(eng)THE SITUATION OF THE IMMIGRANTS IN GREECE

alfanarc@compulink.gr
Fri, 12 Jul 1996 18:31:35 +0300 (EET)


THE SITUATION OF THE IMMIGRANTS IN GREECE
AND THE INTENSIFICATION OF RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA

In the last period, Greece has been converted from a country of emigration
to economically more developed countries, to a country of importing=
immigrants.
The collapse of the former =ABreal existing socialist=BB regimes, the=
opening of
these countries borders and the economic crisis that followed; the
continuing and intensifying superexploitation of the countries of the =ABthi=
rd
world=BB by the West; regional conflicts and numerous oppressive regimes;=
all
these factors forced and continue to force many immigrants to come to=
Greece.
Immigrants and refugees from Poland, Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia beggan to
massively arrive in Greece in the 1980=92s. But the biggest outburst of the
wave of immigration to Greece took place in the end of 1990, with the
massive entrance of Albanian immigrants.
The largest ethnic category of immigrants today in Greece are the Albanians,
followed by the Egyptians, Polish, Philippinos, and others. Large number of
immigrants originate from Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukrain, Rumania, Bulgaria
and elsewhere, although on these there are no available records. Over
250.000 Gypsies also live in Greece.
It is estimated that right now immigrants make up at least 5% of the
population, the great majority of which (about 80%) are illegal.

=95=95=95
The living conditions of the immigrants in Greece are from very bad to
wretched, while the most downtrodden category are the Albanians. It is
worth-while to take up more specifically this last one, because besides
everything else, whatever relates to them has become object of probably the
greatest distortion and misinformation by the greek mass media.
The Albanians come to Greece by either paying an enormous amount of money in
order to obtain a visa in the black market =96in which are involved greek
state functionaries as well as whole sections of the greek state services=96
or illegally. The immigrants who cross the greek-albanian borders illegally
put their lives in danger, since in the last years there have been dozens of
cases where illegal Albanian immigrants have been murdered by the Greek
Armed Forces and the Greek Police in the frontier region. These murders are
rarely reported in the press, while those who do come to light are presented
as accidents. In addition, there have been dozens of cases of illegal
immigrants being tortured at the border. These have never been reported in
the press, and there has been no investigation or persecution of those
responsible for these crimes.
Immigrants as a whole play an important role in the greek economy =96 mainly
in agriculture. Most significantly, they contribute disproportionally larger
percentage to its profitability =96 they produce more than twice as much of
surplus value in comparison to their greek co-workers. And this is because
the daily wage of an immigrant in Greece is about half of that earned by its
respective greek worker, without having at the same time any benefits, such
as social security.
The housing conditions of the immigrants are wretched. In their overwhelming
majority, the immigrants are piled into miserable houses, with 5-10 people
living in one room, while many of them =96mainly Albanians and Africans=96=
are
forced to live in the work-places and, at the same time, offer their labour
to the bosses as servants. The living conditions of most Gypsies in Greece
are wretched as well.
Health care is not available for the immigrants. According to the legal
framework which is now in force, illegal immigrants have no right to
hospital care, even in cases of emergency. In practice, during the last
period, in some instances emergency cases have been accepted. But under any
circumstances, immigrants are not allowed to be given treatment in the
public hospitals.
As far as insurance is concerned, although foreign workers are required to
give contributions from their wages toward the state insurance fund, they do
not obtain the health care they deserve and, in the case they leave the
country, their contributions toward the social security fund are not=
returned.
There are no provisions as far as education for the immigrants is
concerned. With the exception of some cases, there is no help given to the
children of the immigrants toward adjusting to the conditions of the greek
schools =96 there are no teachers speaking a foreign language or preparatory
centers of education. Recently, the Ministry of Education in a circular
letter prohibited the envolment of children of illegal immigrants into
elementary schools, but it was forced to withdraw it by the mobilization of
anti-racist organizations and teachers.
The present status on immigrants that are in force in Greece, recognize a
set of rights for the foreigner living in this country with a residence
permit, but do not recongize any rights for those that their permit has
expired or do not have any permit. The law places strict conditions on the
ability to obtain a residence permit, and prohibits the legal immigrants to
change their jobs or their employer. That is, it ties the foreign worker to
a certain employer, to a specific job and work area. The work permit or
residence permit is revoked if there is change in any of the above
conditions. Thus, the immigrants are directly depended on their employers,
which not only offer them wretched working conditions and salaries but also
blackmail them into submission under the threat of delivering them to the
police and their deportation =96 a threat that is carried out in many cases.
The Albanians are among the immigrants who have faced most of the mass
round-ups and deportations. In the last period, over 200,000 Albanians have
been deported each year =96 deportation which the greek state calls
=ABrepropulsion=BB!=20
In recent years, there has also been an increase in the deportations of
political refugees living in Greece and recently there have been cases of
official raising of the political asylum.
In general terms, this is the way that the greek state confronts the
immigrants. That is, as second or third class people who offer their labour
power without having any rights, who prop up the profitability of the
economy while living in a ghetto, isolated and with a permanent fear of
being deported.
It is not only the state, but many trade-unions as well have a racist
attitude toward the immigrants. They are not only indifferent toward the
defence of their most elementary rights, but in more than one instance
unions =96 such as the construction and the shipyard workers union =96 have
openly attacked immigrants, helped the police to catch and deport them,
blamed the foreign workers for unemployment, and called upon the greek
workers to isolate them.
The stance of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) as a whole
is not so different from that of the state or the government. Although it
has made proposals for the legalization of immigrants, these are limited,
since they offer only a very small duration of legality while they support
the position that those who are not legalized should be deported. The
proposals of GSEE also increase divisions among the immigrants, give the
union movement a collaborative role toward the view that the borders should
be fortified and that the immigrants should be treated as second class=
people.

