SEEKING SANCTUARY ACROSS THE SEA: WHY THE INFLUX OF REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS TO GREECE REQUIRES MAJOR POLICY CHANGES.

Author:De Orio, Rachael E.
 
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  1. INTRODUCTION

    The Mediterranean countries on the periphery of Europe, such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece, have received more than 300,000 persons seeking international protection by sea in 2016. (1) Currently, Greece is host to approximately 57,000 of these individuals who have fled their homeland in the hopes of a better, safer life in the European Union. (2) Unfortunately, these refugees and asylum seekers have not found the haven they were expecting; instead, they are perpetually waiting in interim camps for official documentation of their status while Greece faces criticisms for the deplored conditions of these temporary "homes." (3) The influx of refugees into the European Union, particularly to border countries such as Greece, is straining the asylum systems meant to assist those individuals fleeing countries torn apart by war and political instability. (4) The European Union's Schengen Agreement, which permits free travel between ratifying European countries, and the Dublin Regulation, which determines the country responsible for an asylum applicant, are under criticism from world leaders and policy makers who question the sustainability of these protocols. (5)

    This Note will examine how the economic crisis in Greece is contributing to the country's inefficient response and escalation of its refugee crisis. (6) It will evaluate the application of E.U. laws and regulations in Greece and argue for the implementation of new action to better address the needs of the refugees who wait indefinitely in Greece's interim camps. (7) Part II will explore Greece's financial history and examine how its inability to avoid debt left the country unprepared to manage the subsequent mass migration, fueled by global unrest and violence. (8) Part III will examine Greece's current economic instability and the effects that has on the nation's response to the refugee crisis. (9) Part IV will analyze the European Union's current asylum regulation systems and propose that the regulations' ineffectiveness requires the termination of current systems, or at the very least, creation of new policies, rather than reimplementation of failed protocols. (10) Finally, Part V shall conclude that the resolution to the immigration crisis depends on existing regulations understanding the financial burden levied on countries already experiencing economic instability. (11)

  2. HISTORY

    The migration crisis, though occurring throughout Europe, is substantially impacting Greece, whose geographical proximity to the Middle East and Africa makes it the country of first contact for those asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war and socio-political unrest in their home countries. (12) Greece is criticized for inadequately managing the migration surge, and its recent financial crises calls into question the country's capacity to make an effective, substantial response. (13) The refugee crisis in Greece is compounded by the nation's failed infrastructure systems, legislative challenges, and uncertainty as to how to respond to this broad global problem. (14)

    1. Greece's Economic Crisis

      1. Lead Up to the Economic Crisis

        The state of Greece's economy during the past twenty years is marked by quick growth of gross domestic product (GDP) and productivity, followed by an equally rapid breakdown of this financial progress. (15) Initially, Greece experienced both an efficient credit market and macroeconomic stability from its inclusion in the Eurozone. (16) The Eurozone, a bloc of nineteen E.U. States who use the euro as their common currency, is a defining feature of European integration. (17) As a smaller state with a relatively-sized global economy, Greece was highly reliant upon the European Union for financial support to stave off high inflation rates and currency devaluations, the unavoidable consequences of joining the Eurozone. (18)

        Before the Eurozone became a reality in 1999, economists already expressed concerns about Greece's desire to participate in the eventual convergence of the European economy when the country joined the European Union in 1981. (19) Certain features of the Greek economy and its social organization, such as "inefficient public administration, endemic tax evasion, and widespread political clientelism," gave rise to serious concerns that Greece would be unable to resolve these systemic issues in order to meet E.U. regulations for joining the Eurozone. (20) Greece appeared to triumph these reservations by meeting the Eurozone requisite that government deficits could not exceed 3% of a Eurozone country's GDP.21 Even though Greece seemingly accomplished this goal and joined the Eurozone in 2001, the European Central Bank (ECB) and other European countries were wary about the lack of transparency in the Hellenic government. (22) Official signs of Greece's impending financial crisis came to light in November 2004 when the government admitted to inaccurately filing its deficit budget and concealing the reality that its deficit was never below the 3% requirement. (23)

