Clandestine immigrants in Greece

Article published on Sept. 20, 2008
community published
Article published on Sept. 20, 2008
In a new adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey proposed by the French director Géraldine Bénichou during the summer festival “Les Nuits de Fourvière” in Lyon this year, Ulysse became the symbol for all immigrants travelling all over the contemporary world. Such new Ulysse do exist in modern Greece.
As a natural entry in the eastern part of the European Union, Greece has had to deal with the massive arrival of clandestine refugees for a couple of years. They mostly come from Iran, Irak, Palestine and Asia.

Bienvenue dans notre village ! (Thanks to CoréCaro for the photo)

According to the newspaper Eleftherotypia ( 6th of May edition), 112,000 clandestines were arrested in Greece this year, accused of living in Greek territory without authorization nor visas. EU observers claim that Greek authorities haven’t managed to control corretly the situation. As a response to these accusations, Andreas Takis, member of the Greek Humans Rights’ League, explains how difficult the problem is: “The Dublin 2” convention states that wherever the immigrants first enter in the European territory, it is this country that is responsible for them. If a clandestine immigrant is arrested in a different country from the one he first arrived in, he is sent back there. As a result, every country situated on Europe’s borders is responsible for these immigrants.”

Observers were shocked by the miserable prison conditions where hundreds of immigrants are waiting for their asylum demand to be accepted in Greece or, more often, refused. According to Andreas Takis things have been getting worse since a law was voted in 2004. This new legislation is just a way for immigrants not to succeed in their asylum demand. This is a reason why more and more people without authorization accept any job whatever the conditions, simply to get some money just to survive in their clandestine world. Most of them are employed in strawberry farms in Peloponnese, for example.

Another problem is the way the police sometimes treats these people. Two newspapers (To Vima and Ta Nea) reveal how policemen brought seven clandestine immigrants from Albania to the Justice court of Larissa city where they had to be judged. Some witnesses informed the Police headquarters about the inhuman way of transporting these immigrants in... an agricultural vehicle. i.e like pigs or cows. Then the witnesses commented on the policemans actions and were shocked how the arrogant policemen ironically answered: “If you want us to drive more comfortable cars, give the government more money !”

Moreover, unexpected accosting of miserable boats full of humans whose only desire is to reach Europe – at any price – resulted in Greece and Turkey starting to argue again. Greek authorities accused Ankara of letting clandestines pass through Greek territorial water, especially in the Lesbos island in August. A sea border is always easier to cross than on land; how can we prove that Turkish smugglers really left their human merchandise in the Greek zone ? That’s why there is at the moment a justice process in Athens, but Greece is still waiting for an answer from the other side of the Aegean sea.

Let’s finish on a more positive note. On the 1st September, 36 refugees (most of them from Aghanistan, Palestine, and among them a pregnant woman and also children) were left on a rock situated in the Greek part of the Aegean sea, without food nor drinking water. Fortunatly they were saved by Italian and Finn rescuers who were working in Greece thanks to a European collaboration program. Does that mean that Greece has no equipment adapted for this kind of mission ? Of course, it does. The point is that the the Greek life guards don’t move from Pirea,in the Athens’ harbour, while all the immigrants come from the east coasts...

Lastly, let’s move on to Patras city, on the west coast of the country, where immigrants could find some solidarity and support during a three-day demonstration called “No borders”. One could find there immigrants, but also Greek inhabitants who wanted to denounce the creation of an immigrant home that they actually considered to be like a prison. All demonstrators demanded for the people, free movement. But at the same time in Crete, a newspaper reported that two young men from Morocco and Lybia, were attacked by Greek youths. As it seems, that’s not the first time this kind of “incident” has happened. Let’s hope it will the last.