Migration and Struggle in Greece

Posts Tagged ‘sans papiers’

Detained immigrants attempt suicide at Imathia police stations.

Posted by clandestina on 31 March 2010

Three immigrants detained at police station cells for “illegal entry in the country” attempted suicide in the last week in different detention spaces of Imathia Prefecture, Western Macedonia Region, Northern Greece.   They all had been kept  in police cells for months under horrible conditions.

An Iraqi detainee at the police station of Veroia set desparately two matresses on fire; he was saved by the police when they took notice of it.

Another Iraqi at Naousa police station tried to hang himself with his bed sheets.

The third detainee was also an Iraqi, 32 years old, at the border guard station of Georgianoi.   He also tried to hang himself and was saved when his fellow detaineed heard his cries.

source: athens indymedia repost of a Tuesday, March 30,  Rhizospastis newspaper article.

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The transformations of Petrou Ralli Street, or the search for asylum in Greece.

Posted by clandestina on 29 March 2010

This is a translation of this filoxenoi.wordpress post. More posts on Petrou Ralli str. Directorate for Foreigners here, here and here.

Many thanks to Olga for her help with this.

The transformations of Petrou Ralli Street, or the search for asylum in Greece

26/03/2010 by filoxenoi

The “department of foreigners” at Petrou Ralli is a reference point of the “glorious” policies of the Greek state in terms of asylum granting, as all those that follow the developments in the field know.  It consists of humiliating bureaucracy, indecent treatment, endless waiting hours in queues, no sense of rationality, poor or non-existent medical care, assaults, torture and even murders.

This situation has caused some reactions and resistance. When three refugees were murdered while waiting outside the directorate, refugees and sympathizers gathered and blocked the streets, demonstrated and made the events public. After all this, the ever- efficient people in charge there came up with the solution: to transfer the entrance from Petrou Ralli street to Salamina street – “to better serve” the thousands of people that were gathering to make their applications .  With regard to the process and the realities that these people were facing, absolutely nothing changed, apart from the crucial fact that they were now less visible. The Greek police – which, due to another Greek peculiarity, was responsible for the asylum granting – would be able to experiment as much as it wanted on the bodies and souls of the hundreds of refugees that had already started making the now infamous “queue of Salaminias”, hidden from the indiscreet eyes of various “curious” and “unwanted” passers-by.

In any case, one should not forget that those who managed to get to the end of the Salaminias queue all they were granted was a small paper, by which they could claim having an appointment, usually after several months, occasion at which they could file the application and then have their cases examined and decided upon. One  should also not forget that “out of 15.928 asylum applications presented to Greece in 2009, only 0,04% were accepted and the refugee status was only granted to 0,06% of the cases”.

Over the last months, the immigration policy of the Greek state including the policies on asylum have being going through a process of restructuring and remodeling. One part of the restructuring, at least at an institutional level, seems to be the the law regarding the granting of Greek citizenship to second generation immigrants and the further sealing of the country’s borders.

Regarding the asylum policies, there have been up to now –always socialist- proclamations for the improvement of the process of asylum granting by assigning it to an independent commission, staffed with experts on immigration and asylum issues, interpreters etc., and with the role of the police regulated to be less important.

In the meantime, the queue has disappeared. Not because there are no people in Greece that need protection from their own countries’ regimes, but because the responsible body refuses to take more applications. In other words, whoever goes to the directorate of foreigners at Petrou Ralli, will leave empty handed, in an absurd story of Kafkaesque inspiration. As easily as that, the modern “hospitable” Greek democracy, the one springing directly out of the basic principles of the ancient Greek civilisation of Xenios Zeus, refuses to accept and register the applications for asylum (the access to which, according to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the legal status of refugees, should be undisturbed and the mere expression of seeking asylum by the refugee should be enough for its registration).

As easily as that, the hospitable Greek democracy condemns hundreds of people to live in fear and to be helpless in the hands of the cops that they will encounter. They even face torture and death with their obligatory return to their countries, from which they fought so hard to escape, since the controls and the expulsions from the country are still going on -despite the fact that the asylum procedures have stopped…

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More cases of racist police violence in Igoumenitsa

Posted by clandestina on 23 March 2010

source:, thanx to Ben for his help with this post.

photo from athens indymedia

photo from athens indymedia

On March 10, Igoumenitsa port police beat an innocent immigrant with their clubs in the port area of Igoumenitsa. The man sustained serious injuries in the attack.


