“Counting the Uncountable” – Research on “Undocumented Immigration” numbers across the EU and some data on the Greek case
Posted by clandestina on 28 April 2009
The EU needs, in its own projects’* wording, to “count the uncountable”, the number, that is, of the immigrants it forces into clandestine status. This is obviously needed by the various EU and foreign policy “think tanks” which are expected to propose ways for further consolidating the Fortress Europe Appartheid and the management of the “invisible” ones. According to a “Kathimerini article” (in Greek) , referring to a piece of research on “undocumented migration” in Greece (click here for the paper’s English version – pdf) from the project linked above, the number of undocumented immigrants in Greece is roughly 200.000. This counting, of course, is deemed to be always a substantial underestimate, given that legal status in Greece is a provisional status – people are time and again made illegal until re-documented otherwise, so to speak , and the general sentiment is that of high or extreme legal precarity. The country report paper to which we link above offers much quantitative data and also speaks of the following shift in Greek state discourses (the “politics” of those numbers):
In the 1990s, the depiction of a Greece suffering from large numbers of illegal migrants was instantly translated into the need for ‘skoupa’ (sweep) operations aimed to ‘clean’ the country of ‘potential criminals’ and ethnically different groups and thus acquiesce the Greek voters’ fears of immigration whilst showing to its Balkan neighbours who is the leading power in the region ** […]. Nowadays representing Greece as the receiver of massive waves of illegal migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa has a different target audience: the EU and Turkey. The accumulated effect of regularization, EU accession of Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, the improved relations with a developing Albania have shifted the focus away from a strategy of fending off its border from within and towards cooperation with neigbouring countries (sending or transit). EU dedicating more funds towards blocking irregular migration from reaching its shores (the creation of FRONTEX for example), and the issue of Turkey’s EU accession have further changed the irregular migration debate within Greece. Attracting the attention and the funds of the European Commission has been the main strategy of Greek politics with regard to the phenomenon of irregular migration. The message Greek politicians want to pass across is that Greece cannot afford to pay for the growing needs of its own, and simultaneously EU, border management costs […]
… , a point which is of course later in the text counter-balanced in the language of research pseudo-neutrality. Of course, we do not endorse this kind of attitude towards the calculative murdering of immigrants by the Greek state.
This also applies to some other data from the project’s research (info from the “Kathimerini” article) which suggest that the main problem of immigrants in Greece is the issue of residence permit and the cost of renewing it. In a case study, a researcher described the average situation as follows: with an average age of 38 years, immigrants are mostly secondary education graduates and live in Greece 15 years on average. They have no knowledge of the Greek language classes available (which anyway can receive only a very low number of people) and have learned in the street to speak Greek adequately. They do not know how to write in Greek and have to resort to intermediaries each time they have to deal with the administration.
Other researchers point our that a risk legal immigrants face is the relapse into illegality. More than half of the immigrant population is employed in construction and tourist industries which are mostly affected by the economic crisis. The construction sector activity has fallen by 40%, while the respective rates for tourism are expected to decrease by 20% to 30%. The falling rates of employment are expected to fuel tensions between unskilled Greeks and foreigners. At the same time, they are expected to reinforce the phenomenon of xenophobia, discrimination and deportations without reactions from the public, not only in Greece but also in other states.
A piece of research on the case of immigrant women working in care services in Greece is this one: “Deae ex Machina”: gender, migration and care in contemporary Greece – pdf.
*There is a “workshop” taking place in Athens these days…. The project’s name of course abuses OUR domain name and is intended to parasitize on its prestige and popularity 😉
** “Sweep” or “Broom” operations is a practice that the Greek state does enforce from time to time even now. See this entry about the recent events in Athens.