The Early Stages in the Life of Economic Immigrants in Greece: a Case of Extreme Conditions of Poverty and Homelessness
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The Early Stages in the Life of Economic Immigrants in Greece: a Case of Extreme Conditions of Poverty and Homelessness



Presentation given by Aristides Sapounakis, University of Thessaloniki, Greece at a FEANTSA Research Conference on "Homelessness and Poverty", Paris, France, 2009

Presentation given by Aristides Sapounakis, University of Thessaloniki, Greece at a FEANTSA Research Conference on "Homelessness and Poverty", Paris, France, 2009



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The Early Stages in the Life of Economic Immigrants in Greece: a Case of Extreme Conditions of Poverty and Homelessness The Early Stages in the Life of Economic Immigrants in Greece: a Case of Extreme Conditions of Poverty and Homelessness Document Transcript

  • EUROPEAN RESEARCH CONFERENCE HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY IN EUROPE International and European Perspectives The Early Stages in the Life of Immigrants in Greece: A Case of Extreme Conditions of Poverty and Homelessness Aris Sapounakis, Ph.D.Assistant Professor at the University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece Research assistants: Themis Pellas, Dafni-Efrosini Delfaki Volos, August 2009
  • 1 INTRODUCTIONBy the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it has become more thanevident that the phenomenon of immigration is challenging Greek society in asurprisingly intense manner. As Greece during the last three decades hasbeen transformed from a country whose citizens emigrate abroad to one thatreceives immigrants, the growing influx of people from the developing worldhas put excessive pressure on existing structures leading to seriousquestioning of the policies adopted so far. With nearly 150,000 immigrantsentering the country last year, it is apparent that new policies foraccommodation and integration of immigrants are needed.On the other hand, immigrants experience adverse living conditions during thefirst period of stay. Whether they legally or illegally manage to enter thecountry or they are intercepted by the authorities, they are bound to strugglehard in order to achieve appropriate housing and employment standards.Regardless of their interest to stay in Greece or to move to another finaldestination, their first period of stay in the country has presently proven to bemore difficult than ever before.The present paper deals with the living conditions of new-comers as theymove along the ‘enter-stay-exit’ axis. In this approach, it is important to focuson the manner in which the immigrants’ quest for acceptable housing andemployment standards is confronted by relevant national policies.
  • 2 MIGRATION POLICY FRAMEWORKThe European Union’s initiatives for a coherent migration policy have provento be elusive so far. The diverse migration tradition and background ofmember states, the divisive nature of migration as a political issue usuallybased on national priorities, the notion of national sovereignty and the way itis perceived have prevented EU members from arriving at a unanimousagreement on clear political objectives on the particular field.In post-Amsterdam’s institutional arrangements, several measures towards acommon policy on asylum and migration have been produced, such as theDirective concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-termresidents, the Directive on the right to family reunification, the Directive onCommon Standards and Procedures in Member States for Returning IllegallyStaying Third-Country Nationals (2006), the Reception Conditions Directive,the Dublin Regulation and the more recent Commissions Communication oncircular and mobility partnerships between the European Union and thirdcountries (2007) and the European Pact for Immigration and Asylum (2008)which are documents of both consultative and political character.In view of these, the various projects dealing with immigration progress atdifferent rates. Policies addressed to illegal migration have attracted asizeable amount of cooperation among different member states which hastaken the form of harmonization laws, such as the Directive on the return ofirregular migrants and the Directive on employer sanctions, of thecoordination on operational issues, such as the FRONTEX agency, andRABBIT, the use of advanced technological instruments, such as SIS, VIS,EURODAC and biometrics in the future, and so on. Furthermore cooperationamong member states has been monitored in cases of externalization of theEU borders in collaboration with third countries. Emphasis remains on policiesconcerning border controls.As EU member states’ views on economic migration differ, labor migrationhas proven to be the most difficult field for arriving at a common basis amongnational legal frameworks. In 2004 Commission had to abandon a proposalfor two directives on this matter. The well-known Blue Card Directive is still inthe process of being negotiated. Tackling irregular migration by diverting iteffectively to legal channels still remains the key point for a morecomprehensive European migration policy.Greece is a country that characteristically involves problematic legal migrationchannels. As Maroukis (2008) has suggested, “the ways the landscape ofmigration policy interweaves with the migrants’ strategies in the particulareconomic environment of Greece create a particular context for the productionof irregularity”. The narrow entry legal channels are the threshold to abureaucratic state mechanism whose procedures lead to the production ofirregularity in various stages of an immigrant’s life in its territory.‘Metaklisi’, one of the main legal channels to enter the country to work thatcould have been utilized by immigrants, fails due to the bureaucraticprocedures it involves. Employers avoid to employ foreigners in this manneras they prefer the immediate exploitation of the stock of workers already