=95=95=95
In greek society there is an outpouring of xenophobia and a growing racism.
Although traditionally Greece was a country of emigration =96almost every
greek family has at least one emigrant abroad=96, greek society after the
massive entrance of immigrats in Greece =96 but in many instances even=
before,
i.e. solid racist attitude toward the Gypsies =96 has developed xenophobic
reflexes, which in many cases reach the level of extreme racism. The
dominant view in society, and the position of each greek government and
opposition party, is that more or less foreign workers are responsible for
unemployment. A large layer of society in many instances confronts the
immigrants as people that have less needs and lower education level.
The supposed increase of criminal acts by the immigrants =96mainly=
Albanians=96
is another element - alibi for the degradation of foreign workers. The mass
media play a big role in this by cultivating through a network of
half-truths and news without any evidence an image of a society threatened
by immigrants and refugees. Characteristically, the evidence presented to
show an increase in criminal acts by immigrants hide the fact that the
overwhelming majority of these cases concern either the very existence of
the foreigner in Greece =96for example, their illegal entry=96 or involve=
petty
crimes, while the percentage of criminal acts among the foreigners is
proportionally less than that among the greeks. At the same time,
undeterminable crimes are attributed to foreigners, while the first thing
they project is their national origin. Parallel to this, crimes against the
immigrants are buried in the pages of the press.
For someone to understand the xenophobia that exists in Greece, its enough
to examine the language used: in the last few years, the word =ABAlbanian=BB=
in
the greek language singifies not only a specific nationality, but a wretched
person who will do any job for which de facto will receive a very cheap
salary. The word =ABPhilippina=BB is used many times as a synonym for a=
servant.
There are many people in Greece that do not except the growing racism
against the immigrants and they put forward the argument that the
traditional =ABgreek hospitality=BB cannot fade away so easily. Although=
there
are in greek society examples of hospitality and protection of immigrants
from the police and the state, despite this, we can not say that this is the
prevailing tendency. In the best case the dominant tendency is that of the
exploitation of immigrants, especially Albanias, with low daily wages mostly
in agricultural jobs, and having as a psychological alibi that =ABthey are
used to live with less means and for them, this must be a paradise=BB.
The worst case so far has been that of a village where its people hunted,
beat up and expelled Albanian immigrants from their place of stay. Recently
a group of people with their faces hidden tortured (even with ficticious
executions ) Albanian immigrants.
Main reason for the development of xenophobia in Greece was the upraising of
nationalism during the period 1991-94, with main element the agressive
policy of Greece towards the f. y. Republic of Macedonia and Albania.
There is no tradition of an anti-racist movement in Greece. Nobody can
expect from the large parties of the Left a systematic anti-racist policy.
The foreign workers themselves are organized on a national basis, but not
all of them. The Albanians, which comprise the big majority of the
immigrants, are not organized at all.
In recent years anti-racist movements and organizations have been
constituted in Greece. There have been some limited mobilizations and
demonstrations against the deportation of Albanians, for better living
conditions for the Gypsies after a police attack on their camp-sites,
campaigns to influnce and draw the support of public opinion and antifacist
demonstrations.
The most systematic and hopeful activity in recent years has been by the
current co-alition of immigrant and anti-racist organizations with main
slogan "=91Immigrants are not a problem, they have problems". The co-alition
which is made up of 29 immigrant and anti-racist organizations demands the
legalization of all immigrants, with equal rights, and a stop to all
deportations.
Although at this moment these movements are at a defensive level, we can say
that elements of an anti-racist movement have entered greek society.
The struggles are ahead of us.

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Athens - Greece

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e-mail:alfanarc@compulink.gr