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Greek Immigration Policy at the Turn of the 21st Century. Lack of Political Will or Purposeful Mismanagement?

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This article traces the development of Greek immigration policy during the last two decades with a view to explaining the role that parties, trade unions and other actors including the Church for instance have played in shaping this policy. The article outlines the reactive and piecemeal character of the policy, its important weakness in dealing effectively with immigration flows and the excessive red tape that characterises it. It is noted that nearly 20 years after the first migrants arrived in the country, Greek immigration policy remains short-sighted, dealing with immigration as a necessary evil and not as an opportunity. This lack of vision and the closed character of the policy has been supported directly or indirectly by both parties and trade unions. The two major parties have been until recently largely agreed in their exclusionary views towards immigrants. It is only since 2004 that the Socialist party has changed its plans but it remains uncertain whether and how it would implement its radical (by Greek standards) pro-immigrant policies if it came to power. Overall, Greek political elites lack the political will to adopt a proactive and realistic migration policy plan. This is partly because migration neither wins nor loses national elections. And partly because they fear that stating publicly that Greece should accept economic immigrants through legal channels and that immigrants should become part of Greek society on a basis of equality and plurality would cost them votes.

Affiliations: 1: ELIAMEP and Democritus University of Thrace, Greece


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