  • available. Due to the lack of the appropriate Labor consultancy Offices, whichwere announced by Law 3386/2005 but never actually established, migrantsmake use of formal and informal employment agencies in their country oforigin to acquire visas. Although the main criterion to get a visa is money andnot qualifications, in the majority of cases migrants acquire short term visasfor tourism and after they enter the country, they come in contact withemployers already known by their agencies.Coming to Greece as an asylum seeker is another legal pathway which due tothe tedious procedures it involves is bound to lead many immigrants toillegality (see Section 5). “The control of irregular migration has beentransferred from the inadequate regulatory processes of entry to the interior ofthe country through the policy of the stay permit system and its main lever, theimmigrant regularization programs”, (Maroukis, 2008). In an overview of thelegislation regulating the stay permit, the characteristics of the Greek labormarket as well as the way migration strategies interweave with these,Maroukis shows how the incompetence of regulating policies to adapt to theeconomic reality and immigrants’ social imaginary has been forcing the latterto illegality.Regulations which relate to the manner in which immigrants leave the countrywithout their will is a matter that surely requires attention. As the deportationsystem does not operate properly mainly due to the costs of repatriation aswell as the malfunction of the readmission Protocol with Turkey, immigrantswhose identity has not been established remain in Greek territory after theirdetention period. Furthermore, the Greek government has recently issued abill that among other provisions included an amendment which allowed for theelongation of the detention period of immigrants before they are deported.It is important to note that this legislative instrument is recognized by publicdiscourse as the de jure conceptualization of migration as a disorderingsociety factor which in many ways is equivalent to pure crime. The newamendment is not in accordance with the protection of fundamental rightsestablished by the Greek Constitution as well as international law, as itconnects directly a simple penal prosecution, which is typically not acondemnation, with irreversible consequences. The deportation of immigrants,without them being able to express their position officially, practicallyabolishes their right for judicial protection.Although the aim of the recent legal instrument, as this has been announced,is to eliminate illegal migration, there appear to be no actual discriminationbetween legal and illegal immigrants. The result of this omission is that evenpeople who live in Greece for years, people who work, pay taxes and possessa valid residence permit, may also face the danger of deportation.
  • 3 CATEGORIZATION AND ESTIMATE OF THE NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTSUnquestionably, there are several ways of categorizing immigrants based ondifferent kinds of parameters. A most important parameter concerns their legalstatus of stay in the country. A considerably small number of immigrants whoenter the country are equipped with legal documents that allow them to stayand work. Usually immigrants who fall into this category come from countriesthat have developed bilateral agreements with Greece.However, the majority of immigrants try to enter country without legaldocuments. These people either attempt to enter the country by sea, in casetheir country of origin is in Asia or Africa or through the northern borders as isthe case of those who originate from the eastern European and Balkancountries. An unidentified percentage of them are caught and are led to thereception centers that are usually located in islands of eastern Aegean Seaand cities near the borders. Hereupon, they may apply for asylum facing anumber of bureaucratic formalities in order to become asylum seekers.Finally, if their request is granted they are considered refugees1. It must benoted that a significant number of immigrants who are arrested by Greekauthorities is deported.Another scenario applies to immigrants who have entered the country illegallywithout being intercepted. Most of them are trying to make a living by seekinga job2, while a substantial but undefined number of them eventually move toother EU countries that, to their opinion, offer better employmentopportunities. In this case, Greece functions as a stepping stone, a transitcountry that connects the eastern to the western world. Yet, even those whomanage to enter the country illegally may sometimes find themselves in astate of legality either by marrying an indigenous person or by having relativeswho live legally in the country etc.A broad definition of illegal migration refers to the person “without a legalresidence status in the country he/she resides in and whose presence in theterritory if detected is subject to termination through an order to leave and/oran expulsion order” (Clandestine Project).The most common countries of origin of economic immigrants in Greece areAlbania, Rumania, Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Pakistan and countries ofnorthern and central Africa. Those who apply for asylum, usually originatefrom Iraq, Iran, Somalia and Palestine due to the belligerent state of theircountries of origin.1 The 1951 Refugee Convention establishing UNHCR spells out that a refugee is someonewho "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion,nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the countryof his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of theprotection of that country" (, The UN Refugee Agency). Refugees and asylumseekers should be protected by law, although in reality they usually face many difficulties.2 These people constitute a particularly vulnerable group as they are not insured, dont paytaxes and dont have access to the primary health care system. They are consideredeconomic immigrants despite the fact that among them, there are people who could havebeen protected by the state as refugees.
