Project: "assistance to asylum applicants to pursue their rights", in collaboration with the Study and Research Department of the KSPM












Paper prepared for the CCME working group: "Monitoring developments in European migration and asylum issues"


Prepared by

Maria Papantoniou-Frangouli

Vagelio Dourida












0. Forward

This paper has been prepared in the frame of the project: "assistance to asylum applicants to pursue their rights", financed by the Commission of the European Communities (Budget line B5-803). The elaboration of the text has been supervised by the <Study and Research Department> of the KSPM.

The information used is derived from the data bank established by the above mentioned project as well as from previous publications of the Study and Research Department of the KSPM.

It aims at presenting the migratory movements in Greece and their main characteristics as well as to put into evidence some of the problems linked with these movements.



1. The context

The Mediterranean region has constituted the main provider of Central and Northern Europe in migrant workers during the late fifties, the sixties and the beginning of seventies.

After the closing of the borders of most European countries in the early and middle seventies, the immigration has been restricted to immigration taking place in the frame of family reunion. Concerning the Southern European countries one after an other have joined the European Community and their citizens rejoiced the right of free circulation. In the case of Greece, it was the in 1981 that it joint the EC, but a transitory period of seven years has been established until its citizens acquired the right to work in dependent employment in the EU member countries.

A new era of migration started for Europe with the internationalisation of migration. The features of immigration changed completely as an all increasing number of people from all over the world started arriving either as illegal migrants or as refugees. An important impetus to this migration wave was given by the citizens of Eastern European countries fleeing the socialist regimes under collapse.

The South European countries have been the last to become involved in this process, but gradually, one by one, underwent the transformation from sending to receiving countries.

Among them Greece has been the last country to attract migrants, and the one which turned more abruptly into a receiving country. It is only since 1990-91 that Greece started to receive important waves of immigrants, but in one or two years time span it became the country with the highest proportion of immigrants relative to total population population. In the middle nineties the number of foreigners -the overwhelming majority among whom illegals- was estimated to have reached the 800.000, number which continued to increase in the following years.


2. The development of migratory movements

2.1. The period before 1990

What differentiates Greece from most other EU countries is that it did not have any previous experience with immigration.

Until the late sixties and beginning of seventies Greece has received almost exclusively two categories of people: Ethnic Greeks in a refugee like situation and refugees, who in their majority were mandate refugees (having reveived their refugee status by UNHCR) in transit in Greece waiting to be promoted to overseas immigration countries.

It is in the early seventies that the social category ‘guest-worker’ emerged in Greece, but the numbers of these migrant workers remained insignificant for a long time. At the end of 1972 for example the number of foreign workers was reported by the Secretary of Labour of the military government to be, between 15-20.000 (Fakiolas, R. and R. King, 1996, page 176). A category apart constituted those foreigners working in the merchant marine, both legally and illegally, their number being significant already befor the appearence of migrant labour on land.

It is only, however, in the middle or end eighties that migrants became visible in Greek society and economy. This has been mainly the result of three processes:

a) The decrease of the number of refugees accepted by the overseas immigration countries and the longer waiting period until refugees were ressettled. This led in an increase of the refugee stock in Greece, composed of people that eventually lost their refugee status and turned into illegals.

b) The crisis in the merchant marine of the middle eighties has had as result that a significant number of foreigners that had been working on the ships went ashore to seek employment and began to mingle with the Greek population.

c) People from Eastern Europe started arriving in Greece, at that early period mainly as refugees with more significant nationality that of Poles.

In this process the role of legal economic migrants has not been important because despite a relative increase they did not exceed the 30.000.


2.2. From 1990 until 1998

Since 1990 with the fall of the socialist regimes and particularly the opening of the borders with Albania the situation rapidly changed. What made the difference is the influx of illegal foreigners, while the number of legal workers remained at its previous low levels. In the following we describe the quantitative developments of the two categories in the period under review.

a) Legal foreigners

There are various statistics providing the number of legal foreigners, both national and European. The discrepancies of the figures provided by these statistics are nevertheless very important, is due both to different definitions of foreign population and different methodologies used. These discrepencies are illlustrated in Table 1. which gives us the figures for 1991 as provided by the different statistical sources. The year 1991 has been chosen because it is the year that we dispose of the figures provided by the national census too.

Table 1

Estimations of legal migrants



Ministry of Public Order

Residence permits issued and renewed


Ministry of Public Order/NSSG

Foreign population on the base of residence permits


Census 1991




to 309.100


It is not possible here to enter in a detailed discussion of these statistics. We will limit ourselves in mentioning that the statistics that present a larger number of foreigners are those including in the foreign population the ethnic Greeks with double citizenship.

In the Table 2 below we present the development of foreign population in Greece and its distribution per country of origin from 1994 to 1998, on the basis of the number of resident permits valid at the end of each year.














