Greece is at the centre of a not only European but global, financial crisis. The nation state is sinking under huge debts that in turn, are threatening to bring the entire Eurozone down with it. The enormous unemployment rate among young people is 56% in Athens alone. When I spoke to my post graduate Greek friends, I was shocked at their lack of hope to find any job in their homeland. Young, well educated, people who can speak three languages were desperate to stay in any other EU member state, working in completely different sector and accept low pay in order to work and survive.
Additionally, according to the European Union’s statistics, thousands of immigrants went to Greece last year. The main group were Turkish (an estimated 100 people per day). For 11 million indigenous, there is 1 million immigrants. The ruling government is struggling with the huge wave of illegal emigrants. During the one of the biggest disciplinary operations in the Greek history, thousand of policemen were sent on the street of the capital and their main goal was to identify people suspected of being anillegal immigrant. In one weekend in September 2012, over 7 thousands immigrant were arrested, two thousand were immediately deported. Amongst those deported there was also a substantial group of Pakistanis.
The Human Rights observers have protested against such operations. Some make comparisons to fascist programmes. However, the mass media and many citizens are grateful for the determination to fight against, in their opinion, the main cause of the crisis. Very often, the illegal immigrants are given immediate financial help and housing when they enter the countries they flee to. Others, who are able to get the legal refugee status, have to wait approximately five years to have their Application heard.
Therefore, the financial crisis in Greece released extreme nationalist viewpoints. One of the far right party, The Golden Dawn, went to the parliament with ten per cent support. At the beginning of their political career, nobody was giving them chances at the state national elections. Having an emblem which displays a swastika, or as they prefer to call it “meander”, the old Greek ornament, and a chairman who openly undermines the existence of the holocaust, The Golden Dawn slowly gains popularity. The party had organised the controversial blood collection for “Greeks-only” blood bank and have displayed behaviour that was obviously based on racial discrimination and segregation, therefore, rejected by the government. Nevertheless, many Athenians participated in the recent collection. Other idea which may increase the amount of the voter (up to 30 % according to the specialists) is very “on time” – food is being distributed to the hungry and need under one condition to Greeks on production of ID which proves that they have a “right to food” – and to be clothed.
The Golden Dawn provides also the private security, especially for the elderly people, against the possible attacks of immigrants. Such “social service” is appreciated by many Greeks. “I used to go with my husband on every vacation to my homeland. We were swimming in the sea and didn’t care much about our things left on the beach. At this moment, one of us has to stay. I’m too frightened of thieves, but not the Greek ones.” I was told by my elder Greek acquaintance.
The Greek economy is predicted to minimize by the end of 2013. Nobody seems to be very surprised of the high frustration and anger, displayed by the many strikes and protests. The easiest way to bring people to gether in such situations, is to find a common enemy. Blaming the national faults on legal or illegal immigrants in point of fact does divert an attention from the tragic economical and social problems. The saddest thing seems to be the lack of any hope even amongst the young generation who should be able to shape a future for themselves in their own country. The collapse of the ruling coalition remains on the political horizon and appears as the possibility that Golden Dawn can indeed capture second place in a snap election, say pollsters.
JOANNA SIEKIERA (Poland) – 24 Dec 2012
- Tortured, detained and ordered out: a migrant’s tale in Greece (ekathimerini.com)