Going the distance

Article published on Nov. 16, 2009
community published
Article published on Nov. 16, 2009
                Since the morn of human existence, people are used to be separated by borders and boundaries. It looks quite common to us nowadays, but try thinking of a good excuse when a child asks why. What to say in those questioning eyes that ask you why nobody talks to this kid at school because he is Albanian, orAfrican or Pakistani? What is the meaning of those words and who invented them?

21st century, Greece; most of the foreigners imagine a paradise on earth: Shiny white houses in the sun, Mediterranean Sea, blue landscape and idyllic sunshine next to the coastline. If you also believe in this, it is time to bring you down to earth.

Literally, borders and boundaries even exist in human relations, often inspired by (human) politics. Greece has become a significant immigrant receiver, hosting a great total number of immigrants arriving illegally, causing public anxiety and political frictions. Recently, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), an extremely right-oriented party has entered the Greek Parliament. The chief of this party, Mr Karatzaferis is repeating again and again, directly and indirectly in the Greek Media his unique and very original migration policy embodied in just a single slogan; Greece for the Greeks. "If immigrants don't like it here they should get up and leave. Illegal immigration cannot be tolerated any more, migrants already living in Greece need to respect the country or get out".

The same time, Greek Media has created a completely non-friendly profile for immigrants whilst public opinion turns to keep a negative attitude when it comes to immigrants and foreign people moving in Greece in order to find a job. At the beginning people started being afraid of immigrants. When a burglar or a mug was mentioned on the news foreigners were the first to blame. Currently the situation is even worse. Media propaganda serving political positions obviously influences more and more Greek public opinion. Foreigners “steal our jobs, break into our houses and violate the regulations” are some of the most common arguments anybody would hear. However, few Greeks find it acceptable to work as builders, cleaners, waiters or pizza deliverers as they find them non-prestigious for themselves.

Immigration phenomenon has become more intense during the last years. On the one hand the situation becomes more complicated when Turkey appears to have no reaction with regard to illegal immigrants attempting to reach Greece through the Turkish shores. Moreover the Greek government has actually not reached a solution. None of the measures applied have worked and most of all there has been no integration policy to facilitate the integration of incoming immigrants. Reception centers around the country are flooded by immigrants who are struggling to obtain a legal permit to stay in Greece or the EU. Until now, about 250.000 illegal immigrants arriving from Albania, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Somalia and other parts of Africa.

On the other hand, it would be quite a hard political decision to establish more immigration centers to alleviate the problem for such a large amount of people, while Greek society is quite unwilling to accept them as its integral part. “Greeks who condone and approve the immigration/invasion fiasco are applauding their own displacement and dispossession”, is a characteristic phrase mentioned in a blog. Some have implemented a revengeful solution, sending the immigrants coming from Afghanistan and Iraq to England, considering UK “as the main responsible that created the problem by bombing these countries”. Alas, since when Zeus’s descendants became so inhospitable?  

The media propaganda machinery is in full flight. Immigrants constitute a serious threat on the Greek Media while people are being stuffed propaganda and images of the "Odyssey" of illegal immigrants in the Aegean Sea.At the same time, life in Greece is already hard and people find it difficult to make a living. Therefore, it would be not only throwing more immigrants into the “land of Eden”, as it is presented by those who transport them illegally from their countries to the coastline of Greece. It is not a question of the Greek society feeling pity or plight for immigrants. Incoming immigrants have no idea about the social status or the impact they have on Greek society. It is definitely not their fault, as they have no other way but to seek survival no matter where or how. A paperless migrant is a criminal; the laws of the country are being violated and these people do not move out creating ghetto slums and additional problems to the hosting country. This is also because Greece signed up to the so-called Dublin II Convention, which means illegal immigrants circulating in the EU must be returned to their original EU country of entry – in this case, Greece.

Motivated by the celebrations for the breakdown of Berlin’s wall, we allstarted all kind of brainstorming and mind-searching about recent and past governing and global political systems efficiency. Instead, I would challenge you to give a fair answer to all these people who cannot move or have to confront withgreat difficulties-in the worst case risk their lives- in order to travel in their own country of residence. Somalia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan -not to forget the unsolved case in the EU- Cyprus.   

Some people are close to us and at the same time miles away. On the other hand, some others remain deep inside us although many or just few kilometers keep separating us. Since the world started we cross borders between us. The route is not always pleasant. But usually it worth’s trying.

Sofia Belegrinou