Table 2

Residence permits delivered by the Ministry of Public Order and

valid by the end of the year (1994-1998)

Country of Origin






Total EU Countries

42 864

43 667

44 351

45 017

44 108

Total Eastern Europe

36 007

39 300

42 426

48 702

52 881


4 061

4 510

4 941

4 991

6 128


4 142

4 638

5 261

6 078

7 043








8 754

6 919

4 912

5 027

5 246


4 248

4 955

5 132

5 609

6 078

Former Czechoslovakia



1 007

1 042

1 073

Former USSR

10 559

13 066

15 822

19 661

20 256


2 714

3 681

4 806

5 721

6 448

Other European Countries

1 952

2 070

2 224

2 318

2 457

Total Africa

14 025

13 749

13 385

13 237

12 985


6 861

7 054

7 035

6 870

6 599


2 028

1 504

1 157

1 095

1 121



















Other African Countries

2 901

3 057

3 161

3 240

3 339

Total America

20 199

20 193

20 171

20 001

19 920


15 071

15 092

15 190

15 245

15 362





1 007

1 037

Other American Countries

4 185

4 164

4 010

3 749

3 521

Total Asian Countries

31 370

31 176

30 282

29 276

30 603


1 556

1 536

1 518

1 453

1 272


2 096

1 793

1 485

1 343

1 316


2 965

3 721

3 815

3 852

3 887


1 417

1 394

1 377

1 398

1 381


3 050

2 890

2 670

2 517

2 465


1 853

1 794

1 759

1 715

1 628


8 162

7 697

7 160

6 423

5 299

Sri Lanka

1 553

1 453

1 342

1 175



2 286

2 345

2 467

2 537

2 587


3 066

3 108

3 140

3 193

3 210

Other Asian Countries

3 366

3 445

3 549

3 670

6 693

Total Australasia-Oceania

1 146

1 174

1 192

1 240

1 243

Not declared

1 582

1 505

1 434

1 357

1 331


149 145

152 834

155 465

161 148

165 528

Source: NSSG, Statistical Yearbook, several years

Source: NSSG: Statistical Yearbook of Greece



From the above Table 2 appears that there is a gradual increase in the number of foreigners holding a residence permit and that this increase is due to the intensification of emigration from Eastern Europe and ex-USSR.

Graph 1. lets appear the development of legal foreign labour on the basis of the number of work permits valid at the end of each year.

Graph 1.

Work permits delivered by the Ministry of Labour and

valid by the end of the year (1978-1999)

Source: NSSG: Quarterly Bulletin for Labour Statistics, Issue No 4 of each year


b) The undocumented

About illegal migrants there are only estimations and of course these estimations vary very much among themselves. The official estimations for 1991 provide figures ranging from 250-400.000 (Greek Parliament 1991), In 1994 the number put forward has been that of 600.000 . The most ‘official’ figure is that of 395.285 (for 1994), which is derived from data kept about those entering and those leaving the country. The authorities themselves however refer to this recording of foreigners as unreliable (Linardos-Rylmon, 1994, p.3-4).

For the years 1995-1997, all the estimations put forward ranged between 600.000-800.000. At the eve of regularization, that is end 1997, the estimations ranged between 800.000 up to almost 1.000.000.

c). Asylum seekers/refugees.

Until recently the majority of refugees in Greece had received their status from UNHCR (mandate refugees). This was a provisory status until they were resettled. The Aliens’ Law 1975/1991 stipulates that the Greek state will become the sole responsible for granting asylum. This has come into effect in 1994. In 1995 refugees have been attributed for the first time the right to work.

The development of the population of refugees from 1995 to July 2000 appears in Table 3.

Table 3

Applications for asylum, recognitions, rejections

(1995-July 2000)










1 312

1 560

4 380

2 950

1 530

1 747









1 045


2 230

3 750

1 570


Source UNHCR

During the last years asylum is granted almost exclusively to persons belonging to the following three nationalities: Iraqi, Turkish, Iranian. The majority are Kurds. Since 1999 a fourth nationality appears with equally important numbers, that of Afghans. Almost the totality of the rest belong to African countries, but no individual country appears with over 10 persons in any of the last years. Only exception the 11 Sudanese in 1999 .

The asylum applicants come from a wider range of countries but the largest numbers concentrate around the above mentioned nationalities. For 1999 and the first semester of 2000 we have the following distribution for the four main nationalities:









Table 4

Distribution of asylum seekers for the years 1999-June 2000, by main nationalities



















*Source UNHCR

Total number of refugees in Greece is estimated to be around 5.000. It becomes apparent that they present a negligible participation to foreign population in Greece. The asylum seekers, though their numbers are multiple to those having been granted asylum, still represent a group numerically insignificant, if one takes into consideration the total number of foreigners in Greece.

Among the rejected refugees there is a number that applies for humanitarian status. In 1999 the number of cases examined has been 419, for 407 among them the decision has been positive. This status is valid for one year and can be renewed.