  • Estimating the number of immigrants in a specific period of time is anextremely difficult task as not only the actual amount of foreigners within thecountry fluctuates significantly with time, but also because the nature of theirlegal status changes continually as they move along the various grey zonesfrom legality to illegality. As the recent study conducted by the Institute ofMigration Policy (IMEPO) has shown statistics vary depending on theinterests of the body that assesses available data while even the validity ofdata may easily be questioned (IMEPO, 2008).The safer manner to approach the number of immigrants is based on thethree legalization campaigns that have been monitored in Greece since 1998as well as the population statistics based on the 2001 inventory which hadarrived at the figure of 672,191 people of foreign descent living in Greece,66,000 of whom originated from Cyprus and other EU countries. While the2001 legalization operation involved 367,860 immigrants, only 217,000managed to attain a proper work and stay permit. The response to the lastlegalization program has been even smaller as the applicants did not exceedthe figure of 145,000. As a result of the three programs, the total number ofwork and stay permits issued for foreigners has been 604,215 for the year2005 and 695,979 for 2006 (IMEPO, 2008).In view of the above, in approaching the specific issue it appears reasonableto examine migration as a continuum of irregularity-regularity rather than tosimply measure people. As Maroukis has shown, what one may understand isthat estimates on the size of migration stock affect directly the discourse thatframes the migration landscape (Maroukis, 2008). The latter involves differentactors in it, with different roles, adapting numbers that support their ownagendas. “These agendas are organizational, sociopolitical and scientific, andare influenced by evolutions on the national, regional and international level”.Sometimes the same estimate can meet different goals; “a dramatizedestimate for example could serve both the Greek Police and Coastguard andthe part of academia that argues for migration-friendly policy reforms. For theformer it would mean justification for further EU support to the enforcementmechanisms and for the latter it would bring up in the discussion the need forchanges on the existing migration policies and the Greek economy as it isinterconnected with the political system”. Some agendas outweighs othersand the effects of that depends much on the political, social, economictimelines the various estimates are introduced (Maroukis, 2008).Maroukis undergoes an overview of the Greek case to show the evolution ofGreek migration framework, from the early nineties estimates of a half amillion illegal immigrants to around 250.000-205.000 during 2007. “Differentagendas have different readings to the same estimate. The agendas thoughset the pace to the debate- the numbers have a secondary impact”. He showsthat even if overall numbers of apprehensions and expulsions have decreasedfrom the early nineties, that should be read more as a cause of the newnationalities that are more likely to be apprehended and more difficult todeport and the regularization programs of the past years, and not a change inthe philosophy of the migration policy emphasized by the police-practice.
