“Stranger will you be and stranger will you remain, as own the land is though becoming” Greek proverb.
Stricken by a typhoon of austerity measures, facing titanic hurdles of unemployment, poverty and desperation, Greek society is literally between the hammer and the anvil. However, apart from the burning wave of anger, fury and sadness, among the citizens caused by the financial crisis, Greece is also torn by an explosion of xenophobic even racist responses.
These strong sentiments seem somehow justified. Every now and then, articles are published, blaming immigrants for the crisis, television shows are exposing sinning foreigners, illegal immigrants, dangerous criminals.
Motos such as “you are not becoming a Greek, you are born a Greek “, “proud to be a Greek” are becoming popular especially among the young. All of a sudden, Greeks have been transformed to a nation without memory, selectively forgetting their own past, present and unfortunately future as immigrants, as foreigners in a strange land.
From police operations with the awfully sarcastic title “Xenios Dias” to raids of the ultra-right party “Golden Dawn” and people who admire their political agenda to working immigrants and foreigners, that have resulted to major injuries even deaths, discrimination, racism and hate are becoming more and more tolerated by the society. A society that stays still, like a speechless theatre audience watching passively, the escalating violence and brutality.
Violence is not limited to the physical or verbal abuse. Violence is also the discrimination, the blockage, the exclusion of any dignity, security and respect the integration within the society might offer. How this integration is achieved for a foreigner? Only by his legal status, his naturalisation as a proud to be citizen of the country that has become his adopted homeland.
In Greece is very difficult to obtain legal status as an immigrant or a refugee. Most people are caught in a maze of bureaucracy, frustration and fear. It is almost impossible to obtain naturalisation status unless you are married to a Greek citizen and having Greek children. An excruciating, exhausting process has to be followed including language and history tests, high fees and often a specialist’s highly paid advice, with ambiguous results.
Greece is facing a “painful” truth that was resting for decades to oblivion. Immigrants do exist on its soil, they do obtain legal status eventually, and they do raise a family, children that will eventually go to school, will participate actively in the society. These children do follow the fate of their parents, being denied naturalisation. They will always remain strangers, foreigners, outcasts. Their residence, affiliations, taxes, contribution to society as workers is simply ignored, is non-existent. The state simply does not consider all of the above as sufficient for naturalisation; they do not prove alliance with the country. What does?
This is certainly a rhetorical question in a country where an American citizen of Greek descent can be naturalised even if he or she is completely alienated from the country, but due to his bloodline retains the right to be naturalised. Although Greeks do take pride of their fellow citizens of the world, they cannot tolerate the presence of foreigners on their land. Giving the chance to immigrants to naturalise would only benefit the country. Would create a homogenous population, contributing positively to society by paying taxes, studying, working, being grateful for their residency rights. Instead what is created is a house divided against itself; that house will not be able to stand.