Our migrants and the others

on . Posted in English texts


Any discussion on migration inevitably includes the wave of Greek migration abroad in the 1950-70 period and the discussion normally ends with the aphorism: "Yes, but our migrants behaved differently."

Though containing a grain of racism, this is mostly true. "Our" migrants did indeed behave differently. Why? Are Greeks genetically endowed with good behavior? If so, why does this only come out abroad and not on the streets of Athens?

On February 3, 2006, an Islamic organization held a rally outside the Danish Embassy in London in protest at the controversial sketches published in Denmark of the Prophet Muhammad. Their placards read chilling messages like "Death to the infidels" and "Remember 9/11," yet not a single incident occurred. Not a single stone was thrown, not a single fire lit nor store window smashed. In contrast, during the protests in Athens last Friday against a similar event - an insult to a symbol of Islam - there were no scary banners but stones were thrown, shop windows smashed and fires lit.

So, here we have two rallies by people of the same religion, against a similar incident but with very different results. The London protest was a very British affair - sharp words, no violence - and the Athens protest was typically Greek - resulting in chaos.

What this tells us is that, to a great degree, migrants adopt the behavior of their host country. Greek migrants of the past had their own distinct identities but, in contrast to how they would behave in their own country, they would never litter the streets of their host country. They knew the law stood for them as much as it did for the locals. In a country like Greece, where lawlessness is pretty much the norm, the migrants here adapt accordingly and therefore contribute to the problem. Their trash in the street is no different to ours, they simply increase the volume. The only way to solve many of the problems that migration brings is to enforce the law, and not just on migrants but first on the Greeks.

«Kathimerini» English Edition, 29.5.2009