Athens – Most of the refugees and illegal immigrants who rush to Europe, in the form of a formidable movement, pass through Greece and more specifically through the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea. Greece is , obviously, the first to suffer from this invasion. Nevertheless, is under accusation also by other European countries that it does not control efficiently its own frontiers, which are also European frontiers. More specifically, they accuse that Greece does not register everybody who enters the country and refugees any assistance from the Frontex in order to carry on this task. Actually, is a blame game and an effort of some European countries to diminish their own problem and to put the burden on the countries of the first entry, on the pretext that this is the regulation of the Schengen Treaty and of the European Directive on Asylum.
The bitter truth is that the European Directive on Asylum is the one which asks for open frontiers in order to not be prevented the candidate refugees to get in and to submit their demand of asylum. The distinction between real refugees and illegal immigrants should come after, through judicial procedures and close examination of every case. Everybody understand that the application of those procedures is not at all easy, when the incoming refugees and illegal immigrants are by thousands and by ten of thousands.
The critical question also is the distinction between real refugees and illegal immigrants. All European countries are ready to cooperate for the welcoming of refugees but what is going to happen with all the other illegal immigrants, who represent 80% of this movement? Following the Schengen Treaty regulations, the separation between refugees and illegal immigrants should take place in the country of the first entry.
This provision puts an intolerable burden on the countries of the first entry. The easy answer is that the cooperation with Turkey will help to make more manageable the problem. There is a big question mark on the issue. We asked Kostas Theologou, Assistant Professor of History and Philosophy of Culture National Technical University of Athens School of Applied Mathematics and Physics Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, to tell us his opinion on the major aspects of this problem. His answers and comments are very interesting.
Prof Theologou, Greece and Europe are facing a real cataclysm of refugees and illegal immigrants. How do you explain the sudden rising of this phenomenon, since the decade of 90 and which took now gigantic proportions?
The rising of the phenomenon is far from being “sudden”; it was gradually augmented as a sociopolitical problem for the Greek society with legal, and mainly illegal, immigrants arriving mainly from the Balkans (Albanians) and the former Eastern European countries (Poland, Romania, Bulgaria etc.) Its gigantic proportions now are due to immigrants flowing massively from various African states, Far East (e.g. Sri Lanka, India, China) and the Middle East (e.g. Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon); these flows are beyond control, because the Greek borders cannot be easily surveyed by police, military and other patrols, or Coast Guard and rangers). The total length of the Greek land-borders -only- is 1.100 km; this border line between Greece and Turkey is 192,5 km long of which 12,5 km are land-borders and 180 km are marked by the river Evros; the Greek-Albanian borderline is 212 km, the Greek-Bulgarian borderline is 472 km and the borderline between Greece and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia aka Skopje is 234 km. One can imagine the vast water gaps in the South (southern of Crete), in the West (western of the Ionian Islands) and the East (the eastern coastline between the Aegean Greek islands and Turkey). In brief, Greece is easy to “penetrate” and the immigrants issue should be acknowledged as a Pan-European major political priority.
Poverty, wars and difficult conditions of life existed also before the decade of 90, but we had not this kind of phenomenon. Do you believe that this phenomenon is linked to what is called globalization?
The phenomenon is first of all related to the Fall of the Berlin wall (9.11.1989), the collapse of the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe and former communist states in both European and Asian Russia; people rushed to flee towards the liberal western living conditions. Therefore, it was mainly Europeans fleeing to seemingly different political, financial and cultural conditions of everyday life. I wouldn’t dare to link the phenomenon with the globalization procedures, but rather with the conditions of flexible accumulation in economics and labour which, surely, promoted globalization in a later phase.
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