Further, however, it can be sustained that there is an additional number of people that are persecuted in their own country but who have not presented an asylum claim to the authorities. A large part of those migrants being brought, particularly by Turkish traffickers, to Greece are genuine asylum seekers but do not know their rights or are not aware of the procedure to be followed to apply for asylum. These people will not appear in the statistics of asylum as they do not apply for it. Absence of reception structures and of provision of information at the border areas, particularly those areas privileged by traffickers, has as result that many asylum seekers pass as simply illegal migrants and follow the fate of the later, that is they are expelled. It should be mentioned that recently NGO’s, from Athens offer information to such people, whenever a massive arrival is detected. In the statistics of 2.000 it can be observed that the number of both those applying for asylum and those granted asylum has significantly increased.

Though it might sound strange, even people who have managed to remain in Greece and have been here for a long time and who have had a genuine asylum claim, have never applied for asylum. Through our project such cases have been helped as well as refugees that have applied for asylum but who were unable by themselves to support effectively their claim and who without our intervention could not hope of a positive outcome of their case.

2.3. From 1998 up to today

The year 1998 constitutes a landmark in the development of migratory movements in Greece, as in January started the first regularization campaign. For this reason we decided to treat the period from 1998 until today separately. An other reason that we consecrate to it a specific paragraph is that the registration of migrants has provided us with precious information concerning the distribution of certain characteristics among the foreign population about which we did not dispose previously of any reliable information due to the underground character of migration defying any circumscription.

In order to be better able to understand and appreciate the data exposed below it is necessary to provide with some basic information concerning the legalisation process. The regularization of aliens has been implemented in two stages. The first stage has been that of ‘registration’, leading to the acquisition of the ‘white card’, granted to the applicant after submission of the required documents. Already from the moment that the foreigner was registered he/she were protected against expulsion and was accorded the right to work. In order to proceed to the second stage, that of applying for the ‘green card’, he/she had to meet an additional requirement: be able to provide evidence that they had worked in a registered employment and had collected social security stamps corresponding to at least 40 working days. It is only with the ‘green card’ that a legal status was attained. The legalisation campaign has lasted much longer than foreseen. Up to today it has not been concluded as only a restricted number of migrants has received their green card as yet.

As already mentioned the number of illegal migrants was estimated to be during the year preceding regularization between 800.000-1.000.000. There are further indications that the forthcoming regularization had led a number of foreigners to arrive in Greece expecting to benefit from the regularization. Thus it could be assumed that the number of migrants at the eve of the regularization has been even higher to their number during the year 1997.

The number of illegal migrants who have applied for regularization is 371.641. The number of those candidates for the green card has been 212.860. The number of those registering should be considered rather limited compared to the estimated total number of illegal migrants. Some migrants have been suspicious of the procedure and some others have had practical difficulties in entering into it.

However, this number will appear as less small if the following are taken into consideration: a) The registration was open to the migrants that were working or intended to work, dependent family were to be added in the application and protected from expulsion. Thus many women, who did not expect to find a job covered by social security, did not register themselves but appeared in the application of their husbands, securing residence in Greece, but not the right to work. b) For the ethnic Greek Albanians an alternative procedure has become available. Instead of a white and green card they could apply and get hold of a specific kind of ‘identity card’, which was easier to acquire and was valid for a longer period. Thus only part of them entered the mainstream regularization.

In the following we will use the data provided by the regularization campaign in order to present the distribution of migrants in respect to certain variables. What interests us here in the first place is not to describe the profile of those having participated in the process, but to use this data to gain some knowledge about the population in general of migrants in Greece. Thus we will make use in the first place of the ‘statistics of the white card’, since these concern a larger number of people and only secondarily and for comparison reasons of the ‘statistics of the green card’. The presentation of data will be followed by comments about how representative the data corresponding to each specific variable seems to be for the overall population of immigrants.

a) Distribution by nationality

The number of nationalities represented is as many as 180. Few among them are represented with significant numbers and many are represented with only 1 person. The dominant nationality is that of Albanians with 64,94%. The next nationality falls to only 6, 76% and is that of Bulgarians. Table 1 shows the distribution of the main nationalities (with over 1% participation to the total number of applicants) as it appears in the white card statistics. From this table it appears that it is Eastern Europe that predominates.
















Table 5.

Distribution per nationality

White Card





































Rest (under 1%)






Source: OAED-National Employment Observatory


This data which represents the distribution per nationality of those that have entered the regularization process and is only indicative of the distribution per nationality of the population of (illegal) migrants in Greece. The group of immigrants that has shown a promptness to become regularised does not certainly constitute a representative sample of the population from which it is derived. The impact of factors favouring or hindering the participation in the regularization process is different for each ethnic group. This becomes also evident from the fact that the relative participation of each nationality in the group of those having applied for the green card differs from the participation of this nationality to the initial group of those having registered. The difficulties for passing from one stage to the second one seem not to be "equally distributed" among the nationalities. Table 2. presents the distribution per nationality of the applicants for the green card. It is apparent that certain nationalities have made it better than others. The gap among nationalities will better appear when we will have the statistics of those who actually got the green card. Even greater changes in the relative importance among nationalities are expected.