This followed a similar incident where police harassed two men seeking assistance at a local health centre. The men were tormented and pushed around by the policemen who informed them that they could not use the services at the health centre and that it was “not a health centre for them”. 

The small town of Igoumenitsa has been known in the past for its racially motivated attacks on immigrants. One such attack occurred on an immigrant with severe health problems who was unable to defend himself when police set their dogs on the man (Police brutality once more in Igoumenitsa: Cops let loose their dog against immigrant).

The attacks continue, and as recently as last Wednesday, when an immigrant disembarked a ferry from Italy and was met by waiting port policemen.  

It is alleged the man had been beaten by both the Italian police and security thugs aboard the ferry, before being handed over to the Greek police for further punishment. His injuries were so severe that his internal organs had been seriously damaged by the repeated beatings. 

The situation in Igoumenitsa is out of control with local police using racially motivated violence in a display of abuse against these people’s basic human rights. The Igoumenitsa police continue to raid the immigrant settlement near Ladochori and on March 4 violently attacked six immigrants and left them with serious injuries.  

solidarity assembly banner@2nd of March rally

Igoumenitsa may be an isolated provincial town and the local police may believe their crimes will remain unknown, but they are wrong. Those people in solidarity with immigrants from Western Greece now monitor the situation and speak out against the abuse of innocent people. As the protests on March 2 have shown, nothing will remain in darkness.  

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On the much discussed bill on citizenship

Posted by clandestina on 26 January 2010

The proposed legislation to grant citizenship to some second generation immigrants puts partially an end to their chronic status of being hostages in the country where they were born and have lived so far their lives .   However, this bill, which is ostensibly  introduced to correct at least partially an injustice,  does hold many pitfalls:

1) Children’s “legalisation” depends on the “legality” of their parents. As has been repeatedly stressed, no sans papiers can benefit from the proposed naturalization process.

2) The proposed conditions for granting citizenship turn the latter into a “certificate of social conscience” [as the one issued by post-civil war police or army authorities certifying that its owner was not a communist – thereof employable in the public sector and entitled to various other rights]; those eligible and finally granted citizenship will be under the constant threat of having their citizenship removed; moreover, one to be eligible for the naturalisation process ”must have not been convicted to a prison sentence of at least one year for a period of ten years prior to the application, must have not been convicted of offences against the state, (…) of resistance to authority [for instance, resistance to arrest], of slander” as well as “of facilitating the transfer or the provision of shelter to illegal immigrants or of breaches of legislation concerning the settlement and movement of aliens in Greece.”

3) Proposed army recruitment of immigrants (a relief for the army ranks in view of the growing reluctance among Greek youth to draft) adds to the exploitative blackmail that makes legal residence dependent on work revenue stamps (immigrant active workforce’s contributions with no pension claims so far have been so far the Greek administrations preferred approach for dealing with the ailing public insurance funds); the unacceptably high fee (1,000 euros per person which means millions of euros for the state ) is maintained.

4) The much debated bill is merely an integration regulation for immigrants mostly from Albania, after two decades of overexploitation and in exchange for votes.  On April 28, 2009 Albania formally applied for EU membership. This prospect might seem remote, but wasn’t it the same with Romania and Bulgaria some years ago? Thus, although it now seems that the naturalization process applies and is of interest for the majority of immigrants in Greece, in a few years, when the Albanians will be EU citizens, the now proposed regulation will only aplly to a very small minotirty of immigrants. In fact, those in the worst position now will be then further devalued. The division into ‘goods’ and ‘bads’, ‘useful’ and ‘superfluous’, ‘legal’ and ‘clandestine’ immigrants is being petrified as the global system of exploitation deepens.

Alongside with the proposal of the “benefactory” bill the Greek state has been all the more stressing its commitment to “zero tolerance” policies, the “sealing” of the borders, deportation camps, the Pact on Immigration and Asylum, the Dublin II Regulation, the Schengen Treaty, the Outrageous Directive. Finally, we should remind that the law provision for deporting immigrants charged (not convicted) of minor misdeeds on “public order and security” grounds is still in effect.

