In Greece the political effects of the debt crisis have produced a shift in the entire political landscape. Dominated by two parties for decades, the Socialist PASOK and the Conservatives are now discredited and blamed for the mess Greece finds itself in.
This has opened the door for radicals, and Greece’s extreme-right “Golden Dawn” says it has the answers.
“In Athens, in the centre of Athens, the Greek population is in a minority, I’m talking about the whole area in downtown Athens, a small minority. Outside, wherever you go, in the suburbs, south Greece, north Greece, we are full of illegal immigrants. Full. And everyday more and more are coming, from the borders with Turkey, the Aegean, from everywhere,” says candidate Ilias Panagiotaros.
His shop, which is also his electoral HQ, is adorned with military effects, historical flags of Greece and pictures of Giorgios Papadopoulos, the general which plunged Greece into years of military dictatorship, from 1967 to 1974.
With no official figures the International Organisation for Migration can only estimate at 1 million the number of illegal immigrants in Greece. What is undisputed is that Greece is the main entry point for the EU.
The IOM helps those who want to return safely to their countries to get on a plane with 300 euros in their pockets. We are told that the patterns of the immigration phenomenon have changed over time.
Traditionally coming from neighbouring Albania, these past 5 years have seen more and more immigrants coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. And since the Arab revolutions and Turkey’s decision to exempt citizens from Arabic countries from visa requirements, more and more come from Tunisia and Algeria.
“The best thing to do is to get prevention. Raising awareness campaigns in their own countries to show them the reality with bad pictures. To show them this is not paradise,” says the IOM Mission head Daniel Esdras.
Golden Dawn could get as much as five percent and form a parliamentary group, just the latest in a string of extreme-right European parties for whom the crisis of the last four years is manna from heaven.
“An unprecedented financial crisis, an angry, frustrated and fragmented society, widespread corruption at all levels of the administration, means we have here three explosive ingredients that make Greek society, as a local pundit has put it, a laboratory for extreme–right-wing evolutions in Europe,” says our reporter in Athens, Laura Davidescu.