Table 6.

Distribution per nationality

Green Card











































Rest (under 1%)






Source: OAED-National Employment Observatory

b) The participation of women

The number of men is far more significant to that of women: 74.14% of those registering have been men and only 25.86% women. Again this only partly represents the reality of the composition of immigrant population in Greece. Though it is an established fact that men represent by far the majority of immigrants and illegal immigrants in Greece, women are expected to be further underrepresented among the population of those participating in the regularization process. There is a number of reasons for that:

As supportive evidence to the hypothesis of greater vulnerability of women could be considered also the fact that the relative participation of women against that of men in the green card statistics falls even lower to that appearing in the white card statistics (those that have registered). Thus the percentage of women having applied for the green card further falls to 22.66% while that of men correspondingly increased to 77.34%.

The distribution by gender differs among nationalities reflecting the differences of the participation of the two sexes in the total population of that nationality in Greece. In most nationalities there is a clear prevalence of male applicants. Among the Albanians, who constitute the majority of applicants men participate with 82.6%, while women with 17.4%. The greater percentage of men is to be found among Pakistanis (taking into consideration nationalities represented with 100 persons and over), a nationality to be well known to be represented in Greece almost exclusively by males (99.52% for the white card statistics and 99.735% for the green card statistics). There are, however, nationalities where women constitute the majority. This is the case with nationalities providing mainly with labour related with house keeping (Filipinos) and with housing keeping plus prostitution (ex USSR, but also some Balkan countries). Also women constitute the majority of applicants originating from some African countries, which, however have an insignificant participation in the immigration in Greece. Figure 2. shows the relative participation of women and men among the main nationalities.


Figure 2

Source: OAED-National Employment Observatory


c) Family status and family composition in Greece

The majority of those who have applied for the green card are married (51,36%). More women (69.16%) than men (48.60%) are married. The participation of the unmarried with 43.1% for both sexes is to be considered as high and comes in support of the hypothesis of a prevalence of unmarried among immigrants in Greece.

Among certain nationalities there is a tendency for young unmarried people to come in Greece, while in others there is a tendency of married people coming alone living their families behind. The trend has been the following: In the first years migrants, either men or women, tended to come alone. With the years an increasing number of them brought their family -or part of their family- in Greece. This is the case with most nationalities.

As an example we present the case of Albanians: With the opening of the Greek-Albanian borders young men started an uncertain journey towards Greece. After many abortive attempts and taking great risks, some managed to pass the borders. Their establishment in Greece has been equally uncertain and equally insecure. Bringing their family became possible only after some years when they had found a place to live, had learned the strategies of seeking employment and had earned some money to pay the way of their family to Greece diminishing the risks of the journey. Many among the first comers were very young boys who in the mean time grew up, married in Albania and brought their spouse in Greece. Their children have been born here.

We take an other example, that of the Filipinos. The Filipino migration has been initially exclusively a migration of women coming into Greece legally, through a bilateral agreement. These women brought (usually illegally, sometimes legally through a separate contract) later on their husbands in Greece and their young children. Their contracts, however, eventually ended and they fell into a status of illegality. Many among them attempted, and were successful, in moving in other countries, this having as result a reduction of the population of Filipinos in Greece since around 1995 -while others remained as illegals.

Concerning the family composition the white card statistics provide some useful, though not completely reliable information. Among those having applied for the white card, 65.32% have with them at least one dependent family member. Large families in Greece are not common as only 7.49% have declared 4 and above dependent family members and 1.02% 5 and above. These figures of course do not relate to the actual size of the families of immigrants, but have to do with the promptness and mainly the possibility of immigrants to bring their family in Greece.

d) The age

The overwhelming majority of applicants is relatively young, 82,79 % among them being between 20-44 years of age. The age category where is concentrated the largest number of applicants is that of 30-44, with 38.43%. The number of those over 65 is -as expected- extremely small. The number of older migrants in Greece is restricted and further older people are expected to be underrepresented among those applying for regularization as finding work is particularly difficult for those 65 and over. On the contrary the small number of the age category 14-20 is not to be attributed to the small participation of this age category to the total population of immigrants, but to the fact that some of the persons belonging to this category have applied for regularization, while some others have come under the category of dependent members. The number of 366 persons of the age group 0-14 that have applied is to be considered as astonishing, given that regularization was addressed to those working or expecting to work. The number of this category is reduced disproportionately in the statistics of the green card falling to only 130 persons. The obvious explanation would be that they have been unable to bring evidence of having worked under social security and thus failed to meet this requirement for proceeding in the second stage of regularization process.

e) Educational level

Concerning the educational level the largest category is that of secondary education, accounting for around half of them (49.50%). Those belonging to the category of primary education represent the 36.93%. Those who have followed higher education represent the 8.8%. The illiterate represent the 1.78%. As it is evident this is a very rough presentation of the educational level of immigrants. It is based on their own declaration and misinterpretation of the information is to be considered as inevitable.

