Overwhelmed by crisis, illegal migrants in Greece return home

Illegal migrants who pay large sums of money to human smugglers to take them to Europe are faced with harsh circumstances in Greece

Overwhelmed by crisis, illegal migrants in Greece return home

 World Bulletin/News Desk

Many illegal migrants who travel long distances to reach Greece and then on to other countries in Europe in search of better lives end up in miserable circumstances in Greece, hence more and more of these people apply to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to return home.

Illegal migrants who pay large sums of money to human smugglers to take them to Europe are faced with harsh circumstances in Greece, which has been suffering from economic and social problems for several years. They can neither find a place to stay nor a regular job. So, they decide to return home, but many of them cannot even buy tickets and instead wait for support from IOM.

The economic crisis in Greece, which has been going on for three years, and a campaign launched by Golden Dawn, Greece's extreme right-wing party, against migrants have made life even more difficult for the illegal migrants. Since 2009, 18,183 illegal migrants applied to IOM saying that they wanted to return home. A total of 12,000 of these migrants have returned to their countries. While the number of migrants who returned to their countries in 2009 after they applied to IOM was 1,097, this figure rose to 3,276 in 2010. The number of illegal migrants who applied to IOM in order to return home in the first three months of 2013 was 1,057.

IOM, which is active in 180 countries, is 75 percent financed by the EU.

Head of IOM Athens office Daniel Esdras said IOM is helping migrants, most of whom do not even have an identity card or any other documents, to return to their countries. He said, in addition to buying tickets for the migrants, IOM provides an allowance of 300 euros to the migrants for them to make a new start back home.

“There is every nuance of disappointment in the eyes of the people who migrated here. It is impossible not to be upset for them. Those people have been deceived,” Esdras said.

Pakistani national Sukrullah, 20, and his cousin Feza, 32, have been waiting for a response from IOM in Greece in order to return to their country. Both men voice their regrets for having come to Greece in the hope of finding a better life.

Talking about his journey to Greece, Sukrullah said he went to Iran by a bus in 2009 from where he entered Turkey on foot, along with a group of 100 illegal migrants. He said he was detained as he was going to İstanbul from Van and then placed in a refugee camp in İstanbul's Kadıköy district. Having spent three months at the camp, Sukrullah said he made a deal with a human smuggler and reached Salonika by passing from the Maritza River.

He said he found life very challenging in Athens where he could only have daily jobs such as working in fields, cutting grass or painting the walls of a building, but he eventually realized that he could no longer stay in Greece.

“Golden Dawn is a big problem for us, but the bigger problem is unemployment,” he said.

Having spent 7,000 euros for the journey to Athens, Sukrullah said he has not been able to earn this amount of money over the past three years he spent in the country.

Sukrullah and his cousin, who also has a similar story, expect to return to Pakistan next week after getting their tickets home, yet they say they don't know what to do when they are back home.

According to Esdras, what dissuades migrants from continuing to live in Greece is the poor economic circumstances.

“Most of those people underwent big disasters like wars. Racist organizations such as Golden Dawn cannot frighten them. What actually makes them to decide to return home is the fact that they do not even have food to eat,” he said.

IOM requests the correct identity information of the migrants and the name of their country from the migrants who apply to it. Then the organization gets in touch with the embassy of each immigrant's country. At the same time, a security check is made to see whether an illegal migrant is registered with the Greek police. If it faces no obstacles, IOM makes it possible for a migrant to return to their country within a month following their application.

A migrant can stay in Greece only after they take a temporary residence permit. Having this document makes it possible for the migrants to stay in the country for six months and wait for the conclusion of their application for a refugee status. If they are given refugee status, migrants are allowed to stay in Greece for as long as five years, if not, they are given one month to leave the country. The Greek government is not eager to give refugee status to migrants. So, most of the migrants in the country stay there by updating their six-month-long residence permit. They aim to get the status of a refugee in order to be able to travel to other European countries. There are migrants who wait for to be granted a refugee status for as long as 10 years.

Last Mod: 30 Nisan 2013, 12:36
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