Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Immigration issues still plague Greece

The soup kitchen in the video below should look familiar.
With all of Greece's other issues it may seem like the country's thousands of destitute immigrants and asylum seekers have been forgotten. The emphasis here is on the destitute and that situation has something to do with Greece's economic woes.

In the 1990s and 2000s some one million immigrants from Eastern and South Eastern Europe came to Greece after the fall of communism. Greeks didn't like it but the economy -- tourism, construction, telecom, etc. -- was booming and migrants took many of the jobs -- agriculture, domestic work -- Greeks chose to leave behind.

The economy has whimpered to a standstill in Greece but thousands of people from Africa (Somalia, Senegal, Morocco, etc.) and the Middle East (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, etc.) still come here to get into Europe because of the country's porous borders and the difficulty of penetrating wealthier countries like Italy and France.  

For its part, the EU has often pledged more support to Greece but it is slow in coming and dwarfed by the size of the need.

The International Herald Tribune yesterday published a report saying Athens hopes Brussels will supply 57 million euros to help finance the construction of two new immigrant processing centers (one in Evros, Northern Greece the other in Attica) which will hold approximately 1,000 people. Right now the Greek police have 4,000 people in jail cells at any given time - cells designed for 2,000 people, according to the report. These centers would be operational, at best, in a year's time.

Al-Jazeera English's Barnaby Phillips filed a report on September 5 that details how much Greece's immigration and asylum system needs help now.

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