It is worth noting that the educational level of women appears significantly higher to that of men: less women belonging to the category of illiterate and to the primary school category and more women represented in the secondary school and higher education categories. In the category of higher education for example the percentage of women is almost three times higher to that of men!

Comparing the statistics of the white card with those of the green card, a slight increase of the educational level appears in the later. This could be interpreted as a result of the fact that the higher the requirements become the better educated are better fit to survive.

2.4. The character of immigration in Greece, present and future trends

As already stressed new immigration in Greece has been primordial an illegal immigration. Most immigrants originating from bordering countries, Albania in the first place. Illegal immigration has been in the beginning a male immigration consisting mainly of young men, either unmarried or coming without their families.

For those coming from neighbouring countries, Albania in the first place, migration has widely taken the character of a sui generis peddler or circular one. This is not connected with the intentions of immigrants themselves, but with their condition of illegal immigrants, exposed to deportations. Their presence in Greece has been interrupted by longer or shorter periods of time spent in their home country after being deported. Sometimes also they returned under their own initiative to spend some time with their families. In either case they were awaiting a new opportunity to re-migrate. This situation has been possible due to small distances and to the fact that most did not occupy a stable work position.

Deportations were more frequent in the case of Albanians, but also members of other nationalities were deported. When they came from countries far away it was difficult for them to return to Greece, but if they were re-forwarded to the other side of the borders, they renewed their attempt to come to Greece with the assistance of traffickers. This situation has given work to traffickers and rendered migrants very vulnerable to exploitation by them.

In the case of legal migrant workers too the period of time that they could remain in Greece under legal conditions was short. They came to Greece either as contractual workers, engaged by a specific employer for a specific jobs, or in the frame of bilateral agreements. In both cases they were eligible to come to Greece to work only as long as they were residing in their own country and for a maximum time of three years. After the time that they were allowed to stay in Greece expired they had to go back and others were engaged in the same way. Thus we had a kind of rotation model. Some among them remained in Greece in an illegal condition.

Concerning women migration, women have been among the first legal workers, ‘invited’ to Greece to occupy positions in the service sector, mainly house keeping. This possibility soon became very restricted and the influx of legal house helpers has been substituted by an influx of women coming illegally. The countries of origin also changed in favour of women coming from ex-USSR and certain of the Balkan countries, Bulgaria in the first place. The profile of these women has been: more frequently married than not, in their middle thirties and forties, coming in order to earn some money to support the family. They fit well the model of targeted migration, only that they represent its illegal version. They did not mean to establish themselves in Greece, exception made by those who managed to bring their families constituting only rare cases. However, after returning home for the first time many were forced to re-migrate given that the situation in their home country had further deteriorated.

It is after 1995 that the number of families in Greece increased. This resulted in a relative settling down of migrants, accompanied by the more extensive use of services, such as schools. Still however, these people were liable to deportation and their stay in Greece was not uninterrupted.

The regularization campaign has given a new turn to the development of the situation.

As long as the regularization procedure has been going on, an important number of illegal migrants have separated themselves from the bulk of illegal migrants and have constituted a group that could stay in Greece without the fear of expulsion. As the regularization process has been protracted this intermediary period has lasted for a long time. Some migrants are still awaiting to be granted their green card, that is they have remained in this ‘transitory’, but relatively convenient situation for over two years.

The rational of regularization campaigns followed by all countries that have applied regularization is to control migration flows, thus regularization is accompanied by other measures too. In Greece controls at the borders and inside the country have been intensified as well as the deportations of those not able to prove that they are legally in Greece.

Deportations have not stopped even during the period of registration, when deportations were officially suspended in order to give the opportunity to illegal migrants to present themselves to the authorities and register. It is, however after the expiration of this period that expulsions have been intensified. Particularly during the Summer 1999 we have had unprecedented operations during which massive arrests of foreigners have taken place followed by controls of their documents and deportation of all those who did not dispose of some document proving their legal presence in Greece.

This has led to the provisional reduction of (illegal) immigrants in Greece. Most, however, have managed to come back. Further the influx of new illegal migrants has not stopped. On the basis of the above one could very roughly assume, that the total number of foreigners must be today at levels comparable to those at the time preceding regularization.

Concerning the question about how the relative participation of legal migrants and illegal migrants to the total population in Greece is expected to be formed when the legalisation procedure is completed the following remarks could be made:

3. The entrance into Greece

31. General characteristics of the Greek situation

The majority of economic immigrants and refugees in Greece arrive illegally. Some belong to the category of those arriving with a visa and ‘overstay’ after its expiration. The number of those coming with fake documents is also very significant.

Given its geopolitical position, Greece is frequently the first west European country that immigrants reach. For many among them Greece is not the desired destination as they opt to go further to an other European or oversee country. Most will, however, remain in Greece for at least some time or some years.

