The View from Greece: At Europe’s External Borders, Deterrence is the Norm Once Again

In Greece, deterrence is the new normal since the summer of 2019, long before the pandemic. Legislative changes, interdiction practices, and an overall harsher treatment of asylum seekers and recognised refugees are taking place. As the New Pact on Migration and Asylum is being negotiated, Greece appears to show the way forward as regards the priorities of the Member States and European Commission for the future of asylum in Europe.

Angeliki Dimitriadi, The Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

The UNHCR released its annual Global Trends report ahead of world refugee day. Each passing year presents an increasingly troubling picture of global forced displacement. In 2019, the number of forcibly displaced individuals reached 79.5 million. The asylum seekers count has now reached 4.2 million with the number of refugees also increasing to 29.6 million. Five countries account for two-thirds of displaced people across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

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The EU’s Refugee “Crisis” in Greece, Year Four

The asylum bill introduced by the newly elected conservative government of New Democracy in Greece raises the obstacles for the integration of asylum seekers even more. It adds an additional layer of difficulties on top of an already dysfunctional reception system put into place by the previous Syriza-led governmental coalition. Haris Malamidis argues that the term “crisis”—which is often used to describe the increased mixed migratory flows in 2015—better captures Greece’s troubled condition with respect to its identity and the values that inform its migration policies.

Haris Malamidis, The Hellenic Foundation of European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP)

 

Four years have passed since the so-called refugee “crisis”, with migration still dominating the everyday political discourse in Greece. The term “crisis”—which is often used to describe the increase of mixed migratory flows in 2015—is widely debated. Framing it as “crisis” reveals a rather euro-centric approach to human mobility, which does not take into consideration increased migratory flows in other geographical regions. According to IOM, the number of people that migrated from the MENA region to Europe in 2015-2016 is significantly lower than the number of those who migrated to other regions of the world or those who were internally displaced in their countries of origin. The term “crisis” seems to better capture the troubled political condition of Greece with respect to its identity and values than the idea of an alleged external threat. This identity crisis with regard to migration is reflected in the reception and integration of around 90,000 refugees and migrants that have stayed in Greece since the 2015-2016 flow according to UNHCR.

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