Greek conservative party makes huge gains across the country

Every year, tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty arrive in Greece in search of a new life, or to transit further north-west to wealthier European states.

However, since the wave of migrants to Europe in 2015, anti-immigration sentiment has been spreading throughout Europe. It led to election wins for far-right parties in countries such as Italy and Austria. The European Union also negotiated a deal in 2016 that would allow them to return all irregular migrants to Turkey.

In June 2019, the Greek conservative party also made huge gains across the country, after sweeping local and the European parliament elections. By contrast, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ party picked up less than a quarter of the local election vote, prompting him to call for snap general elections. Greeks will head to the polls again on 7 July 2019, and could end Tsipras’ hopes of becoming the first Greek prime minister in three decades to see out a full term in office.

In the months leading up to the election, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited migrant camps such as those on Lesvos and Samos Islands. He criticised the government for failing to ensure the return of irregular migrants to their country of origin and long delays in processing asylum applications. Tsipras, on the other hand, was largely viewed as a more pro-immigration politician.

German news agency DW spoke to some asylum seekers and migrants who arrived in Greece and made it their home, to ask for their thoughts on anti-immigration politics in Europe. Many of these migrants had initially planned to transit through Greece to wealthier countries, but were stuck due to the EU-Turkey deal.  “In the beginning Greece was a door but people got stuck here,” says Bagher who works as an assistant. “But people need jobs and housing. Greeks don’t even have jobs, how will we?”

One female Afghan said she has lived in Greece since 2004. She now works in Greece as an interpreter for a refugee day centre, and says her biggest fear is rise of fascism. “Things in Europe will become worse from now on because of the far right,” she said.

Another migrant said he came to Greece in 2016 with his family. His sons started speaking Greek soon after they arrived, so they decided to stay in the country. “I am afraid of the rise of the far right,” he said.

TMP – 18/06/2019

Photo credit: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Migrants and refugees arrive at the port of Piraeus, February 2016.