  • 4CENTERS ‘RECEPTION’ OR RATHER DETENTION/DEPORTATIONAs mentioned earlier, an excessive amount of immigrants attempt to cross theGreek borders on a daily basis during the last couple of years. These peoplenot only had to pay several thousands of Euros to those who organized theirillegal transport, but also, due to the complete lack of the appropriate support,are bound to face many difficulties at the frontier regions. Their arrest, most ofthe times, is forcible allowing no possibility to communicate with people whounderstand their language or people who will inform them about their rightsand their obligations, as there is no skilled stuff such as interpreters, legaladvisers or even sociologists.People who are intercepted while attempting to enter the country are led toinstitutions called Reception Centres where they were required to stay for aperiod up to three months. The recent presidential decree 81/2009 imposesdetention in Reception Centres for up to one year. It is apparent that undernew legislation people who have committed the crime of not having thenecessary documents are bound to experience close confinement andfreedom deprivation for a fairly long period (, Greek Council forRefugees). For this reason, the official term is usually changed to‘detention/deportation centres’ which appears more suitable to the characterof the specific institutions. It is beyond any doubt that this detention not onlyallows the authorities to check new-comers but also decelerates the processof their integration.Reception Centres rarely follow the standards that should fulfill. In most casesthe number of the detained immigrants is much higher than its actual capacity.As a result, these people live under extreme overcrowded conditions, whilethere have been complains about the standard of living which often is oftenpoor in basic amenities such as food, health care etc.It is important to note that, during their stay in the centers, new-comers haveno chance to work, to get education, even to facilitate the procedure leading totheir integration. The detention/deportation centers, are usually located infrontier regions or islands which are typically far from the large urban centersthat could offer them a diversity of integration opportunities.It is interesting to present a spatial depiction of Reception Centres. As isexpected, the centres tend to be located near the borders. The most importantones are the ones located in the islands of Samos, Lesvos and Hios as wellas the territory of Evros, near the Turkish border in north-eastern Greece.Apart from the above, there are also many informally established campswhere immigrants, apart for the overcrowded conditions they face, findthemselves being accommodated in unsuitable structures such as old,abandoned stores, amenity centres, prisons and police stations. Almost everyisland of eastern Aegean Sea, such as Leros, Patmos and Agathonisi, isequipped with an informal detention centre. The case of Agathonisi isexceptional as the island’s population is often smaller than that of immigrantsstationed there.One should also note the operation of reception centers for the minors suchas ones in Konitsa, near the city of Ioannina at the north-western border toAlbania, and in Anogia, Crete. The question that arises in relation to reception
  • centers for minors is whether there has been provision for family support forminors.Finally the only centre that actually operates as a reception centre is locatedin Lavrio, near the city of Athens. Still, although this centre has been inoperation for several decades and has catered for the needs of asylumseekers, there have been several complaints about the quality of livingconditions and especially legal support in view of the users’ need forintegration.As the influx of immigrants is growing, the government has announced itsintention to establish four new centers chiefly by transforming unused militarycamps. Two of these centers will be established in Athens and the island ofEvoia and the other two in Macedonia, in the north of Greece. The centers willbe guarded by policemen, but there are no further pronouncements if therewill be staffed with specialized personnel. Also, it is worth mentioning thataccording to declarations of the Ministry of Interior, these centers “will beserving as detention centers for the immigrants, until their deportation becomerealizable”. There are also plans for the operation of a ‘floating temporarydetention centre’, a boat which will be collecting the illegal immigrants of thesea and will transfer them to Athens, in view of the necessary procedures fortheir deportation. Although these measures will surely provide a solution to theproblem of overcrowded existing services, it will have to be paired byadditional supporting mechanisms to ensure a comprehensive immigrationpolicy for integration.
