Afghanistan: Illegal Migrants Adapt to Hardships in Greece
As it struggles to cope with debt woes, Greece is also is burdened by an illegal migrant dilemma.
In recent years Greece has served as the entry point for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants, who mainly come from Afghanistan and northern Africa, and arrive via Turkey. The Greek government has long lacked the political will to systematically address the illegal immigration issue, and the debt crisis has deprived officials of the financial means to create a regulatory framework. As a result, thousands of asylum seekers are left to fend for themselves, squatting in parks and abandoned buildings in cities across the country.
An especially large cluster of asylum seekers can be found in Patras, a large port city in the northern Peloponnesus. The city is a gateway for shipping traffic to Italy, and dozens of asylum seekers try to stow away daily in containers destined for Italian ports and beyond. The chances of evading Italian immigration and customs authorities are slim, but that doesn’t daunt the prospective stowaways. Some illegal migrants in Patras have been trying for as long as three years to move on to other parts of Europe.
European Union regulations stipulate that an illegal migrant caught in a member state should be returned to the EU country in which the migrant entered EU territory. Thus, many illegals who are detained elsewhere in the EU have been returned to Greece. Since the start of 2011, however, six member states – Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Finland and Denmark – have stopped sending illegal migrants back to Greece due to the latter’s economic troubles.
Having grown up amid constant strife, Afghans refugees in Greece are accustomed to uncertainty and are adapting to changing conditions. One group of about 40 illegal migrants in Patras, for example, has established a semi-permanent settlement next to a highway, tapping into the local supply system in order to provide the camp with running water. Some report that they have been able to earn money by doing odd jobs for local residents. But they are bracing for tougher times, as the Greek economic crisis deepens.
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