The modalities of illegal entering Greece are linked to its physical make up. We will describe in the following the ports of entry, the strategies used and the dangers involved, as well as the changes that all of the above undergo in time. Among the recent developments the most important consists in the increased significance that takes the migrant trafficking, the darkest side of illegal entries.

Recently important efforts have been undertaken for a better guarding of the borders: the coast guards have increased, a special force has been constituted for guarding the land borders, the technical equipement has improved. As a result an increasing number of traffickers has been arrested and some criminal bands have been stopped at the borders. The immigrants are nevertheless still arriving. This is to a certain extent to be attributed to the increased sophistication of methods invented and used by traffickers that defy all kinds of border controls. As it is frequently commented the only effect of increased controls is to make prospective migrants pay more to traffickers and render the trajectory more hazardeous.

3.2. Illegal crossing of the borders

The continuous increase of immigration in Greece over the last ten years is mainly the result of illegal entries. These are facilitated by the existence of long desert coasts and by the physical make up of the northern borders, which are very difficult to guard. Most of the foreigners at the moment in Greece are originating from the Balkans. These come more or less directly to Greece, frequently crossing the borders on foot. Those from Asia and Middle East have a longer trip to make, have to travel through other countries, cross multible borders and depend more heavily on traffickers.

Each ‘gate’ is linked with specific nationalities, with specific routs migrants have to follow and specific modalities of entering or being smuggled and trafficked into Greece.

Nevertheless, whatever the nationality, the distance covered and the modality of entering, this is never an easy or without dangers enterprise.

3.2.1. The ports of entry

The most common entries are: the Aegean islands facing the Turkish coast, some of which are desert; the Ionian islands, within few hours distance from Albania; the river Evros constituting the North East borders with Turkey; the very rough mountain Pindos at the Northern borders with Albania and the Greek-Bulgarian borders. Each entry has its own immigration as far as the modalities of entry are concerned, the nationality of entrants and the trajectories followed until reaching the Greek borders.

The Aegean islands and river Evros are the territory of Turkish traffickers. Beyond the Aegean islands, migrants may be ‘dumped’ at any point of the Eastern coast of Greece, even in highly frequented spots nearby Athens. Immigrants originate from Middle East and Asia, but also from Africa. The preponderant ethnic group is that of Kurds. The procedure has as follows:

Konstantinople in the first place and the old harbours of the Minor Asian coast constitute the places where concentrate migrants coming from far away. From there the Turkish traffickers are leading them onwards to Greece.

From Konstantinople migrants are led to Greece through Evros. They are either escorted until Greece or are left near the borders, than the fare is less. In the later case the risks are major as in the area there are minefields. Some times the transport includes further transportation inside Greece until the urban centres. The number of those wounded or even killed by the mines is important, but this not the only danger. Many have been frozen or have starved and have been taken care of at the hospital of Alexandroupoli.

From the Minor Asia harbours, such as Smyrna, migrants are transported with ships to the Greek coasts. The ships used are very old ships, the kind of ships that can be easily spared. Moreover given that they should pass unnoticed they often travel in the dark and under adverse weather conditions Thus accidents are frequent. Some times, when they near the Greek coasts migrants are put in small boats to reach by themselves the land. There are even cases that migrants are thrown in the water by the traffickers in the effort of traffickers to avoid Greek Coast Guards.

From the Greek Bulgarian borders, people from the Balkans are being smuggled and trafficked, but also people from Asia and middle East who have arrived in Bulgaria from Syria. This path is recently gaining in importance. This is the main passage for women alone from Bulgaria, but also from other Balkan and ex-USSR countries, coming to Greece to work, as well the privileged passage for women traffickers, bringing them to Greece for sexual exploitation. As controls are becoming stricter and stricter increasingly dangerous paths and increasingly dangerous modalities of entry are being followed (mountainous paths and modalities such as crawling along water pumps during the night hours that water supply is being stopped). The dangers -death in the mountains, death from cold and from accidents (for example one incident of woman being killed by wolves)- are very important particularly for women. We know nothing about the accidents inside Bulgaria, as far as the Greek side of the borders is concerned 6 deaths of women have been reported during last winter.

The mountain of Pindos at the Greek Albanian borders is the gate through which the Albanians come into Greece and consequently the most frequented entry. Beyond Albanians people of different origins, particularly from Balkan countries, come into Greece facilitated by Albanian smugglers, but not in significant numbers Their number is not particularly important. The frequent coming and going of Albanians to and from Greece has been responsible for the establishment of the impression that this is an easy enterprise. The narrations of Albanian immigrants themselves, however, bring contrary evidence. Again the increased controls lead to the search of new paths which provide greater safety against being detected by the guards, but which are more hazardous for the lives of those who use them. As in the case of Greek Bulgarian borders deaths in Greece become known, but not those in Albania. The testimony of one Albanian immigrant is this respect: He reports that while in the beginning they did not know the way, and had to wander for days until they were able to cross the borders, when they learned the way they could not use it any more because it had become well guarded. Thus they had to rely on smugglers who discovered new, all the more risky, paths "We had now to count with 7 days travelling. We always walked in the night until 7 in the morning. We could not use torches. Any kind of light was dangerous, and a cigarette we could smoke only with caution. If some one had a watch with phosphorous, we hid it. No shouting, nothing, Greek soldiers should not take notice of us. Very dangerous, in the night...... If someone slipped in a precipice, only some relative or friend, if there was one in the group, would stop to help, but many were from other villages. His family would think he is some where in Greece".