  • 5 ASYLUM FRAMEWORKIn order to set the contemporary scene of asylum in Greece one should startwith the Presidential Decree 81 issued in July 2009. This legal instrumentamends the previous Presidential Decree 90/2008 in respect to therequirements and procedures of granting and recalling the refugee status. Therefusal of participation and consequent withdrawal of the UN HighCommissioner from the consultation process on the discussion of PD 81/2009before it was issued reflects the harsh framework in which asylum seekersfind themselves when applying for asylum in Greece.According to PD 81/2009 procedures are decentralized to 50 police authoritiesthroughout the country equipped with insufficient infrastructure to houseasylum seekers and insufficient staff to support them. The committee ofrefugees that under preexisting legislative framework examined the cases at ahigher level is now substituted by the Ministry of Public Order, despite theEuropean legislation that requires applications to be examined by anindependent authority.The examination of asylum applications at the higher degree is of crucialimportance as out of 19,884 applicants in 2008, only 0.05% has been grantedrefugee status at the first degree and 10.29% at the second. It is important tonote however that before 2008 the latter percentage used to be 2%, therecent raise mainly being due to the pressure exerted on government officialsby NGOs.Still, a statement in the report of the three non-governmental organizations,Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), the Norwegian HelsinkiCommittee (NHC) and the Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) (2008), is indicativeof the current situation; “In our opinion the deficiencies in the Greek asylumprocess, documented through this report, entail that there is a discordbetween the preconditions on which the Dublin II Regulation was founded andprocedural practices followed in Greece. In our opinion the Greek systemdoes not guarantee even minimum basic legal protection for the asylumseekers... Based on our findings, we consider it evident that, at the timebeing, it is not safe to transfer asylum seekers to Greece in accordance withthe Dublin II Regulation. Member States have an independent responsibility toinitiate investigations and implement measures necessary to fulfillinternational human rights obligations”.A similar view has been expressed by UNHCR in the report on the ‘Positionon the Return of Asylum-Seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation’. Thelatter regulation is also part of the problem, though, as many reports state. Itintensely charges the countries in the European frontlines with themanagement of the everyday migration flows which in many cases have beengrowing rapidly. In 2007 for example Greece has registered more asylumseekers than Germany a country seven times its size. In the report “The truthmay be bitter but it must be told” (2007), by the Group of Lawyers for the Rightof Refuges and Migrants, the situations the immigrants encounter whenreaching the Greek territory are vividly described.Mixed migration flows of refuges and economic immigrants apprehended atthe borders face detention under inhuman conditions, with no access toasylum determination procedures and what follows in most cases isimmediate deportation. At first they are all regarded as aliens, using the Greek
  • term ‘lathrometanastes’ or illegal immigrants. Asylum seekers, victims oftorture, minors, people who are ill, pregnant women or other people needingprotection are all detained and deportation orders are issued.These flows practically remain mixed for all their detention period. That’s asituation that exists actually in many aspects of the interaction of theimmigrants with the Greek authorities that follows their movement in thecountry. This is mainly due to the tedious time-consuming procedures thatmay last for more than a year. It’s actually due to the lack of specialized staffat the borders that most of the applicants must lodge their application forasylum to a local police station within 3 months after their entry. Mostapplications register with the Attica Police Asylum Department in Athens(about 95%). The latter, as the main way for immigrants to get the so calledPink Card which confers no rights beyond that of them not being deported,cannot compete with the large numbers of applicants. Until today the threemain stages of this dysfunctional asylum system - appointment, interview,examination of cases, i.e. 1st and 2nd degree, until recently, notification ofdecision - take too much time and this is often unbearable for the applicant ashe/she becomes vulnerable for organized crime. A sizeable amount ofapplicants give up the procedure, having already wasted money and time, notto mention psychological issues) thus deciding to remain illegal, to work in themarginal economy, and to raise money in order to seek for asylum in anothercountry.
  • 6 IMMIGRANTS AND THE GREEK HOUSING MARKET As, in the absence of a coherent housing provision framework, the integrationof immigrants is related to the affordability pattern allowed by the Greekhousing market in which the availability of low-cost existing housing stock is ofcrucial importance. As a result, the majority of immigrant new-comers tend totake advantage of the obsolete urban housing stock in either a permanent ora temporary manner. Adverse housing conditions hinder immigrants’ accessto employment, education and other public services and act unfavorably inrespect to their aptitude of ameliorating their living standard. At present, itforces immigrants to become even more vulnerable to the current economiccrisis and surely to adopt an active stance in current Greek society.The Greek housing system is not based on a comprehensive housing policybut on a mixture of fragmented policies. Most efforts to provide affordablesolutions to housing so far, like the lowest guaranteed rent threshold, haveended in reproducing inequalities. In most cases immigrants are left to facethe privately rented housing sector unprotected and are bound to come acrossincreased property prices. The decision to buy a house