UPDATE: The latest report on the clampdown from the BBC
Greece has long-needed to formulate a comprehensive strategy on immigration. Asylum recognition is less than 1% (the lowest in Europe). Undocumented immigrants are stranded here mostly without support of any kind, let alone legal assistance. The bureaucracy makes it almost impossible for anyone to obtain any kind of legal status. Detention centres are squalid and inhumane and brutality by the authorities is common. There has been a complete unwillingness to do anything that requires long-term planning, thought or understanding. Money is always given as the reason but the truth is that there is a deep lack of interest or caring about those people who come here seeking a better life.
Recently there has been a flurry of activity, spurred on by the Laos party (far-right) wins in the European parliament. Laos have joined forces with New Democracy (Conservative ruling party) and come up with a “plan” that panders to the fears of the general population that immigrants are taking over their country. A myth perpetrated by the far-right and helped along by the Conservatives and the MSM.
They are bringing in harsher laws that allow undocumented people to be rounded up and held in detention for up to a year (previously 3 months) and then deported.
They plan to hold those that they round up in new detention centres in disused military bases around the country
“It’s not a solution to have more and more detention centers. It’s not a solution to the migration or refugee problems,” said Georgia Trismpioti, director of the Greek branch of Amnesty International. “They did not commit any crime. Their only ‘crime,’ so to say, is just to enter another country to find political asylum or to find a better condition of life.”
A recent report by the Council of Europe, based on 2008 visits to a number of detention sites, found that despite some progress, conditions in Greek facilities remained unacceptable and that migrants ran a “considerable risk of being ill-treated.”
Other human rights groups have found similar problems with existing centers.
“The detention centers in the islands of the Aegean Sea, in Samos for instance, in Evros, which is close to Turkey, where a lot of asylum seekers are detained — the conditions are deplorable,” Trismpioti said.
They have bulldozed the camp in the port town of Patras, arresting anyone who didn’t escape before the destruction (including 44 minors) who will be held until they are deported.
I predict that over the coming months, there will be a visible drop in the numbers of immigrants on the streets of Athens and other main cities which will please the 62% of Greeks who believe that immigrants are harming the country and the ruling party can take credit and gain popularity for “solving the immigration problem”.
What most people will not hear about is the fate of all those people who are rounded up and held in internment camps. They will not hear about the abuses that will occur or the conditions that they will live in. They will not hear about the lack of legal access or the nature of the deportations. They will not hear about the children who face enormous hardship without family to support them. It will be a case of “out of sight, out of mind”.
Immigrants are voiceless, powerless and of little interest to the majority of the population. Even a recent conference (July 6th) on “Immigration Policies: Problems and Prospects” held in Delphi, had no immigrant speakers. (Athens Plus 10/7/09)
What can I say ? I am seriously worried about the fate of all immigrants in this country. I am pessimistic about my own future in Greece and I have the “right kind of passport !”. Some of my detractors will be pleased to know that we are seriously considering leaving. Not just because of the current immigration clampdown but because of years of being caught in this general lack of progress in everyday affairs from education to health to even the phone company. After fifteen years of effort and hard work and in the end going nowhere, we are feeling defeated. And this latest show of force against immigrants is just part of that.
This post is not about me and my family though. I just wanted to illustrate a point. We have documents, we are legal, we work, we rent a flat, we have water, electricity, central heating, we pay our bills, we have a social life, we have computers, we go out and eat occasionally, we take small trips once a year, we have family, we have friends and yet we are still feeling defeated. Even some of our closest Greek friends are feeling defeated in their own country. I cannot imagine how those people who have none of our privileges are feeling. How scared they must be. How hopeless they must feel.
I just can’t imagine.