logo
Search:

Login:



GREECE: MIGRATION OVERVIEW

The presence of immigrants in Greece constitutes a new but at the same time very important issue, for the economic and social life of the country. The considerable number of immigrants inflow in a short time period, the fact that the country and the society had to absorb the shock caused by the mass entry of immigrants and finally the impacts that affected and continue to affect the society and the economy, form a very significant and strangeness fact for Greece. A phenomenon that, at least the first decade, confronted with off-handedness and a number of measures taken were impromptu. The effects of that period policy measures -taken and not taken- are probably directly related with the reasons force immigrants to return back home. Though, Greek immigrants can be found all over the world since many decades, Greece as a reception country has a very short migration history, less than two decades.

During the military dictatorship (1967-74), labour immigrants were recruited, mostly from Egypt, and in the 1980s Filipina nurses were also directly recruited. These were followed in the late 1980s by political refugees from various Eastern European countries and Kurds from Turkey. It was not until the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe that Greece experienced mass immigration-mostly of a clandestine or illegal nature-from Albania and subsequently (in smaller numbers) from other Balkan states. Albanian migrants constitute some 70% or more of the immigrant population, although a large proportion of them hold "Special Homogeneis Permits" as ethnic Greeks. More recent immigrant groups consist of Asian nationalities-especially Pakistani and Bangladeshi-who undertake low-skilled jobs, with more recent political asylum and/or illegal migration flows through Turkey of Afghans, Iranians, Iraqis, Somali and others. Most recently, increases in such flows have led to the emergence of immigration as a political issue.

The reasons for this widespread immigration throughout the 1990s are many: the fall of the Soviet Union, compounded with other Balkan problems such as the Yugoslav Wars led to widespread political unrest and political uncertainty not only in the Balkans, but throughout other former Eastern Bloc countries as well. The demography of the region is also of particular interest, both Greece and Italy, which have aging populations, attracted immigration from countries with a younger workforce, the push factor being the latter's inability to find jobs in their home country combined with Greece's need for cheap labour (especially in small scale family businesses, which are still prevalent). Another primary factor in this large scale rise in immigration is also the narrowing of the gap in terms of living standards between Northern Europe and Southern Europe, Greece has become, according to some, an attractive destination to economic migrants because of steady growth rates and EU member status - the presence of an informal economy that pays well has also added to this 'pull' factor in immigration trends. For example, an Albanian worker in Albania is paid on average $3 per hour, whereas he or she can earn anywhere from $6–$10 on average for working an informal sector job within Greece. Greece's large coastline and multiple islands mean that policing the entry of migrants has also become increasingly difficult, as Greece's reliance on Tourism has meant that borders have never been harshly policed (though this has begun to change as with the rest of the continent).

As a new phenomenon, immigration has occupied the interest of research experts and policy makers the last years. Though, their interest was almost exclusively focused in the assessment of immigration economic impacts and their integration in the Greek society. The issue that gained the least attention, especially during the recent economic crisis, and had not yet been studied is that of return migration. This seems to be partly logical as it has not been long time since the beginning of the massive entry of immigrants in Greece, in the 90’s. However, a notable number of immigrants’, especially Albanian ones, start returning back to homeland. Thus, the issue of Albanians return migration and the lack of studies dealing with it were strong motives to examine the issue.