for those who canafford it is greatly influenced by the difficulty to achieve long-term legalresidence in the country.Since the turn of the century, the situation has somehow changed. Immigrantswho work and pay taxes in Greece acquired similar rights as Greek citizens.Additionally, they can benefit from the housing program of the Organization ofLabor Housing (OEK) as long as they fulfill certain requirements. Thusimmigrants have the opportunity to benefit from it by receiving a monthly rentsubsidy or by acquiring a flat in public housing estates through lottery just asGreek beneficiaries do. It was no sooner than 2006 that the first Albanianscitizens who established the minimum required working record in Greecedespite working legally since 1998, managed to receive a housing loan.With reference to the Greek housing market, it should be mentioned that thereis evidence that although immigrants tend to concentrate in specific urbanareas, where buildings are older and prices are lower, these concentrationsare not formed in isolated areas and thus do not have the character of aghetto. As it has been argued, immigration does not alter the traditionalpattern of a city composed by large socially mixed areas (Leontidou, 1997),but it is connected to the increase of social and housing inequalities, thesocial differentiation of access to home ownership holding a key role in thisparticular context (Kandylis & Maloutas, 2009). In the case of Athens, evendistricts with an increased immigrant population are not systematicallysegregated by natives, partly because of the vertical social segregationpattern of living in which the poorest tend to dwell in the lower levels of thebuildings (Leontidou, 1990; Maloutas and Karadimitriou, 2001; Arapoglou,2006; Maloutas, 2007).On the other hand, despite the lack of systematic segregation, the smoothintegration of immigrants in the Greek society is seldom achieved. Inadequatehousing conditions, fragmented migration policies, high population densitiesand especially intolerance of natives in respect to foreigners are some of thebasic issues that hinder integration. What seems most important is that theabove questions generate additional difficulties which relate both toimmigrants as well as to the native population. For instance, health issues
  • have emerged among new-comers due to their conditions of accommodation.In areas with sizeable amounts of immigrants, land values decreasedramatically and residents blame foreigners for this. The combination of theabove paired with the increasing incidents of violence and illegal activityamong immigrants, has led to the escalation of racism. Sometimes theauthorities, mainly the police, contribute to the enhancement of thisphenomenon. A specific example is when a policeman in Athens destroyed acopy of the Koran which was held by a Muslim immigrant leading to themobilization of the immigrant community followed by growing disenchantmentfrom the part of the indigenous population of the petty-bourgeoisneighborhood of Agios Panteleimonas in Athens in June 2009. Similaraggressive incidents refer to the case of hunger strike of 580 users of theSamos services in view of their transport to the Evros Reception Center, thereaction against Muslims who ask for the construction of a mosque in Athens,antiracist demonstrations met with hostility etc.
  • 7 HOUSING ACCOMMODATION PATTERNS FOR IMMIGRANTSIn order to arrive at comprehensive way of monitoring, mapping andevaluating housing conditions of immigrants, it is necessary to approach themanner in which the specific social group is currently accommodated inGreece. More specifically, based on conceptual categories of ETHOStypology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion, an operationalclassification is formulated by focusing on immigrants and the manner inwhich they cope with their housing problems. According to the ETHOStypology there are three domains that constitute a “home”: the physical, thesocial and the legal domain. These domains lead to the four conceptualcategories; Rooflessness, Houselessness, Insecure Housing and InadequateHousing.Specifying these categories in a way that they are precisely adapted to theimmigration issue, it becomes explicit that there is a wide range of homelessimmigrants. As it will be ascertained, the state of homelessness of animmigrant in Greece is related directly to his country of origin and of course tohis/her occupation, or the lack of it.Roofless immigrants are those who face the most adverse conditions and areexposed to the greatest danger. They usually live in streets or public, openspaces such as squares and especially the most centrally located squares ofthe two main urban centers, Athens and Thessaloniki. They sometimes makeuse of overnight shelters for urgent cases.These people, who are completely deprived of the material notion of a ‘home’,find themselves in this situation because of extreme poverty, complete lack ofincome and difficulty in finding a job. The countries of origin of Rooflessimmigrants are not usually European but generally Asian or African and sufferfrom poverty and/or war. These people face the greatest difficulty ofintegration as their social, cultural and housing problems are often paired withother personal reasons such as psychiatric disease, physical disability,complete lack of basic education etc.The next category relates to Houseless immigrants who stay in temporaryaccommodation shelters. Although this form of accommodation is not yet fullydeveloped