Hellas: 80.000 immigranter i 2008

Nina Hjerpset-Østlie

Rundt 80.000 immi­gran­ter har ankom­met Hel­las i år, og vel­ger i følge greske myn­dig­he­ter å opp­holde seg ille­galt i lan­det. I okto­ber gjorde regje­rin­gen opp­merk­som på at Hel­las ikke len­ger kla­rer opp­ga­ven med å beskytte EUs sør-østlige flanke.

Store grup­per ille­gale immi­gran­ter fra Afrika og Midt­østen lever av kri­mi­na­li­tet, og ska­per uro­lig­he­ter i Aten:

While ini­tial pro­blems with the flood of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who are despe­rate to enter Europe cente­red on the Aegean islands, migrants are now wreaking havoc in the capital.

The his­to­ric cen­ter of Athens has been riven by seve­ral street batt­les in recent mon­ths, invol­ving what the police cha­rac­te­rize as rival groups, often involved in dea­ling drugs, from Afgha­ni­stan, Iraq and war-torn Afri­can countries wiel­ding swords, axes and machetes.

After 11 people were hurt in one such brawl in late August, the police began 24-hour patrol­ling of the area. Store owners and resi­dents are lea­ving the busy cen­tral shop­ping and res­tau­rant district.

I følge en grup­pen som repre­sen­te­rer de greske inn­byg­gerne i områ­det, har dusin­vis av men­nes­ker for­latt sin hjem i løpet av det siste året og flere butik­ker har stengt. - De er redde, depri­merte og det blir bare verre og verre, for­tel­ler Vas­si­liki Niko­lakopou­lou fra grup­pen Panathinaia.

En poli­tisk råd­gi­ver i inn­vand­rings­spørs­mål sier at situa­sjo­nen har blitt uut­hol­de­lig for Hellas:

The top policy advi­ser for immi­gra­tion issues at the Interior Mini­s­try, which also over­sees pub­lic order, bla­mes the influx of about 80,000 migrants this year.

“Because of this phe­n­ome­non, we see more and more immi­grants in cen­tral Athens try­ing to sur­vive, often through illi­cit acti­vities,” the offi­cial, Patro­klos Geor­gi­a­dis, said in a telep­hone inter­view. “This unp­lea­sant situa­tion - for the migrants and for us as an EU coun­try - has become unbearable.”

Geor­gi­a­dis said that Gre­ece sup­ported the stric­ter line on immi­gra­tion being pro­moted by the bloc’s French pre­si­dency. “There will not be anot­her wave of lega­liza­tion of immi­grants in Gre­ece in the near future,” Geor­gi­a­dis said, refer­ring to the three pro­grams that have gran­ted work and resi­dence per­mits to some 500,000 migrants, most of them undo­cu­men­ted for­eig­ners - at least half from Alba­nia - since 1997.

The unrest in Athens has trigge­red a back­lash from the far-right party Laos, whose popu­larity has jum­ped to 5.4 per­cent in opi­nion polls from 3.5 per­cent when it ente­red Par­lia­ment a year ago.

The city cen­ter has been taken hos­tage by gangs of ille­gal immi­grants with kni­ves - isn’t it about time we asked ours­el­ves if we have too many of them?” a Laos legis­la­tor, Anto­nis Geor­gi­a­dis, said during a recent tele­vi­sion debate. He is not related to the immi­gra­tion official.

Alt­hough some on the Greek left have warned against demo­ni­zing migrants, the Athens prefect, Yian­nis Sgou­ros, who belongs to the main oppo­sition Socia­list party, Pasok, refers to an “explo­sive pro­blem” in the heart of the capi­tal, where thou­sands of migrants living in cheap hotels and dere­lict hou­ses struggle to find work.

Ille­gal immi­grants are becoming pawns to local drug barons and are for­ming gangs,” Sgou­ros wrote last week in a let­ter to Prime Minis­ter Kostas Kara­man­lis. He added: “Somet­hing has to change or the area will become an arena for race clashes and gang wars.”

Den svenske men­neske­ret­tig­hets­kom­mis­æren for Europa­rå­det, Tho­mas Ham­mar­berg, kri­ti­se­rer imid­ler­tid Hel­las og andre EU-land for å “kri­mi­na­li­sere irre­gu­lær ankomst og til­sted­væ­relse av immi­gran­ter som en del av en poli­tikk som skal inn­e­bære såkalt hånd­te­ring av innvandring.”

Poli­ti­cal decision-makers should not lose the human rights per­s­pec­tive in migra­tion,” Ham­mar­berg wrote in an e-mail mes­sage when asked to com­ment for this article. “Migrants coming from war-torn sta­tes should be given refuge.”

The govern­ment says that Gre­ece grants pro­tec­tion to all refugees, as long as their sta­tus can be pro­ven. But UN refugee agency sta­ti­s­tics show that Gre­ece appro­ves less than one per­cent of asylum appli­ca­tions, com­pared with a Euro­pean Union average of 20 percent.

Accor­ding to minority groups, the treat­ment of migrants from war-torn sta­tes as “ille­gals” rat­her than refugees requi­ring pro­tec­tion for­ces them to eke out a life on the frin­ges of society.

Most don’t get asylum or social sup­port and have to find other ways to sur­vive,” Adam Ziat, lea­der of the Union of Sudanese Refugees, said in a dingy café behind cen­tral Omo­nia Square that ser­ves as his office.

Accor­ding to Ahmed Mowias, coor­di­na­tor of the Greek Migrants’ Forum, newly-arrived refugees from con­flict zones are being exploited by rack­ets run by Nige­ri­ans, Moroc­cans and Alge­ri­ans estab­lis­hed in the area for many years. “Refugees are the smal­lest links in the dea­ling chain,” Mowias, a long­time resi­dent of Athens who is from Sudan, said.

Police figu­res show that most immi­grants arrested on drug-related char­ges in cen­tral Athens this year were from war-torn sta­tes like Sudan, Afgha­ni­stan, Iraq and Pakistan.

For de fleste av disse inn­vand­rerne var deres første stopp i Hel­las de Eegiske øyer, der mot­taks­sent­rene er over­fylt og de lokale myn­dig­he­tene i ferd med å miste tålmodigheten.

I okto­ber blok­kerte myn­dig­he­tene på en av øyene, Patmos, hav­nene for båter med pas­sa­sje­rer fra Tyr­kia, og opp­lyste om at antal­let uøns­kede gjes­ter på øya nå over­gikk øyas 3.000 per­ma­nente inn­byg­gere. Myn­dig­he­tene på de popu­lære øyene Les­bos og Samos, som dag­lig rap­por­te­rer om båter som ankom­mer med immi­gran­ter, kre­ver hand­ling fra den greske regjeringen.

Men i følge Ahmed Mowias, koor­di­na­tor for Greek Migrants’ Forum, er det greske myn­dig­he­ter og mang­lende sosial­støtte som har skyl­den for situa­sjo­nen som har oppstått:

But, accor­ding to Mowias, the government’s fai­lure to create a com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion and asylum sys­tem is the root of the pro­blem. “When a group of people has no social sup­port and can­not solve its pro­blems, this leads to a cri­sis,” he said.

Inter­na­tio­nal Herald Tri­bune: A rising tide of migrants unsett­les Athens

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