Greece's Immigration Boom
Over the last 120 years, Greece has been a country of significant emigration -- to North America, Western Europe, and Australia, among other countries. Since 1990, however, Greece has quite quickly transformed from a country with very few immigrants to a multiethnic country. Over half of this wave of immigrants to Greece comes from Albania, with Bulgarians and Romanians also contributing significant, though much smaller, numbers.
In addition to this immigration flow, 150,000 ethnic Greeks from the former Soviet Union have moved to Greece since the late 1970s. Furthermore, many Greeks who emigrated during harder economic times have returned as retirees. All these influx routes make for dramatic population changes. Immigrants are estimated to make up about 10% of the Greek population today.
In cosmopolitan Athens, the verdict seems mostly positive. We met a fourth-grade teacher who works for a school in a heavily immigrant neighborhood. He raves about his children, 20 of 21 of whom are of immigrant backgrounds, and seems enthused about the immigration-fueled boldness of contemporary Greek society.
There are shards of ambivalence as well, of course. Parts of the Greek media have engaged in a scapegoating form of immigrant stereotyping, focused in particular on Albanians. One hotel proprietor we met slyly made it clear that she doesn't allow Albanians and Bulgarians to stay in her rooms.