The Ionian Islands, mainly Corfu, are also an entry point of Albanians as they are in a few hours distance from Albania with the ‘skafi’. Nevertheless, almost no migrant uses this way. It is mainly a gate for smuggling goods -drugs in the first place, and for Albanian criminals who come to Greece to plunder or steal and return immediately.

The forth entry point at the North, that of the Greek-Yugoslavian borders, is much less frequented.


3.2.2. The Routes

From the above description it has appeared that from some entry points the borders are crossed by people coming from far away, following particular trajectories traced by traffickers on the basis of the situation in the region.

Turkey and particularly Kostantinople is the place where concentrate people coming from the two most traditional routes: the one followed by people coming from Asia countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and the other bringing the people from Middle East. The most numerous ethnic group is that of Kurds. New nationalities have appeared recently and consequently new routes have been traced. This is for example the cases with Afghans. Further there are also African people that come to Turkey in order to pass to Greece.

We have also few cases of migrants being brought to Greece by ship directly from their country of origin, usually an African country. These usually are not cases of systematic trafficking or smuggling. African people have either entered a ship in some harbour of their country or an nearby African country without being noticed or they have paid the crew to be taken with.

Recently two new sea routs have been developed. The one is from the Black Sea coasts of Bulgaria and Rumania towards the Greek coasts and Italy. The cities at the Black sea, such as Kostantza develop into centres where concentrate migrants from Asia. The second is from Syria and Lebanon towards the southern Greek coasts, Crete and Peloponese, Cyprus but mainly Italy. In this case Greece often constitutes a place of metepibibasi and certainly Cyprus is nothing but a ‘plaque tournante’ for migrants, trafficked women etc.

The picture below shows the direction of the migratory movements into Greece. It also shows the complete route followed until migrants finish up in Greece.

3.2.3. Illegal entries, deportations and guarding of the borders

The Ministry of Public Order and the Ministry of Merchant Marine keep statistics about those having crossed illegally the borders and have been detected, usually caught. A large number of nationalities are being represented. From the relative statistics it appears that they are over 100.

The statistics of the Ministry of Public Order provide the figure of 27.877 migrants having illegally crossed the borders in 1999 the main nationalities being:

Iraq: 10.609

Romania: 4.831

Iran: 2.300

Bulgaria: 1.846

Pakistan: 1.752

Bangladesh: 1.666

For the first five months of 2.000 the number has been 14.710. The main nationalities remain the same. It should be noted that from these statistics are exempted the Greek Albanian borders.

The Ministry of Merchant Marine provides statistics about migrants having entered illegally form areas of the responsibility of Port Police Corps. These include the coastal areas and ports. In the statistics are included migrants having been caught on land in lorries, but having arrived by boat.

For 1999 the firgures have as follows: Migrants entering illegally 1.183. Smugglers/traffickers arrested 92. Boats confiscated 35. Vehicles confiscated 12. The main nationalities being:

Iraq: 516

Afghanistan: 138

Turkey (Kurds): 122

India: 114

No mention is made about how many among the Iraqis are Kurds.

In 1998 we have had a much greater participation of Kurds with 1482 out of a total of 1903

The migrants caught at the border areas are being kept in the police stations, are re-forwarded or apply for asylum. Some times they are kept in shelters, provided by the Church, the local authorities, NGO’s. It should be stressed that the contribution of border Bishoprics and parishes is very important. People of the area are also very helpful, they bring them food, clothes and medical assistance is offered to them. In this effort to help people arriving in a miserable condition participate also individual policemen who in many cases have been the first ones to provide them with necessities under their own expenses.

Efforts to control the borders have been intensified in the last years. The army is responsible for the first zone of border control. The second zone, that of control of passports at the official entries, is the responsibility of police. The number of policemen involved in the control of foreigners entering Greece is 40.000. To these are to be added the 5.000 responsible for the entries from the sea (Kostantinos Koskinas at all, 2000, page 24-25).

In 1999 a new corps has been created, that of Border Police. The border police is active at the second zone. Their number is 2.500 and are active at the Northern land borders (Kostantinos Koskinas at all, 2000, pages 23, 27). Since the constitution of the body a number of fights with incoming traffickers -mainly drug traffickers- have taken place in which two of the guards have lost their lives. The educational level of the border guards is particularly high as the majority of them have university or other higher education degree. However, it has been observed that their training for this job has not been sufficient something which renders them less effective and puts their lives in greater risks. Further the need of modern technology equipment has been stressed.