        Greece's apparent initial economic success was unsustainable due to its own faulty governmental and economic organizations, which favored interest groups and excessive market regulations. (24) Some of the most problematic features of the Greek economy were its heavy regulation and widespread corruption conducted and condoned by its own government. (25) Political control in Greece has long relied on party-favoritism and pandering to voters to gain support. (26) Throughout the years, this has led various Greek leaderships to use continual augmentation of the public sector to build voter support and secure power in between elections. (27) Tense competition between parties, often played out in attempts to "purchase" party support by flooding the public sector with funding, has significantly contributed to Greece's high sovereign debt crisis. (28) The expenditures designated to the public sector cost significantly more than what the government could afford to sustain. (29)

        This clientelism culture has permitted the now-common profuse tax evasion in Greece and contributed to the nation's economic downfall. (30) Ironically, though Greece has progressive income tax legislation, its progressiveness is precisely what permits widespread tax avoidance. (31) The government's finance sector condoned tax evasion through its lax enforcement of tax law and poor supervision of the economy. (32) Tax avoidance easily proliferated under policies that did not require service employees or professionals to write receipts for their clients. (33) Greece was, however, able to minimize some of it financial weaknesses, by relying on value inflows from tourism and other service-related sources of market income. (34) This predicament, briefly suspended in a volatile balance, would eventually be outweighed by a lack of market competition, a preference for a closed market, and weak institutional infrastructures. (35)

        Greece's integration into the European Union and its participation in the Eurozone undoubtedly prevented its economic collapse in the late 2000s, and is saving it from complete failure today. (36) Economists, who doubted whether a single currency bloc could be successful among even economically strong nations, found the case of Greece entirely disastrous and doubted its capacity to make a recovery. (37) The situation in Greece has led some to propose a "Grexit," which would be, by choice or by mandate, an expulsion from the Eurozone. (38) In 2010, foreign investors quickly withdraw their assets from the Mediterranean country once it was undeniably clear that its economic situation was beyond self-repair; the consequence of this abandonment hastened the collapse of the economy. (39)

      2. What the European Union Has Done in Response to Greece's Economic Crisis

        Greece received an initial bailout of EUR110 billion, the equivalency of USD 122 billion, from the European Union in 2010 to assist with its payments on its high deficits. (40) By accepting the aid from the European Union, Greece was required to in turn implement highly unpopular austerity packages to help reduce its own deficit. (41) Economic reform proposals included privatization and reduction of the nation's social security system and labor market regulations. (42) The reform proposals, and the involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the ECB, and the European Commission, gave some confidence to other E.U. states who feared Greece's future in the European Union meant the payment of endless bailouts. (43)

    2. Legislative Initiatives

      1. Greece as a Schengen State

        The economic struggles Greece endured did not prevent it from pursuing its goal of complete integration into the European Union, in particular, its accession into the Schengen Area. (44) This bloc of nearly all European states and some non-European countries, such as Liechtenstein and Switzerland, was formed in 1985 as part of the Schengen Agreement. (45) The Agreement relies on harmonized regulations and procedures in lieu of internal border checks, permitting free travel between signatory States. (46) Special visas allow both E.U. citizens and third-party nationals to readily cross internal borders, emblematically signaling the Union's goal of unifying Europe's exchange of culture, persons, and economy. (47) The arrangement requires strong border protection in countries marking the outer perimeter of the Schengen Area; among these States are Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. (48) The security for the Schengen Area greatly depends upon the cooperation and solidarity of Schengen States. (49) State efforts at security and control are supported by the European Union's Home Affairs' decentralized agencies. (50)

        The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member-States of the European Union (Frontex) assists E.U. States with the application of existing E.U. laws and regulations "relating to the...

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