Clandestina network, January 2010

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Young Albanian got killed trying to avoid police documents check in Lasithi, Crete

Posted by clandestina on 25 January 2010

A 26 year old Albanian lost his life when he fell from a height in Lasithi, Crete while running from a police check.  The young Albanian who had no residence permit and would be deported took notice of cops in the night of Wednesday, Jan 20, and started running from them, since he had no residence permit and if arrested he would be deported.  He climbed on a house’s roof but due to darkness he lost his balance and fell.

The deceased  had been for some months  working in farms of the Makri Gialos area.

A similar incident had happened in Heraklion, Crete, in September 2009.  A young Albanian had seriously injured himself by falling from a great height to avoid a police patrol.

sources: candia alternatival,

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One step forward, two steps back! Forum of Migrants in Crete event on the new Immigration Bill

Posted by clandestina on 25 January 2010

This is a translation of a Forum of Migrants in Crete press release.

for debate on the  immigration bill
1 step forward and two steps back

The Forum of Migrants in Crete considers that the proposed amendments to the Code of citizenship and the participation in elections of local government indeed are in the right direction – at any case we would be saying the same thing, even if it was about a single immigrant obtaining his/her rights.

The proposal to grant citizenship to second generation immigrants puts partially an end to the chronic hostage status of the second generation immigrants.  However the bill requires 5 years of lawful and undisrupted residence of their parents in the country, attendance of the first three classes of the primary school or 6 years of attendance at a Greek school.   So, we ask:

  • what about the children whose parents had been legally residing but were at some point unable to renew their residence permits (in most cases because they had not adequate work revenue stamps)?
  • what about the children who have no parents (since many minors come on their own)?
  • what about the children of parents without legal documents?

Concerning the proposal for the participation of all long-term foreign residents in the local authority elections, we ask why the boll excludes them from being candidates for senior posts?

We respond to xenophobic voices that they should not worry, since in any case the bill concerns to only a very small percentage of people from other countries, those who live lawfully and continuously for many years in Greece.

As for the acquisition of Greek citizenship by first generation immigrants, we actually wait to see the concrete and final requirements of the bill; under the pressure of racist critics. though, we expect them to be harsch.

We will continue to struggle for the legalization of all immigrants (the draft law does not say a single word about sans papiers, and legal documents is a prerequisite for everything proposed by the bill).

We will continue to struggle for citizenship for all children born, live and grown-up in this place.

We call for an info, discussion and recommendations event on Tuesday, January 26, 6:00 pm at Agora Sq. Chania.

Chania, Jan. 24, 2010.
Forum of Immigrants in Crete

NOTE: this call by the Forum of Immigrants in Crete is in the frame of a AN ANTIRACIST DEMONSTRATION CALL BY VARIOUS ORGANISATIONS IN CHANIA.  SIMILAR CALLS AHVE BEEN MADE IN OTHER CITIES AS WELL (Herakleion, Ioannina etc.) This is the Chania demonstrations poster:

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Italy: revolt for life and dignity 2

Posted by clandestina on 13 January 2010

More texts on the situation in Southern Italy.

“We Are Not Animals!” Italy’s Racial Riots and Their Aftermath

MARIA RITA LATTO (January 11, 2010)

Rage and fear. This is what comes out of the images from Rosarno, a small town near the western coast of Calabria, where violent clashes broke out after two African immigrants were wounded by a pellet gun attack by white youths in a car.

“Those guys were firing at us as if it was a fairground,” one of the men told La Repubblica newspaper. “They were laughing, I was screaming, other cars were passing by but nobody stopped them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Money for detention centers until “screening centers” come…

Posted by clandestina on 27 December 2009

source: athens news

THE GOVERNMENT has announced it will pay back all the money spent last year by the country’s border prefectures – including Samos, Lesvos, Chios, Chania and the Dodecanese – to maintain and operate the detention centres for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. The prefectures have accrued some 8.5 million euros in debt.

The decision was announced by Deputy Interior Minister Theodora Tzakri during a meeting with the prefects in Athens on December 7.

