressing itself, often violently, in places like Aghios Panteleimonas. The constant influx of illegal migrants – who find it hard to get jobs and when they do these are usually illegal and badly paid – becomes a breeding ground for crime. The state has lost control of the situation and continues to bury its head in the sand. When the issue of illegal migration is addressed, it is done so in moral/humanitarian terms that do not address the underlying issues and therefore leave room for the extreme right-wing groups to move in. Futile, arrogant spiels about how we are not racist nourish rather than quell xenophobia and mounting racism because they stand in stark contrast to the reality that the public experiences every day. This is especially true of members of the working class, who are hardest hit by illegal migration, not just because they and migrants often compete for the same jobs but also because migrants by and large move into the poorer, less prosperous neighborhoods. The country’s wealthy liberals and leftists have the luxury to engage in such theoretical rhetoric because they don’t rub shoulders with illegal migrants. They don’t live in the same areas, send their children to the same schools, or even use the same healthcare services and they certainly don’t compete for the same jobs. The only contact they usually have with illegal immigrants is the hired help. The problem, meanwhile, is only going to get worse. Right now, nearly 90 percent of the migrants who arrive illegally in the European Union do so through Greece. Most are headed to other countries but only a handful make it there. Some argue that the economic crisis will push many illegal immigrants out. But what we are seeing is migrants from Eastern Europe and the Balkans who live here legally with their families leaving instead. The others are staying, and they continue to live in miserable conditions and become sucked into crime.