The Greek population is made up of just under 11 million people, of which nearly 4 million live in the metropolitan area including the capital, Athens. Population growth is negative (-0.6% in 2014) and the over-60s are almost a fifth of the total population. Greece has traditionally been a country of emigration. After the Second World War, many Greeks moved to northwestern Europe (600,000 in Germany from 1955 to 1973), the United States, Canada and Australia. Since the 1980s, with the return of democracy and economic development, the country has experienced a turnaround, attracting formerly emigrated Greeks as well as immigrants from Asian and African countries. In the nineties, with the collapse of the communist systems, the migratory flow from Eastern Europe began, in particular from Albania. Today, following the worsening of the economic crisis, we are witnessing a reversal of the trend again: the Greek and foreign population has once again started to leave the country. According to United Nations data, if the number of foreigners present in Greece in 2010 exceeded 980,000 people, only three years later, in 2013, it was reduced to just over 220,000. The accuracy of the estimates is however limited by the spread of illegal immigration (mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Georgia), a phenomenon favored by the difficulties in controlling Greek borders, starting with the eastern one. All this in 2015 triggered a real emergency. According to data from the World Organization for Migration (Iom) Greece was the main landing point for migrants to the states of the European Union: in the first ten months of 2015, over 500,000 people landed on the Greek coasts. Greece is also a destination and transit country for women and children who are victims of trafficking for prostitution and forced labor, mainly from Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova and Albania.
Almost all of the population (98%) is of the Orthodox Christian religion. There are minorities of Muslims (1.3%), Jews, Catholics and Protestants. The Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 guarantees the Muslim minority in Thrace the right to form associations (awqaf), the right to education in Turkish and the application of certain principles of Islamic law by the muftis. in matters of family law. Conversely, other religious groups do not receive funds and some ethnic and religious minorities risk being socially discriminated against. The Orthodox Church, which traditionally received economic support from the state, took part in the recapitalization of the National Bank with the worsening of the crisis and since 2010 has paid a series of contributions into the state coffers: that is, it has been equated with other legal entities that pay taxes.
Education is free and compulsory from 6 to 15 years old. The last three years of secondary school are in fact seen as preparation for university entrance exams and this, given the difficulty in being admitted to universities, has always imposed a high standard. The university, free of charge, is accessible only to those who pass the exams, which are managed by a national committee. This pushes a large number of Greek students from the more affluent classes to undertake their studies abroad. There are also some private institutions, but the qualifications issued are not recognized for the purposes of public employment. Corruption has been and remains a major problem for the country, even though Greece’s position in Transparency International’s 2014 index, ranking 69th out of 175 countries.
Greece facing the migrant crisis
During 2015, Greece faced an unprecedented crisis due to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants, often fleeing from war and conflict. According to data from the World Organization for Migration (Iom), in the first nine months of 2015 441,527 people arrived in the country: the great majority coming from Syria (175,375) and Afghanistan (50,177) and to a lesser extent from Pakistan, Albania and Iraq. In the first quarter of 2015, according to Eurostat data, 2610 migrants applied for asylum in Greece: a figure 23% higher than in the same period in 2014.
In 2015, Greece was therefore the main landing point for migrants to the states of the European Union (Eu): most of the people who arrived tried to continue their journey to the northern European states, in particular to Germany., looking for new opportunities for work and life. Greece has often represented the starting point of what has been called the Balkan route, that is the path that from the Hellenic offshoots, through Hungary, Serbia, Croatia and Austria, brings migrants to the gates of Germany or even further north to the countries Scandinavians.
Although considered above all a transit country, Greece, already tried by five years of economic crisis, found itself faced with the difficult management of landings and the subsequent phases of reception. Expenditure on crisis management further strengthened solidarity between Greece and Italy in the request for a more coordinated response at European level and the definition of a Community asylum policy.
In September 2015, the final green light was given to the redistribution scheme of around 120,000 refugees from Greece, Italy and Hungary, through a system of compulsory quotas for the member states of the European Union. A decision that has raised fierce criticism from several Eastern European states. Faced with the rapid surge in asylum applications received, Germany also declared its intention to provide financial aid to Greece in managing the crisis.