“We are very pleased with the minister’s announcement,” Manolis Karlas, prefect of the island of Samos, which lies just off the coast of Turkey, told the Athens News immediately following the meeting. “She promised we would receive all the money owed by the end of the year. A first instalment will be paid next week. This money has been spent to feed and clothe the migrants and to pay for their transportation to Athens.”

Karlas, like the other prefects, is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the detention centres for illegal migrants.

“We have about 80 [migrants] on the island today,” he explained. “But during the summer months the number exceeds 800. And they all need food, clothes and shoes. We feed them three times a day. All this costs money.”

He and the other prefects informed Tzakri that the current situation has forced them to shop on credit and run up huge debts with local merchants.

The number of migrants sneaking into Greece has skyrocketed in the past few years. Official data compiled by Greece’s interior ministry show more than 146,000 migrants were arrested for entering the country illegally in 2008. This is more than double the number recorded three years ago. The government has repeatedly stressed the need for more EU help.

To provide a permanent solution, the Pasok government is planning to transform migrant detention centres into so-called screening centres, where undocumented migrants and asylum seekers will stay for only a few days as their status is being decided. A similar system exists in other European Union countries.

This is a major detour in policy pursued by the former New Democracy government, which had announced the creation of dozens of additional migrant detention centres across the country. It had planned to transform dozens of disused military facilities into detention centres and to detain undocumented migrants for as long as a year or until they were deported.

However, the conditions at many of the country’s existing migrant detention centres have been harshly criticised by representatives of local and international human rights groups, and the current government itself.

During a visit of the overcrowded facility on the island of Lesvos, Spyros Vouyias, the deputy minister for the protection of citizens, condemned the condition of the overcrowded facility on the island of Lesvos and ordered its immediate closure last month.

Using language surprisingly harsh for a cabinet member, he told reporters that conditions there were “appalling, inhuman, a violation of basic human rights”.

Last week, the government announced plans to overhaul existing asylum legislation in order to increase the number of people who may secure refugee status. Greece currently has the lowest rate of refugee recognition in Europe. According to Michalis Chrysohoidis, the citizen protection minister, it is currently 0.03 percent.

Chrysohoidis has also announced that the police will no longer be the sole decision-maker on asylum applications. This will be assigned to a new committee of government officials, legal experts and members of non-governmental organisations. As many as 40,000 asylum applications are currently pending.

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Unwelcoming shores

Posted by clandestina on 23 November 2009


Unwelcoming shores

21 NOV 09

Simone Troller of Human Rights Watch describes the plight of migrant and refugee children in Greece and how Greek authorities are doing the dirty work for other members of the European Union – giving them the opportunity to get rid of migrants, including potential refugees.

“We were one group of twelve persons they took out from the detention centre. They drove us in a car, for maybe one and a half hours. We arrived in the forest around 9 PM. They kept us there until midnight, they told us not to move, otherwise the Turkish police would find us. It was next to a small river. This side was Greece, the other side was Turkey… The boat was a metal boat, a long metal boat. Inside the boat there was one policeman. He started the engine and after we arrived to the other side he told us to get out quickly and the boat went straight back. When the Turkish police arrived two of us explained what happened. We were, for twelve days, in Turkish detention. They beat me too much… When the Turkish police beat me they said I should call my family to send me money to return to Afghanistan. I asked them not to send me back to Afghanistan, because I had problems. I asked them to keep me. But they did not care.”

This was how a seventeen-year-old Afghan boy described his secret expulsion from Greece to Turkey and ultimately back to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, his experience is typical of the fate of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who have been expelled from the European Union at the hands of Greek authorities. As a result, many people who need protection are sent back to danger, abuse or inhuman detention conditions.

In 2008 and 2009, Human Rights Watch investigated the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, in Greece and published its findings in three reports. In late 2008, when we first presented our findings to the Greek government about systematic illegal expulsions of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to Turkey, we were given the cold shoulder – they ignored our findings.

When we presented them to EU policymakers in Brussels and also described the total absence of protection for migrant children who arrive without a parent or caregiver, there was recognisable disbelief and even shock in people’s faces. When I summarised in a meeting with a policymaker in Brussels that an unaccompanied migrant child who enters Greece is either detained or left to survive on the streets, I was told: “I don’t believe this.”

