Drawing upon my experience working with both migrants and refugees for SEPAL project, I made connections and inferences and gained an insight into the issues regarding the social and professional inclusion that migrants deal with and into the institutional environment within which this takes place.
Migration is not a new phenomenon, neither for Europe, nor for the entire world. There are various types of definitions that have been used to describe “migration”, but in a nutshell, it refers to people whoopt to migrate in quest for a better life in the future.
Greece is the ideal destination country, due to its geographical location, terrain morphology and the inability of the state to effectively control the borders. It can also be a stopover before the final destination country. The vacancies in manual and / or agricultural jobs and the black market may temporarily resolve the issue of livelihood for those with no resources at all.
Migrants coming to Greece in many cases deal with racism, social exclusion, big delays in issuing or lack of residence permit, integration barriers, language barrier, difficulty in finding housing and health services.
Actually, the social integration of migrants is paramount to social cohesion, to Greece’s economic recovery, as it might provide a solution to the demographic problem.
Regarding the current situation in Greece, it should first be emphasised that the smooth and effective access of migrants to the labour market is offset by the difficult and demanding legalization process. On the one hand, immigrants in Greece show inversely proportional unemployment rates compared to that of the natives. On the other hand, the three legislative efforts made to legalise migrants, together with the partial revision of Law 3536/2007, did not yet yield the expected results because both laws are full of legislative voids and contradictions. The formal transposition of the directives was achieved through Law 3386/2005, but, in essence, the possibilities provided for, in these two Community texts, remain inactive, as a set of formal and substantive conditions do not allow eligibility, which may be considered only in exceptional circumstances.
The social integration is to a large extent in the responsibility of the host country which sets the institutional framework for migrant inflows. Of course, the policies and strategies of the host country that lead to social integration of immigrants are a function of the level of social and political organisation of the system of social values, cultural standards and ideological perceptions of their place in the world system (Kasimati, 2009).
In Greece, the main channel of social integration is the migrants’ employment inclusion. In particular, if immigration is legal, then migrants usually have insurance coverage and to some extent may claim their employment rights. The longer they stay in our country, the better the immigrants adapt to the labor market, because they get to know the working environment and may develop communication networks. As a matter of fact, Greece has not yet developed a sustainable immigration policy.
Greek immigration policy appears as a reaction to events, rather than as a guiding force. It is limited to a fragmented effort to solve problems that have already been consolidated in the Greek society. Greece needs to take some substantial steps to tackle the phenomenon of migration, adopting a modern and more effective management strategy. The need for a more integrated and consistent effort of inclusion policies is considered imperative (Schnapper & Taylor, 2008). What Greece currently needs is an active immigration policy which will provide and give directions for the entry of immigrants in Greece, in coordination with the wider European policy on this issue.
Greece may play a pivotal role in shaping an immigration policy, due to its key location. It may become an emerging regional power, competing within the international economy context. It is therefore indispensable to ensure that the country’s needs are met as fully as possible, which implies and necessitates the promotion of a democratic and pluralistic society, that corresponds to the multicultural community, which is being established by all Europeans for a united Europe (Triantafilidou, 2005).
- Κassimati, K. (2009). The origin of the immigrant women and their integration in Greek society. Social Cohesion and Development, 4 (1), 7-25
- Schnapper, D. and Taylor, J., 2008. Providential democracy. New York: Routledge
- Triantafilidou, A., (2005). Greek immigration policy: Problems involved and directions. Athens: Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign policy