Migrant Life in Greece During the Economic Crisis



For a long time Greece has been a country of emigration. Despite the ongoing economic downturn of recent years the country has turned into a host country for many migrants from Africa and Asia mainly as a gateway illegally, into the EU. Consequently, this migratory movement in this country has attracted a lot of academic interest as the issue is of vast importance to not only the EU but also the Greek government , Greek society and migrants alike. The aim of this work is to provide an in depth view of migrant life in Greece at present both through their eyes and from the perspective of the people their presence impacts upon. Migration to Greece through Turkey, especially has exploded recently and this thesis will explore the reasons migrants have ended up in Greece whilst in transit further west or the reasons they end up settling there and how the current economic climate of Greece itself is directly affecting migrant lives. It will investigate how much the migrants integrate into Greek culture or the extent of the formation of their own social networks within the country and whether this integration or lack thereof affects the air of xenophobia seemingly increasing as of late. Moreover , it will investigate how the Greek government is handling the issue , the related animosity from either side and the positive and negative aspects the migrants have on Greek society both in the immediate area and on a larger scale both economically and socially.

Literature view

The collection and review of relevant literature went on throughout course of the project and included both empirical and theoretical texts. As far as the former are concerned we reviewed the recent literature on the European emigration at times of crisis as well as academic texts which deal with issue of emigration and economic crises more broadly. A person occupying another country for over a year is defined as a long-term migrant by the EU, and a short-term migrant over three months but under a year (UN DESA 1998) with a clear distinction from tourism but the ultimate intentions of that movement of individuals may be unclear or may even evolve with time and give rise to the use of other definitions of migration as can be seen with seasonal migration. A major factor influencing human societies is that of migration and an ever increasing amount of investigation and analysis into this issue and the effects of it. It is by no means a new phenomenon with many large scale movements of people in history but especially with the improved ease of movement we definitely can recognize this time as the ‘age of migration’ (Castles & Miller, 2009) with some researchers citing that migration never ceases to finish (Schapendonk, 2011). One characteristic of modern day migration is that of ‘irregular migration’ or ‘illegal migrants’ as peoples movements infringe upon host countries laws but the latter term reinforces the criminal nature of the act .Such activity can be seen in a major way in the area the Greek-Turkish borders where there exists a significant portal of entry into Europe (Schapendonk, 2011). Whether the migration process stops for individuals depends on the conditions of life the migrants find. It can be seen in the current literature, that investigations into migration highlight the effect that migration has but not the actual migration mechanism (Karczemski & Boer, 2010). Furthermore, there exists numerous theories concerning migration internationally and contemporary research tends towards a multidisciplinary angle (Castles & Miller, 2009) but there is a large proportion of analysis focusing on how social migrant networks integrate into migration and what part they play (Schapendonk, 2011; Koser & Pinkerton, 2002; Spittel, 1998). Academics define these networks as “sets of interpersonal ties that connect migrants, former migrants, and non-migrants in origin and destination areas through ties of kinship, friendship, and shared community origin” (Gelderblom & Adams, 227: 2006). The way in which migration is looked at has changed as Khalid Koser, a Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution says, ” We used to think of migration as a human security issue: protecting people and providing assistance. Now we clearly perceive-or misperceive-migration as a national security issue. And the risk of securitizing migration is that you risk legitimizing extraordinary responses.” Furthermore the problem can be compounded by the demographic nature involved with the migration as former CFR Senior Fellow Charles Kupchan explains, “The backdrop to this [migrant crisis] is the difficulty that many European countries have in integrating minorities into the social mainstream. Many of these immigrants are coming from Muslim countries, and the relationship between immigrant Muslim communities and the majority populations is not good.” Kupchan also goes on to highlight the fact that geographically this problem has other factors involved too, “Europe has historically embraced more ethnic than civic approaches to nationhood, unlike the United States, and that is part of the reason immigration is proving so difficult.” Francesc Ortega, a professor of economics in New York conducted an investigation in 2013 into European migration and concluded that it is driven by financial needs and irregular migration is a product of poverty, “The migratory pressures to Europe are something that’s not going to go away….and the truth is there are very limited legal pathways to migrate to Europe. . . . Those two facts combined make smuggling very profitable.” The pursuit for monetary reward by migrants does put pressure on the host nation as can be seen specifically with Greece as the number of jobs and the income has reduced for Greeks everywhere. Animosity towards migrants in Greece is on the rise and according to Anna Triandafyllidou, “attention to immigration as a growing threat to the cohesion of modern Greek society.” In fact, racism is on the rise in society and politically with support for immigration constantly on the decline ( http://www.eliamep.gr/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/MIDAS-Policy-Paper-EN.pdf). From my opinion,The integration of immigrants appears to be a complex, multifaceted and contradictory process, touching several aspects of contemporary Greek society: politics and policy, economy and the labour market, geography and space, education and culture. Despite the exclusionary mechanisms that are still in place, immigrants do make a living in the host country and gradually become organic elements, turning Greece into a multicultural society.

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Outline of the chapters

Currently the thesis consists of seven chapters. Chapter 1 will serve as an introduction to the issue and present the aim of the research and the significance of the topic in a contemporary sphere. The second chapter will look at the current policies of both the EU and the Greek government concerning irregular migration and will look at Greek migration elsewhere in the globe. Chapter 3 will focus on the entry point to the EU via the Greek-Turkish border and look at the reasons they are found to be there at that moment and what the conditions are like at these holding centers. It will feature points of view from both Greek citizens and migrants. It will include a number of  interviews from both sides. Chapter 4 moves on to look at the migrants life-legal and illegal- in the period after the holding centers in various regions and snapshots of their lives as well as their hopes and desires for the future. It will pay particular attention to any racism and antimigrant feeling experienced by those interviewed. Chapter 5 will explore the social networks of the migrants in Greece and how they have developed and to what extent they have improved their lives. The sixth and final chapter will present the conclusions and suggest further areas of investigation including suggestions on political alterations to migrant policy specifically dealing with the Greek legislation.


The methodology that I  will  use for this research  will be  a combination of a quantitative and qualitative  approach, using interviews and statistics around the migrant and immigrant  crisis in Greek life and in EU in general. It will include a field research also in some areas of Greece where they have refugees hotspots. I will interview a number of refugees and Greek citizens comparing their opinions. This sort of research tries to offer responses to inquiries like “how” or “why”. Furthermore I will include the political approaches of realism and feminism and liberalism. Also, my research will be exploratory and I will use the empirical method. Finally, it will conclude the foreign policies of Greece around immigration through the years.

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Regarding the bibliography, the paper will be construct both in light of essential and secondary sources. At first it will include official archives from the EU and the UNHCR, (2012), Text of Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs ,European Union Council’s decisions for the refugee crisis. Concerning the derivative sources, they will principally include scholastic interviews from refugees and Greek citizens in the areas of Greece, Local and international press coverage regarding the refugee crisis in Greece and in Europe (The Independent, BBC,Guardian,To Vima, Kathimerini ) some of them are listed below:

Castles, S. & Miller, J. (2009), The Age of Migration. New York: Palgrave McMillan

Karczemski, M & Boer, A. (2010) Post-Accession Migration: Polish migrants moving from Poland to The Hague, Radboud University, Nijmegen

Koser, K. & Pinkerton, C., (2002) The Social Networks of Asylum Seekers and the dissemination of information about countries of Asylum, Migration Research Unit, University College London

Schapendonk, J. (2011), Turbulent Trajectories. Sub-Saharan African Migrants Heading North, Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen

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