It may be hard to believe that such callous and illegal acts are taking place in the heart of Europe that has long committed itself to respect basic human rights standards. It may also be hard to believe that Greece offers no safety net for unaccompanied children. Those who are not expelled are either detained in filthy and overcrowded conditions or released onto the streets where they face a miserable struggle for survival and exploitation, including as child labourers.

Yet, ignoring the reality on the ground means such acts will continue to take place. Greece’s treatment of migrants and refugees, including these children, violates binding European Union directives for asylum seekers.

Despite the shocked reactions in Brussels when we described what we had found, our call to the European Commission to take Greece to the European Court of Justice for these violations has so far gone unheeded.

We also expected a stronger signal from other EU member states. In late 2008, in a meeting with EU member state delegations, we urged them to stop sending migrants and asylum seekers back to Greece under the so-called Dublin II regulations, because of the ill-treatment, detention and unfair asylum procedures. They told us, in the words of one diplomat: “If we stop doing that, more migrants will arrive to our country.”

There is no doubt that Greece is on the frontline of migration to Europe and that it carries a heavy burden for the rest of the EU under the Dublin II rules. But that reflects a wider failure of Europe’s asylum and migration policy that puts pressure on countries at its borders instead of ensuring equitable burden-sharing across the continent.

Under Dublin II regulations, the country where a person first enters the EU is generally held responsible for examining that person’s asylum claim, though for unaccompanied children the rule applies only if the child has made a claim there. The regulations are premised on the notion that all EU member states have comparable asylum and migration practices. Yet, there are wide disparities, with countries like Greece effectively offering no protection at all.

Greece gives refugee status to 0.05% of asylum seekers after a first interview and recently abolished meaningful appeals. This prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to withdraw from a formal role in Greece’s asylum procedure. Yet, EU member states continue to return migrants, asylum seekers, and even unaccompanied children to Greece, simply pretending that everything is perfectly fine.

It is hard not to get the impression that these EU member states are perfectly happy with Greece doing the dirty work for them – giving them the opportunity to get rid of these migrants, including potential refugees among them. In mid-2009, six months after we brought our findings to both Greek and EU attention, the Greek government began a new crackdown against migrants – arresting hundreds across the country, bulldozing a make-shift camp in Patras, evicting them from run-down dwellings in Athens, and detaining new arrivals on its islands.

Human Rights Watch returned to Greece in September 2009 and collected evidence that Greek authorities have arrested persons all over the country, and summarily expelled some of them across the river to Turkey, though previously it only sent those who had just entered from Turkey back that way. This means that no part of Greece is now safe for anyone in need of protection.

While the EU has largely remained silent on Greece’s abusive record or has focused on blaming Turkey for refusing to take migrants back, there are some encouraging signs from the newly elected Greek government. It announced in mid-October that Greece would no longer be a hell pit for migrants. The government also pledged to release 1,200 migrants from detention, where most are held in inhuman conditions, and to create a special police unit to investigate allegations of abuse.

Fixing the system will be a tall order, though. The new government inherits an asylum system that no longer deserves that name, a police force that commits abuses against migrants both in broad daylight and in secret nighttime operations, and detention facilities that are a hazard for detainees and staff alike. Fixing this will require more than promises and symbolic acts.

Despite the overwhelming agenda, there are obvious priorities. The Greek government can protect the most vulnerable migrants, especially unaccompanied children, and get rid of the stark alternatives in the current system of either detaining them or abandoning them to the streets and to exploitation. Greece should give them decent shelter, food, clothing, health care, and, of course, protection from traffickers.

Not all of the more urgent reforms even require more resources. An unambiguous commitment to stop the illegal expulsion of migrants to Turkey is essentially a matter of political will to operate according to the rule of law. The new police unit should immediately investigate these secret expulsions and levy sanctions against those responsible. Accountability for these acts is paramount for meaningful police reform.

Greece also needs to come to terms with the reality that many undocumented foreigners, adults and children alike, left their countries because their lives were in danger and have a legitimate claim for protection. The government needs to put its broken asylum system back on track, take the asylum procedure away from the police, create a special body that assesses claims fairly and promptly and institute a fair, workable appeals process. Otherwise, the adults and children the Greek government releases from detention now will end up again in a dead-end situation: unable to leave Greece, unable to return to their countries, and unable to be recognised as refugees.

