An immigration crackdown in Greece

By Christopher Harper

Having spent the past few days roaming around Greece, I find it amazing that the U.S. press hasn’t picked up on the crackdown on immigrants.

The Greek government has adopted a policy to “shut the door” on migrants not entitled to stay — a hardening of its stance amid a new surge in arrivals.

That would be from a country that often tilts toward the left side of the political spectrum.

Simply put, recent elections tossed out the old leader as citizens got tired of the immigration crisis in the country.

“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Parliament. “Those who are not welcome will be returned. We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter even though they are not entitled to asylum.”

Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16.

In speaking with some local residents, citizens are unhappy that the refugees often have no desire to participate in the country’s social life, including keeping their children out of school. Few are trying to learn Greek.

“Greece has its strengths, but it is not an unfenced vineyard,” Mitsotakis said recently, using a Greek expression meaning the country is not open to anyone. “Those days are gone.”

Moreover, Mitsotakis’ government said it wants to move up to 20,000 asylum seekers out of sprawling island camps and onto the mainland by the end of the year and expects that new facilities will be ready by July 2020.

Medecins Sans Frontieres has raised concerns over the new centers, arguing that the new facilities would amount to detention centers. Human rights groups have also criticized a new framework for speeding up the processing of asylum requests as a “rushed” attempt that would impede access to a fair asylum process for refugees.

Separately, officials in neighboring North Macedonia said a police patrol detained a group of 33 migrants found walking through the southern part of the country, near its border with Greece. Police said the group consisted of 21 Afghan nationals, seven Pakistanis, three Iraqis, and two Iranians.

Although the Balkan route followed by migrants trying to reach Europe’s prosperous heartland has been closed since 2016, thousands still use it. They usually pay large sums to smuggling gangs to illegally get them through the closed borders.

Sound familiar?