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24 hours without us

02 March 2010 / 13:03:50  GRReporter
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On March 1, immigrants in Greece, and in five European countries - France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Belgium, have announced a mass protest under the slogan "24 hours without us." Their protest is more symbolic than anything else, but the initiative itself had started in France on Facebook. With the question "what would happen if millions of immigrants in Europe ditch work and the country where they live,” they decided not to participate in any economic exchange for one day, i.e. not to buy anything from anywhere, thereby demonstrating against racism and xenophobia. 

In Greece, the initiative "March 1 - 24 hours without us” started by journalist Niko Ago, which created a group with that name on Facebook. For 45 days the group members reached 6 000 people. On this occasion at a press conference in Athens bookstore “Yanos" the organizer of the initiative Niko Ago invited journalist Pashos Mandravelis, lawyer Yoana Kourtovik, the creator of Diavatirio website Vassilis Hronopoulos, Secretary General of Ministry of Interior Andreas Takis, principal of 132th elementary school Stella Protonotariou, the singer dj Yinka, director of “Avgi” newspaper Nikos Phyllis and teacher Dimitris Christopoulos. 

Dj Yinka or Manolis Afolanou is 28 years old and was born in Athens. His parents have come to Greece from Nigeria in the late '70s and have graduated from Greek universities Subsequently, they remain in Greece, they start dealing with trade and they have children. Manolis says that when he was a student there were three other African children and the other children were looking at them weird. At home Manolis’ parents were talking to him in their language and he was responding in Greek. Later they began speaking only in Greek. "And this is the way that the second-generation immigrants get closer to the Greek society,” concludes Manolis. When he turned 18 Manolis had to apply for a residence permit every two years in order to be able to stay in Greece and in order to do this he had to show proof that he has worked enough days in the year and thus has earned his right to stay, although he was born in Greece and the Greek language is his "mother" tongue. "The new law gives children of immigrants their rights. All these years we exist, and nobody has the right to tell us whether we are Greeks or not!" said 28-year-old Manolis on the occasion of the upcoming vote on the bill regarding the terms of obtaining citizenship by immigrants. 

The initiative of the immigrants called "24 hours without us," began in France where, during the riots a few years ago, the Prime Minister said that “one Arab is good, but many Arabs are a problem”. The movement then spread to Italy and other European countries, says journalist Niko Ago. 

"To have immigration policy and as many immigrants, as we need to come" is not a neutral discourse,” analyzes Kathimerini journalist Pashos Mandravelis. "Following are the questions how much do we need them and for what we need them? To get married to them, to work on construction sites? According to estimates, by 2010, Greece will need 3 million immigrants in order to maintain the country's economy alive. I say that we need as much as we have right now. The economy of the country itself says, how many immigrants are needed because Greece is not a socialist country with a planed five-year programmed economy, in which calculated are how many people are necessary, but it is a country with a free market. As long as there is work, there will be immigrants. The question is not how many they are but under what conditions they are coming." 

During the public debate Pandio University of Athens Professor Dimitris Christopoulos pointed out ten points over which reflections should be raised and the myths surrounding them should be stopped: 

1. The presence of immigrants is associated with poverty. The truth is that immigrants contribute to the development of the country. 

2. Very often the media spread the notion that immigrants are blindly choosing the countries where they work and live. The truth is that immigrants often go to their relatives and do not choose the countries for which they supposedly depart randomly. 

3. Widespread is the perception that immigrants are uninvited. The truth is that some countries like Greece use their labor outside the law and this is widespread. 

4. Immigrants come to stay. The truth is that they live with the thought to get back to their home country. But eventually the idea of their possible going back fades away. 

5. Europeans believe they are the center of immigrant flows. The truth is that Iran is a country, which now hosts the most number of immigrants. Coming to Europe are between 12% and 15% of all immigrants in the world. 

6. Immigration itself increases the prerequisites, which are a condition for it to exist. The truth is that it is easier to start a migration wave than to stop it.

7. Immigration is associated with social integration and integrity of society. The truth is that integration and the unity of society do not apply only to immigrants but to all members of society. 

8. The myth says that immigrants arrive in Greece for the first time. The truth is that Greece is a country where there have always been immigrants. 

9. The issue of immigration is associated with culture and identity. The error is that different cultures are seen as monolithic, and even peasants from two different villages have different ways of behavior and culture. 

10. Concept, which is distributed by the media on receiving citizenship by immigrants. While the bill covers those people who live in Greece for years, they live in a hole and we need to give them legal existence. 

In turn, after a trip to Igoumenitsa lawyer Yoana Kourtovik shared her thoughts. In this city refugees expelled from Patras have now settled, who have assembled tents with nylon in the woods above the town. Igoumenitsa is one of the largest ports in Greece, from where ships depart for Italy. Many refugees hope to embark on a ship unnoticed and leave for Italy. 

"I want to close my eyes and imagine that one day the arrests will be empty and the police will prosecute only the unemployed, drug addicts and anarchists" said Mrs. Kourtovik. "A day without immigrants, which will cease to offer prosperity to our societies, so we can see how useful they are for their maintenance. Useful for the prosperity of our societies, with the roles and place given to them... I want to close my eyes and imagine a society where an Albanian can be a teacher and a Bangladeshi will be a doctor and this will be normal." 

"This initiative prompts Greeks to realize that this topic affects us for what we are and what we want to be," summarized the general secretary of the Ministry of Interior Andreas Takis. "The new law gives immigrants the opportunity to plan in the longer term, open their horizons and does not limit them to two years the permission to stay in the country, as it was until now. The bill refers to immigrants who reside legally within the country and gives a sign that guarantees residence to all those who hold a document in their hand." 

Finally, Vassilis Hronopoulos, who for years has been dealing with the website Diavatirio where he uploads all laws for legalization of migrants and employment laws, said: "The the slogan "we are all immigrants" I want to answer with something different – “we are all local” and I hope all of us will become citizens."

Tags: 24 hours without us immigration Greece France Italy
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