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Current and Future Challenges | Greece |

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Current and Future Challenges

Anna Triandafyllidou

/ 4 Minuten zu lesen

A lack of perspective and a reluctance to accept that Greece is an immigration country remain the main two features of the Greek migration management model. After 20 years of experience as a host country, Greece has yet to design and implement viable legal migration channels for third country nationals.

Graffiti remembering the murder of Greek musician Pavlos Fyssas by members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. In the last couple of years Greek public life has been marked by a dramatic increase in incidents of racist violence. (© picture alliance / Robert Geiss)

While some steps have been taken to improve the plight of migrants and their families who have lost their legal status because of the current economic crisis and rampant unemployment, their fate remains insecure as long as residence permits are of a short duration and Greek citizenship remains out of reach for not only the first but also the second generation.

The recent citizenship law that was expected to radically change the prospects of the second generation and to a large extent the prospects also of their parents has been annulled and the second generation is now given one-year renewable permits. They are therefore trapped in the same insecure situation as any labor migrant in Greece.

Migration and Economic Crisis

Greece entered a period of deep economic and political crisis in late 2009 when the structural problems of the Greek economy (low productivity, low competitiveness), the segmentation of the Greek labor market and a public debt that had skyrocketed during previous years were exacerbated due to the global financial crisis that had started a year earlier. The crisis has led to an explosion of unemployment rates, which climbed to 24.6 percent in June 2012 and further to 27.9 percent in June 2013 with a peak of 55.4 percent for youth under 25 years of age. However, the crisis has hit hardest the economic sectors where immigrants are largely employed. Construction in particular receded at a rate of nearly 20 percent annually in the period 2008-2012.

These developments have particularly affected migrant men and women who belong to the most vulnerable segment of workers in Greece. Many Albanian migrants are heading back to Albania looking for a better future there. The impact of the crisis on migrant workers is multi-faceted and largely intertwined with the systemic features of migration in Greece. The legal stay status of migrants and their families in Greece is particularly precarious as they continuously (every one or two years) have to prove that they are employed and have been insured in order to have their residence permit renewed for the first ten years of their stay. This is a condition that is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfill because jobs available in the sectors where migrants are typically employed (such as construction, transport, catering, cleaning, or tourism) are more often than previously without a proper contract, highly unstable and without welfare payments. This situation runs the risk of becoming a vicious circle because if a migrant cannot renew her/his residence permit her/his stay in Greece becomes illegal and they are then unable to get a legal job.

Emigration of Greeks Abroad

There has been a lot of discussion as to whether Greeks are emigrating abroad to seek employment since the average unemployment rate for nationals in the summer of 2013 stood at 28 percent and at more than 55 percent for young persons under 25 years of age. It is, however, difficult to estimate the number of Greek citizens who are leaving the country because they are not required to register upon leaving.

Rise of Xenophobia and Racist Violence

Migrant integration in the Greek labor market and overall public attitudes towards migration are currently heavily influenced by the acute economic and political crisis that Greece is going through. Migrants are perceived now more than ever as competitors for scarce resources and even scarcer jobs. Alongside the renewed emphasis on migration control by the Greek government, Greek public life has been marked in the last couple of years by a dramatic increase in incidents of racist violence, which have intensified after the 2012 national elections when the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party (Chrysi Avgi) received seven percent of the popular vote and entered Parliament for the first time in its history. During the last couple of months (since September 2013), and after the murder of a young Greek musician by members of Golden Dawn, the government has decided to crack down on this far right-wing party. The party leader and several of its MPs have been arrested and put to jail with criminal charges. Polls have shown a decrease in its electoral appeal, as its criminal activities were disclosed. The situation however remains tense and ambivalent as there is a risk that such a criminalization of the party’s activities may turn out to be in its favor - making the party leaders appear as victims of the major political parties and the political status quo. The spectacular rise of the far right, increasing racist violence, ethnic prejudice and overt racism expressed in public and political discourse needs to be addressed with concrete policy measures and independent of any concerns about the criminal activities of the far right-wing party Golden Dawn.

This text is part of the country profile "Interner Link: Greece".

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Anna Triandafyllidou is professor at the European University Institute in Florence and Fiesole, Italy. She is Director of the Global Governance Programme’s research area on Cultural Pluralism at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. Her main areas of research and teaching are the governance of cultural diversity, migration, and nationalism from a European and international perspective.
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