The largest wave of immigration in European history was experienced by Greece in the 21st century according to European authorities. Now, Greece is facing the opposite problem.
Being an Immigrant in a Country Exporting Migrants
Since the economic crisis of 2008, almost half a million Greeks have left Greece to seek their fortune elsewhere. The most recent mass emigration included mostly young, educated professionals with experience in their fields. This is a huge difference from the first and second mass waves of emigration who were hit hard by the recession. With mostly technicians, laborers, and unskilled workers, the unemployed fled Greece to work as general laborers and servants.
Nowadays, a great crisis shadows over the 28 European countries (in particular the Southern European host countries such as Greece and Italy). Mass migration has been caused by a combination of refugee and immigration issues stemming from torn Syria, from the broader Middle East, and many African countries. The issue is considered a definite threat according to extreme nationalists and far-right parties in Europe. They equate the inflow of a new ethnic population to the spreading of an infectious disease. On the one hand, the far-right are attempting to protect what little support and job accommodation they have. In contrast, for most Europeans, a carefully regulated process that integrates refugees and migrants in any well-governed and democratic society fosters pluralism and enriches the local culture.
The Greek Island Beaches Have Become Cemeteries
Recently, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently announced that more than 4,000 immigrants and refugees have lost their lives since the beginning of the year, establishing a 26% increase compared to the same period last year. Many younger, lone traveling refugees have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, the Turkey-Syria border, or channeling through North Africa.
The largest number of casualties recorded in the Mediterranean total of 3,213 deaths between January 1st and September 19th, 2016, according to the Missing Immigrants Project. The most dangerous sea route is direct to Italy, where 2,766 people have lost their lives. The route to Greece has claimed 386 lives, followed by Spain claiming 61 lives.
Europe Hunting for Solutions
“Curbing immigration, reinforcements for Frontex, fight against falsification of documents – this should be done fast” – Tweet by French Interior Minister, France’s Bernard Cazeneuve.
Determined to do the job well and without giving in to emotions, the French Interior Minister Frances Bernard Cazeneuve presented his plan for strengthening the Union’s external EU borders while on a mini tour. The tour took him through Rome, London, Barcelona, and Berlin before completing in Brussels.
The plan is to enhance security along all the Greek coastlines using Frontex. Frontex assumes the duty to watch all the Greek coasts with patrol ships from many European countries, offer surveillance assistance, and essentially coordinate border patrol. Europeans are working together in an effort to prevent a Mare Nostrum repeat.
Although the mission is clear, the project has brought about some adverse effects including human rights infringement and motivation for organized crime. For example, by sending ships to a short distance from the Libyan coast, the Italian Navy is actually encouraging illegal immigration networks to organize routes in areas where they feel they would be saved if they run into difficulty.
A View on Immigration
Immigration can be terrifying for the immigrants who are leaving their life behind in hopes of starting a better future. Very few immigrants have ability or opportunity to soothe their anxiety towards the journey into the unknown. They must start over, and that includes assuming an identity in a new and foreign land where the established population may be vastly different from what they have known. It is unfortunate, that stigma and assumption still rule in areas with heavy immigration. People tend to be judged based on ethnicity and color more often than personality and what they can contribute.
These people suffered in their countries and now they are suffering immigration. We must realize that the situation was dire enough to force people out of their homes and seek better opportunities. The jobs were not there and the daily threat of violence is very real including extortion by their compatriots, persecution from extreme nationalists, and disease.
On the one hand, we have to be honest and admit that there are some bad apples among immigrants. Sometimes we can determine whether people take part in illegal actions consciously or by feelings of necessity. This group is, however, a very small proportion of the millions of immigrants who land in foreign worlds.
Regardless of the delinquency and how it is being exploited by indigenous exploiters and parties, we should bear in mind that the number of people entering the country has grown substantially compared to a few years ago. According to the UN Refugee Agency, over a million refugees fled to Europe in 2015. It is unfortunate that, once landed, they still face living in a country that is economically and socially challenged.
The Conclusion. Is there a Solution in Sight?
To accept the issue as it is, is not a solution. What can be done and what attitude should the citizens of Greece express?
Perhaps the arrows are turned in the wrong direction. There is not one individual who should hold responsibility for the current state of things. The oppression faced by immigrants is encouraged by the attitude of the collective EU leadership. Their arrow points down to their followers. What if the leadership approached the problem with a more neutral attitude and took some time to understand where everyone is coming from, including the immigrants?
One solution may be to open the borders and welcome immigrants and refugees, provide support, and give simple supplies that are necessary for survival. Let’s give immigrants a chances to educate themselves and work in order to create a new life. What can this lead to? Perhaps a smooth integration of immigrants into society and a decrease in incidents of terrorism recruitment from extreme religious organizations which attempt to falsely offer these same opportunities.
Let’s get to them first, offer them more, and flourish as one society, together.