Painting by Nikos Houliaras, 1979 Painting by Nikos Houliaras, 1979
Immigration: Things done wrong in the name of security

Dimitris Christopoulos

This article was written only a few days before the tragedy in Lampedusa. A tragedy that was not caused only due to the strong winds and the boats. This tragedy was an immediate result of the EU’s dominant logic of deterrence, as far as the immigration issue is concerned, according to which it is believed that the more difficult we make the journey the fewer will be doing it. Cynically, this is true. However, the claim of New Democracy (the main right wing party, which was in government until the elections of January 2015) and some Greek TV channels that the refugee and immigration flows have increased due to the “open borders” policy of the Greek government, causes amusement.

It is a normal practice (especially lately) for the Left to be charged with “irresponsibility” and “imprudence” as far as issues related to the management of the immigration and the refugee issue is concerned, due to the “naive humanitarianism” that is constantly charged with. But times are changing… It is more obvious than ever that folly does not belong to the Left, but on the other side. That is what we are paying: if there was so far a fundamental administrative and operational structure that could receive the volume of the refugee flow that we are facing in Greece things would have been better.

One must be very naive to believe that at some point in the visible future the refugee or immigration flows will stop. This issue in Greece and the whole Europe is –and will remain– a timely one, having moments of recession and escalation.

At one moment the immigrants will be more and the other the refugees. In this sense, on the overall we are now talking about mixed flows.

Today, Greece has to face the intensification of a refugee flow that is related to the prolonged dislocation of the state in Syria and Libya. Especially, as far as Syria is concerned, the hopeless situation drives the people who had already temporarily settled in Turkey to start realizing that they there are no viable expectations of returning to their country. Thus they also abandon Turkey: first stop within the EU is Greece. The intensity of this flow has already been diagnosed since 2014, the year in which the then Greek government was bragging about the fence in Evros river which was standing as “the deterrent barrier that prevented the influx of thousands of illegal immigrants that were uncontrollably entering Greece”. This is what the then Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was saying just before the elections of January taking “selfies” in front of the fence.

A solution to the so far impasse immigration policy
It seems as if Antonis Samaras did not know that this fence, as every other fence, cannot intercept the immigration and refugee flows. It can only change their direction. And that’s what it did. And the numbers augmented in 2014 and the journey became more dangerous for those people. The difference was that now they did not travel through Thrace but through the Aegean.

So today we are experiencing for good the deadlocks that are being dragged for the past 25 years under the carpet of the worthless decency of our state: an inhumane, ineffective and ultimately silly prosecution, prevention and detention policy in which the previous governments have indulged, simply inherits the absolute deadlock. At a time when the refugee flows are even more acute –and without a predictable date of recession– only one seems to be the appropriate solution for the Greek democracy. The one that under difficult circumstances the Greek government is processing and strives to put in place. The classification and registering of the population in the points of entrance, where this is feasible, and its coordinated transition in places in the hinterland as part of a proportional distribution within the territory. It is not possible neither to stack them in the islands nor to have them all in the center of Athens. You simply cannot ask from the EU proportionate distribution of the refugee population or the immigration population with no papers while at the same time in Greece is applied the syndrome “not in my own backyard”. Just imagine how it sounds in the ears of a country, for example Germany, which hosts the largest number of refugees in Europe, to hear that Greece calls for solidarity, but the mayor of one city says that he “cannot support any others”.

That is what I understand as a joint responsibility of the entire Greek state: the central government, the first and second level self-government, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for the Refugees and the European Union with the support of any other institution that can respond to this appeal for solidarity.

One may wonder: “Is this easy?”. Obviously not, especially today where this emergency situation accumulates in the numerous other problems of the Greek public administration. Is there another solution? “Yes” they are shouting irresponsibly the criers of the xenophobic rhetoric: “we should open the detention centers, so that we can detain the 1%, preventing at the same time all the others from going out” or “refoul them to their country” making ourselves accomplishes to their eventual extermination. The most courageous of those criers are even willing to talk about other, more “active” solutions. Those “solutions” that –fortunately– the Greek Constitution and the international law have left to the legal prehistory.

The dilemma today is: an overwhelming, difficult settlement and the other “solution” that looks more and more with the erstwhile “final solution”. Those who are with the first side, are sitting together –disagreeing– fighting over the dose of humanitarianism or concern about the safety of the population and in the end they find something that they can deliver to society. Probably below expectations, but it is an important step. Those who support the other “solution” shall also confront the moral burden of the identification with the most totalitarian political experiments we got to know in the European 20th century.

Translated by:Thomi Gaki
The original text was first published on:Newspaper “I Epochi”, 19.4.2015

Link to greek version:H μεταναστευτική αφροσύνη που πληρώνουμε σήμερα

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