Halting human rights abuses that have gone unchecked for too long should be urgent priorities both for Athens and for Brussels. The European Commission should make clear to Athens that unless the new government takes steps to bring its laws and practice in line with EU and human rights standards, the commission will refer the matter to the European Court of Justice. In addition, the EU needs to ensure that EU member states are held to account when they fail to respect their obligations under EU law, and ultimately to reform the Dublin system. Only then can the EU take meaningful steps toward creating a common European asylum system that offers equal level of protection across the continent and supports the countries on the frontline.♦

Simone Troller is Researcher, Human Rights Watch. For more on migrant and refugee children in Greece, see: Greece: Unsafe and unwelcoming shores and Left to survive: Systematic failure to protect unaccompanied migrant children in Greece, available at

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Hopes wash up on Aegean coast as dead bodies

Posted by clandestina on 23 November 2009


Hopes wash up on Aegean coast as dead bodies



Nothing has changed in the Aegean Sea. The journey of hope(lessness) for those searching for a future at the brink of despair ends in sorrow.

The lifeless bodies of six Palestinian children aged between 2 and 12 wash up on the shore. Over a week ago 19 Palestinians, of which more than half were children, were crammed into a small boat in the town of Turgutreis in Bodrum to head to the Greek Island of Kos. They brought nothing along with them except their dreams. But death interfered in the hopes of six children after the boat overturned 500 meters from the coast. The tragedy was mentioned as a disaster that had occurred between the two Aegean coasts, while the deaths of immigrants, which has come to be perceived as commonplace, were simply just another number for statistics. The invisibility of those who escape the difficult conditions in their homeland with the hope of establishing a normal life, even when they die, leads to the question of whether contemporary human rights are applied to everyone.

Death bells tolling for immigrants in Aegean

The Aegean Sea is the first border between the conflict-prone destitute East and South and wealthy Europe. The two coastlines of the Aegean, which is the scene of frequent journey-to-hope disasters, resemble two completely different worlds. But more often than not dreams end up drowning in the dark Aegean waters before passengers are able to reach the other world. The biggest disaster in this sea was the accident that killed 70 people near Seferihisar on Dec. 10, 2007. The tragedy coincided with World Human Rights Day, and dozens of hopeful passengers were not able to see the sun on that day. Over the past decades, hundreds and thousands of immigrants have been killed in the Aegean, and more death bells will toll for immigrants in the future.

As a result of Greece’s inhuman practices and nationalist chauvinism, the problem stopped being a human rights problem and became seen as a massive influx of immigrants. Turkey’s indifferent attitude and tendency to blame others resulted in turning the incidents in the Aegean into a dirty epic war. The fact that the victims and the people being killed are humans is not even mentioned. As for civil society organizations, the tragedies in the Aegean are trapped in an absolute human rights reference frame. Turkey and Greece are not the only sides to this problem — it is a “mutual” issue that concerns the entire world.

Emigration is a human right

Immigrants comprise the largest groups of people in the world and more people are becoming immigrants. Emigration today is more an escape from conflict and wars than a search for a new life. But it’s worth mentioning that the cause of most wars today is poverty, which creates a ground for conflict and displacement, especially in places where there is a vast difference in standards of living.

Certainly there is no magic spell that can resolve this issue, but if half of the global alliance formed around the disapproval of emigration formed around other matters, this issue would not be such a thorny problem. The global disturbance with immigration propels more countries to come together and reach an agreement than any other issue. Precautionary measures based on global cooperation must be taken until the real factors that cause people to become emigrants and refugees are resolved. Instead of trying to prevent emigration and convincing immigrants to stay home, more investments need to be made in countries that cause emigration.

Lastly, it’s also important to point out that emigration is a very rational choice and a natural human right. It would be a grave injustice to deprive people of this right. In order for people who are forced to emigrate to continue their life in an honorable fashion, we must not withhold this right from them.

Let me conclude with a statement that suits Immanuel Kant’s description of hospitality: Just as emigration is a natural right of every citizen, this right must be respected and these people must be welcomed inside.

*Recep Korkut is a social worker with the Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants (SGDD) and a journalist who has written articles about minorities, migration and refugees.




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