3.3. Moving forward to Europe.

The geopolitical position of Greece at the cross roads of three continents makes it a place both of concentration of migrants and of transition of migrants.

Beyond the migrants that have remained in Greece there is a number who have passed in ‘transit’ from Greece in order to move further to some other European country. This is the case mainly of people from Asia and Middle East. For some of the people coming from Asia and mainly in the case of Kurds the package for which the trafficker is paid includes a trip with final destination some European country, Germany in the first place.

Few migrants, however, are able to make it directly to some other European country. Most remain for some time in Greece. In the mean time they might decide to stay in Greece or wait for their trafficker to find an opportunity for them to move forward. To Europe they come through Italy. Italy is attained mainly by the line ships between Greece and Italy. Thus migrants awaiting to move onwards concentrate at the port of Patras, the main port to Italy. Usually they hide or are packed into lorries so that they enter the ship unnoticed. The majority are Kurds and it is usually their Kurdish traffickers that help them move further. Kurds have developed this business offering their services to other nationalities too. Since two years ago Albanians have come into business and compete with Kurds. This has led in open fights. It seems, however, that Kurds are even tougher in the business and have remained dominant.

The number of those moving from Greece abroad is very hard to be estimated. Few nationalities, however, beyond Kurds use Greece as a transition country and these are among the nationalities which are not highly represented in Greece. The majority of migrants in Greece originate from Balkan and ex-USSR countries, and these will not pass from Greece if they want to go to Central and Northern Europe, but only exceptionally. It should be noted that it is not only illegal migrants, but also asylum seekers, even refugees, that leave Greece to go to an other European country.


3.4. Legal entrance/illegal stay

Illegal migrants and asylum seekers use also legal ways to enter Greece. The modalities are various.

A common way is through a tourist visa. After the expiration of the visa they overstay. For certain nationalities that tourist visas for Greece are given with great difficulty (for example Bulgarian) Shengen visa are used and migrants come to Greece travelling through other European countries. Comparison between entries and exits recorded by the police at the borders betray the extent of the phenomenon.

Also legal migrants whose residence permit has expired remain in Greece as illegals. In the past this has also been the case with mandate refugees. These belonged to three categories:

Other modalities used for entering Greece are at the margins of legality. There are many variations among which the following:

It is well known that the consulates of many countries provide to foreigners, through the intervention of organized networks, documents that they are not entitled to which are providing them with access to the country that the consulate represents.

In the case of Greece we have two cases that distinguish:

The case of Albanians. During almost all the decade of nineties, until the regularization procedure started, Albanians had access to visas, normally addressed only to Ethnic Greek Albanians. With these visas, acquired through the mediation of specialized networks from the Consulates, they were more or less protected from deportations. The visas were valid for six months up to one year, depending on the price paid to the intermediaries. Their cost corresponded to around what a migrant, working in the shadow economy, could earn in three to four months in Greece.

The case of Greek Pontians. Ethnic Greeks in the ex-USSR countries have a right to apply for Greek citizenship and return to Greece as Greek citizens, provided they are able to prove with documents their Greek origin. Non-ethnic Greeks ex-USSR citizens, by presenting fake documents or through other means, and always with the help of criminal networks, managed to acquire a Greek passport from the consulates and appear as Greek citizens. This opportunity has been used by criminals, who paid exuberant amount of money to acquire the passport which would allow them to move undisturbed all through Europe.


3.4. Developments in illegal access to the Greek territory

Despite the intensified efforts to control the borders migrants still continue to come and with the same intensity. The regularization itself does not seem that in the long run will have as effect the drastic reduction of illegal immigrants in Greece. As it has been experienced by other countries too that have applied amnesties, the stock of illegals is never exhausted as new persons arrive and among those regularised many fall back to illegality. As long as the issue of family reunion is not solved it is expected that family members of legal migrants will arrive in illegal ways.

The application of restrictive measures results in a better knowledge of the situation but hardly in a control of the situation. The fortress Europe seems to be built on moving sand, as it has delivered the migration movements to the control of traffickers and has contributed to the proliferation of crime.

The most prominent characteristic of the development of movements into Greece during the last years has been the gaining in importance of trafficking. Not only more migrants use traffickers and criminal networks to enter Greece, but the dependence on these networks increases.

Traffickers charge greater fares and has become a current business to blackmail and torture migrants in order to get the money owed. This tactic in Greece has been a few years ago used only by Kurdish traffickers, but now it is becoming all the more common. The police has detected numerous such cases involving various nationalities, either as victims or as traffickers.

A further development consists in the increased importance that acquires the type of trafficking consisting not in offering services to people who want to migrate but in bringing in people for exploitation. The most common type is that of women trafficking which has presented a spectacular intensification during the last years. Such trafficking is undertaken by networks in which participate people of different nationalities including Greeks in all cases and has been rendered possible due to the increasing corruption of the political world and authorities. During the last two years the police has been successful in dismantling many such networks and many tragic cases have come to be known.