Should I stay or should I go?

Wednesday 23 September, 19.00 until 20.30, Free Thinking Zone, Skoufa 64 str & Grivaion, 10680 Athens International Satellites

This event is free and unticketed. For more information contact Geoff Kidder.

Migration is a fraught political issue in Europe today and perhaps nowhere more so than in Greece, which has experienced an influx of migrants from outside the EU. Large numbers of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia see Greece as a gateway to the relative security and prosperity of the Schengen zone. Tens of thousands of migrants arriving by boat on Kos and Lesbos are causing a humanitarian crisis, while even those intending only to pass through Greece have been stuck at stand-offs with police at the northern border.

While the situation raises all sorts of practical and policy challenges, perhaps more importantly it raises the broader issue of what drives migration. This is especially so because at the same time there has been a massive exodus of (mostly young) Greeks to other Eurozone countries, in what has been described as, ‘the biggest brain drain in an advanced Western economy in modern times’. Those opposing the EU policy of granting freedom of movement to all EU citizens argue that workers from the south and east of the continent, including Greece, are driving down wages in the north and west, while the arrival of illegal overseas migrants further compounds the problem. Others insist immigration is actually good for economies: migrants from outside the EU are often driven to make a new life for themselves and want to get jobs and work hard rather than live off welfare. And while the brain drain from Greece may have some damaging implications for Greece in the short term, it is also argued that many will return to Greece one day with skills and experience that will help drive the Greek economy.

So should young Greeks be encouraged to stay even in the face of high unemployment and seemingly poor prospects? Or should migrants passing through Greece be encouraged to stay and help drive much needed economic recovery, counteracting the loss of so many Greek people to the more prosperous economies of northern and western Europe? Does immigration – from either within Europe or from beyond - help or hinder European economies? Or does that question miss the broader concerns over social changes that come with migration? And as EU rules effectively means that national governments have little democratic control over migration within the EU, who should control borders anyway? And should the young, whether from Syria, Libya or Greece, get up and go to build a better life elsewhere, or stay put and build a better world at home?

Dimitris Christopoulos
vice president, International Federation for Human Rights

Dr Ashley Frawley
Senior lecturer in sociology and social policy, Swansea University; author, The Semiotics of Happiness: rhetorical beginnings of a public problem

Lefteris Papagiannakis
member, Athens municipal council; president; Immigrant Integration Council

Menelaos Tzafalias
freelance journalist and producer based in Athens

David Bowden
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; culture writer

Produced by
Areti Georgili founder, Free Thinking Zone
Geoff Kidder director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters

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