in Greece, neither for Greeks nor for aliens, while many of theexisting shelters do not offer beds to non-Greeks, there exist a number ofservices which cater for the needs of immigrants. Such shelters are usuallyrelated to the Catholic Church or other charity organizations.However, besides these centers there are also hostels for houselessimmigrants and refugees, not necessarily state-run. The existence of thesehostels, as well as special temporary housing programs (in apartments thatare rented by the NGOs with European backing) comes from the remarkableaction of NGOs for immigrants and refugees. Still, these efforts do not provideconcrete solutions to housing problems but a more general support forfamilies, people in need of nursing, minors etc. It becomes obvious, that theperiod of stay in these hostels or apartments, is intended to be short term anddoes not usually include long-term support.A special category of temporary accommodation institutions are the nearly tenReception centers for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers organized
  • and run by statutory or voluntary bodies. As there have been many complaintsabout the low living standards as well as the absence of follow-upmechanisms after users leave, it has become apparent that the expressionthat qualifies in a more appropriate manner the character of these institutionsis that of a ‘detention centre’.Still, it must be noted that a multitude of voluntary sector organizations, suchas the Red Cross, the Doctors of the World, the Greek Institute of Solidarityand Cooperation, the Centre of Social Solidarity in Thessaloniki along with theGreek Council for Refugees operate services which usually combinetemporary accommodation with psychosocial support for immigrants andasylum seekers.What follows, is a reference to people living under insecure conditions beingdeprived of the legal domain of a “home”. The first case concerns people whotemporarily live with family or friends. This case is common among organizedimmigrant communities, such as Filipinos, Albanians and Poles, who havebeen in Greece for several decades. Recently, forced cohabitation is alsopracticed by members of other ethnic communities such as Nigerians, nearEast Asians etc. It is also noted that, immigrants, usually Afghanis, Pakistanisand Africans, use to rent small apartments in groups of 20-30, mostly men,and use them in shifts in order to share the rent. These people live in extremeover-crowded conditions well below the accepted floor-space standards andare often susceptible to problems of hygiene.A special mention is due to the phenomenon of illegal sub-tenancy such asthe illegal occupation of privately owned or state-run abandoned dwellings byhouseless immigrants. In some cases, the squatter occupies the place notonly for his/her exclusive use, but also as an opportunity for income, as herents the place that he does not own to others.3 This conceptual category alsoincludes the case of being accommodated in one’s place of work, such as ashop, a garage, a gas station etc. This temporary solution to immigrants’housing problem is widely practiced by women who work as house-keepers,governesses or nurses and spend the night in the house of the family theywork for, as they dont have enough income to rent their own flat. This kind ofobligatory cohabitation mostly concerns women from Bulgaria, Ukraine,Georgia and Philippines.The last conceptual category of the ETHOS typology relates to people livingunder inadequate conditions. This category includes people living intemporary, non-conventional structures such as caravans, containers,makeshift camps, off-hand huts etc. These cases mostly occur in thecountryside, although the case of the camp in the port of Patras isnoteworthy.4 This category also includes the case of Asians working in thestrawberry fields in Manolada, Peloponnese, who stay in tents as well as thecase of people, usually Indians, Afghanis and Albanians living in stables andwinter gardens. One should also mention the special case of Egyptians, whowork and sleep in fishing boats, working as fishermen.The above cases expose the serious housing problems that immigrants haveto face during their stay in Greece. Despite the fact that the overall state ofaffairs and especially the current economic crisis are affecting the different3 A typical example of this case in Greece is the case of the occupation of the old Court of Appealsbuilding which is no longer in use, next to Omonoia Square in Athens, by immigrants mostly of Africanorigin. The building was violently evacuated by the police in early August 2009. Since then, it isguarded. It is important to note that more than 50 centrally located obsolete buildings in Athens,which were occupied by immigrants, have been evacuated by the police in July and August 2009.4 The makeshift camp next to the Port of Patras was evacuated in July 2009. Seventy-four immigrantswere forced to live the dwelling they used for more than a year without any special provision abouttheir future.
  • categories of immigrants in a varying way, it is evident those who have notmanaged to secure their conditions of stay are the most vulnerable and hencesusceptible to risk complete detachment from both the housing and the labormarket. In their attempt to stay in the country, they are expected to be inclinedto accept unregistered employment at lower rates and even to be involved innetworks of clandestine character such as trafficking, exploitation of childrenetc.
