by Fotios Spyropoulos,
PhD Candidate, Lawyer- Criminologist, Centre for Penal and Criminological Research
The Greek Society of Criminology
and the Centre for Penal and Criminological Research of the University of Athens
organised a colloquium on the subject “Criminological Aspects of Migration in Greece
”. The meeting took place on the 15th of February 2006 at a large Amphitheatre of the University of Athens, situated in the neo-classical building at the centre of Athens. The large audience had the chance to hear about various important aspects of migration in the light of Criminology through the presentation of the mainly research-based work of the four speakers at the meeting.
Miss Evaggelia Vagena-Palaiologou
, Magistrate with a doctorate degree in Criminology, presented a paper on the relatively recent and crucial phenomenon of migration in Greece. It has to be pointed out that Greece is at cross-roads between East and West and almost surrounded by sea, therefore, it is difficult to control the Greek frontiers which are also the frontiers of the European Union. The title of the paper was: “Racism and xenophobia in Greece today – Attitudes of formal social control agents (Justice – Police)”.
According to the research conducted between 1998 and 2003 on 250 public prosecutors, judges and 412 Police officers, it was ascertained that judges consider foreigners living in Greece today partly responsible for the increased national crime rate. They estimate that number of foreigners appears to have increased, but they are certain that foreigners enjoy all the procedural safeguards and are protected by Greek Justice. They do not generally consider them to be dangerous, although a percentage has directly or indirectly been victimised at the hands of a foreigner. Moreover, the speaker pointed out that the police consider the number of foreigners is excessive. They consider them responsible for the increase of criminality and unemployment; they class them more often as offenders rather than victims and they express their suspicion of foreigners’ credibility. Nevertheless, they claim that it is not necessary for all foreigners to be expelled from the country; rather, they see criminal activities as resulting from their poor living conditions and are supportive of legal and equivalent treatment of foreigners and Greeks.
Afterwards, Dr Ira Emke-Poulopoulou
(Vice-President of the Society of Demographic Studies, Member of the Academy of Science of New York), spoke about the very interesting “Financial and social consequences of immigrants coming to Greece”. Miss Ekme-Poulopoulou pointed out that migrant inflow contributed to the increase of GDP, the survival of marginal businesses, the amelioration of the welfare fund deficit, the increase in savings, the deflationary effects and Greece’s accession into the Eurozone. Finally the speaker showed, through a series of scientifically documented findings, that migration has a positive influence on demographic evolution in Greece, while it also contributes to the financial development of the host-country. For this reason, the financial and social incorporation of the immigrants is an imperative and the condition for this is the legalisation of their residence in the country.
Afterwards, Mr. Filippos Manolaros
, Athenian Appeals Court Judge, presented a Greek research on the subject: “Migrants seen through Greek court decisions”. Mr. Manolaros first outlined the crimes which migrants seem mostly likely to participate in, analysing the offenders’ modus operandi and all the other conditions which usually emerge with such illegal activities. Mr. Manolaros’ speech made an impression due to the evidence from case-law [legal precedent/jurisprudence] and which points out the immense financial exploitation connected to immigration (i.e. trafficker fees, extortion) and, especially, to the female aspect of the phenomenon (i.e. sexual exploitation for financial gain). As for the treatment of foreigners standing trial, the speaker claimed that no discrimination is apparent, but that different treatment is often imposed due to the fact that the foreigner is in Greece illegally and has no fixed residence (i.e. in cases of temporary custody).
Finally, Miss Alexandra Moshopoulou
, Doctor of Criminology and Special Counsel of the Ombudsman presented a research study, which was the subject of her thesis at the University of Athens and which concerns the image of migrants’ criminality through the Greek evening press. As the researcher underlined, from analysing the content of two newspapers, it was found that immigrants’ criminal activity is disproportionately reported (quantitatively and qualitatively) compared with official statistics and reporting of native criminal activity. Indicatively, on the basis of the crimes examined, police statistics for known offences show foreigners represent 14.3%, while the two newspapers present a much higher percentage (44.9% according to the Greek newspaper “Apogevmatini” and 36.4% stated by the Greek newspaper “Ta Nea”). Moreover, the research confirmed that the differing bias of the two newspapers influences remarkably the way in which criminality and more importantly immigrant’s role, are presented to public opinion. Mr. Nestor Courakis
, Professor in the Law Faculty at University of Athens and Director of the Centre for Penal and Criminological Research, as moderator of the discussion, made some interesting criminological observations and summarised the key points of each speech.
With the speeches over, Mr. Courakis invited the audience to express their opinion and discuss the matter. The first to speak was Ms. Aliki Giotopoulou-Maragopoulou
, Professor Emeritus at University and President of the Greek Society of Criminology, who expressed her reservations on the reliability of the statistics and pointed out the serious problems which are created in relation to human rights by the so-called “white-slave traffic”.
Professor and ex-Minister, Mr. Georgios-Alexandros Magakis
’ intervention was very interesting. He emphasized that we should feel shame for perceiving immigrants solely as contributors to crime, and expressed his objection to the gross violations carried out against them.
Worthy of note was the large student turnout at the event – evidence of a particular interest in this specific field of studies, prompting hope that future scientific activities will have capable people to continue this effort.