Symposium: «Modern migration in Greece» 11/12/2017

The first round of seminars on migration management was completed with the Special Event: “Recent Immigration in Greece”

“It is important to identify people crossing European territory as well as identify vulnerable groups, such as minors, pregnant or heavy mental illness cases, for their subsequent treatment and for the safety of the hot spot.” This was stated, by the Head of the First Reception Center (KYT) of Kos, Ms Maria Kritikou, at the Special Seminar entitled “Modern Migration in Greece” in the framework of the Educational Seminar “European Management of Migration in the Eastern Mediterranean” which was held on the 11th of December 2017 at the office of the European Parliament in Athens. The event was co-ordinated by Antonis Kontis, Professor of the University of Athens and Director of the Laboratory for the Study of Migration and Diaspora.

Ms. Maria Kritikou shared her experience through the daily hotspot of the island. The purpose of the First Reception Centers is to manage mixed refugee and migration flows, while the procedures followed before and after refugees arrive thus, First Reception Centers are of great importance of the identification procedure. Ms Kritikou described the contribution of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Police and Frontex throughout this process as determinant.

Next speaker, Ms Geli Aroni, Coordinator of the Department of Management, Coordination and Monitoring of the Refugee Education Team of the Hellenic Ministry of Education stated that “In order to educate refugees we must also educate Greeks”. Ms. Aroni also referred to the misconception that exists in Greek society that all underaged refugees are a cohesive group, with more or less common characteristics. In fact, the refugee population is very heterogeneous and many different ethnicities, different educational backgrounds and cultural backgrounds can be met. Ms. Aroni proceeded by presented her work at the Ministry of Education and the difficulties she encountered in practice. A key point in Ms. Aroni’s speech was the presentation of the hierarchical goals of the Refugee Education Coordination teams: the primary goal of integrating children into Greek school is to restore some kind of regularity into their lives. Then comes their education and their performance. The problem, as she pointed out was twofold: on the one hand, refugee parents had to be persuaded that their children had to attend school in Greece, when the majority of these families did not want to stay in the country – on the other hand, Greek parents had to be persuaded, but in many cases also the teachers themselves were concerned about the right of children to education.

Ms Alexandra Tragaki, Associate Professor at Harokopio University, in her presentation talked about the way migration can be used as a demographic policy tool. Although 20th century has been marked by rapid population growth, after the 1970s data seems to be reversing. As the decline in fertility, coupled with an increase in life expectancy, have created a major demographic problem in Europe, and have also led to population aging, a situation which seems to be irreversible. The new demographic reality, therefore, creates the need for new ways of dealing with challenges. As Ms Tragaki pointed out, by 2050, not only will Europe’s population have shrunk, but it will also be marked by strong geographical divergences with Southern and Eastern Europe facing major demographic problems from Northern and Western Europe. Referring to Greece, the Professor pointed out the extremely low fertility rates and the strong tendency for the population to shrink. She then identified three demographic factors that could play a decisive role in changing the proportion of age groups: fertility, mortality and immigration.

Mr. Vassilis Papadopoulos, Coordinator of the Legal Service of the Greek Council for Refugees and an expert on immigration law referred to the first experience that Greece experienced with the refugee in 1920, which shaped the modern form of the Greek state. But “in 2015, the refugee crisis shook Europe and shook its legislative pillars.”

He then referred to the various immigration flows that Greece received in the 1980s and 1990s and their legalization waves, and then mentioned the mixed migration flows since 2004. Mr Papadopoulos pointed out that the EU must continue to handle the issue with respect for European values ​​and human rights, while insisting on the criticality of managing irregular migrants who fall – usually – into economic exploitation and the need to gain access in all social protection structures. Finally, he pointed out that there are three challenges for future management: the need to provide social protection to the migrant population, the management of illegal immigrants and the management of refugees.

Mr Nikitas Kanakis, Head of the Doctors of the World, criticized the European Union’s stance on the problem of managing the refugee crisis, assessing its actions such as the Europe-Turkey Agreement as attempts to renounce its responsibilities in the face of the problem. the main conclusion to the peek of the refugee crisis in 2015 was that it was met with some success, but by the actions of Civil Society and its organizations, and less so by the state and the official structures. And, despite his relative satisfaction with the reception of the streams, he finds the plan from now on to be particularly problematic and inadequate. With regard to the issues of the permanent establishment and integration of newcomers into European societies, Greece and the EU seem to be unprepared. As measures to improve the situation with regard to migration and population movements Mr Kanakis suggested: conducting a public debate that will then conclude on specific policies, ensuring access to health for all, and finally the introduction of state rules that treat all people equally.

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