  • 8 PROPOSALS – RECOMMENDATIONSMigration typically involves different actors with different agendas whosediscourse functions on diverse rules, priorities and criteria, ideologies,strategies. As developments in 2009 have shown, porous Greek borders haveallowed growing migration flows to accentuate the inconsistencies of thetroubled Greek social structure and to produce unanticipated aggressionbetween natives and foreigners. At this stage it is important for the actorsinvolved to collaborate in the developing landscape of the forthcomingStockholm Program, which will introduce a five year procedure on Europeanjudicial matters and home affairs. Realistic specific steps should be taken sothat Greece copes with the impact of growing immigration.There are three basic levels of action, each with different timelines,procedures and a combination of actors and authorities, NGOs, academicsociety, as well as immigrant and local population. Migration policy shouldstop being a police issue and allow the ground to be available for all theabove actors to act. It is important to note that the involvement of all actorsmentioned takes time, yet it is of crucial significance as it completely changesthe approach to the issue, from narrow-minded to holistic.1. The first body of recommendations comprises short-term measures.The essential prerequisite is the development of a well-organized system ofappropriate reception institutions. In essence, these structures should includethe processes of detection and categorization, the records of illegal entriesand the transportation of new-comers to the relevant agencies, such asreception centers, etc. On the other hand, the operation of the receptioncenters must undergo a number of elementary modifications. It is essential,that reception centers not only provide the necessary living standards but alsothat they are equipped with specialized staff that will inform, provide legalservices and support immigrants in their struggle to become integrated in theGreek society.Another most important point has to do with the asylum framework and thepart that repression mechanisms, such as the police force, play in it. It hasbecome apparent that policemen are not the proper people to admit andelaborate the asylum requests. On the contrary, the examination of each caseof asylum seeker must be the object of specialized staff of interviewers andinterpreters and interviewers who will be able to provide a more rationalapproach. During this procedure, priority should be given to minors seekingasylum.The essential aim is that structural alterations will lead to a systematicreception procedure. This whole structure should be materialized through anad-hoc planning system for each territory concerned with the cooperation oflocal authorities in order to assure appropriate domestic solutions.
  • 2. The second body of recommendations pertains to a more fundamentalrevision in view of the need to set the structures of a coherent migrationpolicy.In order to arrive at the needed strategy, Greek policy-makers shouldformulate a think tank involving all actors of the migration agenda and askthem to participate towards the reform of the current legal framework.Immigrants of course must play an important role in this. Political, economicand social needs should be met. The overall strategy must lead to specificpolicies and measures that will have to be formulated in a clear manner andunderstood by all participants. A few of the proposed priority fields that needto be addressed are urban domestic current problems, informal economy,xenophobic social reflexes, education, second generation immigrants,organized crime etc.Immigrants in turn are expected to use their informal networks not to illegallytransfer their people but to thoroughly inform and advice them so that theyknow how to use the opportunities that arise for them. This social capital willbe concerned as a source for hybrid investments.3. The third level of intervention transcends national policies and operates at aEuropean level. National policies have European and internationalconnections. Greece should be adequately prepared to link its currentsituation properly and participate to the discourse that will form the Europeanmigration framework. Just asking for funds to operate FRONTEX-likemeasures does not solve the problem. It is obvious that a morecomprehensive migration plan that will involve all European member statesalike will address the issue properly.
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  • BIBLIOGRAPHYElspeth Guild and Sergio Carrera, (2008) The French Presidencys EuropeanPact on Immigration and Asylum, CEPS Policy Brief, no. 170IMEPO, (2008), ‘Estimate of the multitude of immigrants who stay illegally inGreece’, Institute of Migration Policy, April 2008, AthensKandylis G., Maloutas T., (forthcoming 2009), Housing systems, affordabilityand immigration in Greek cities, UrbanisticaLeontidou, L. (1997) “Five narratives of the Mediterranean City” in R. King, L.Proudfoot, B. Smith (eds.) The Mediterranean: Environment and Society,London: Arnold.Maroukis T., (2008), Undocumented Migration Counting the Uncountable.Data and Trends across EuropeNorwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), the Norwegian HelsinkiCommittee (NHC), and Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), (2007) A Gamble withthe Right to Asylum in Europe: Greek asylum policy and the Dublin IIRegulation, Oslo and Athens: Norwegian Helsinki CommitteeTriandafyllidou A., (2009), Attempting the Impossible? The Prospects andLimits of Mobility Partnerships and Circular MigrationUNHCR, (2007), Position on the Return of Asylum-Seekers to Greece underthe Dublin University of Thessaly Ministry of Interior Directorate General of Justiceand Home Affairs