In June 2011, I was given a grant by the Davis Projects for Peace, a philanthropic foundation in the United States, to spend the summer looking at the increasingly dire situation of immigrants in Greece in conjunction with Greek Reporter which has provided a home for this reportage.
Though I had been to Greece numerous times before, this was to be a wholly different kind of trip. I was about to trade in the promise of pristine beaches, quaint whitewashed towns and gentle breezes in sunny squares for dangerous streets full of stray dogs, filthy apartments where there are a dozen people to a room, and encounters with aggressive security forces hardened by an uncontrollable situation. Far from the Greece of one’s dreams, it was the Greece of nightmares, deprivation and despair.
There are few reliable estimates as to how many immigrants currently reside in Greece, but the number is likely to be in the tens, if not, hundreds of thousands. The bulk of the new arrivals are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, and Iraq but hundreds from as far away as Congo and Bangladesh also arrive daily. Few recent immigrants intend to stay in Greece but most are trapped here either due to a lack of money or because of the difficulty in reaching other European destinations.
The influx of new arrivals into Europe, and Greece in particular, is posing more questions than can be answered: What responsibility does Greece have in feeding, clothing and finding work for immigrants? What do all these arrivals from the poorest parts of the earth mean for the future of Greece, and for the future of Europe? Who or what is to blame for this calamitous situation?
The following reportage is not a quantitative exercise full of inhumane statistics, trends and dire warnings of the ethnic balances 21st century Europe. Nor is it a formal news report that provides a snapshot of the situation but lacks reflection or introspection. It is, by large, a personal journey through a difficult and complex problem that I hope to take the reader on.
*This is the first part of Greek Reporter ‘s special Destination Nowhere. Upcoming reports of the web-series will be published every Monday.