This is a Chapter of the Study “How does the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on migration?” carried out and prepared by the Ethical Journalism Network and commissioned in the framework of EUROMED Migration IV – a project, financed by the European Union and implemented by ICMPD. © European Union, 2017.
Media’s Double Vision as Migrant Crisis Catches the World’s Imagination
Prior to the 1990s the first significant migration flow of men and women to Greece came from the Philippines many of whom worked in Athens mainly as domestic workers for the affluent and upper-middle class. The Greek media as well as Greek society in general hardly noticed their presence. They worked in people’s homes for six days a week and lived elsewhere on their day off. They were rarely seen in public places and were never integrated into Greek society. They rarely troubled the police or the authorities and so, in turn, did not suffer widespread discrimination or from racist comments, either in the mass media or elsewhere.
There was a further significant migration flow from neighbouring countries in the beginning of the 1990s (from Bulgaria and Romania) and, in particular, from Albania following the death of Ramiz Alia at the end of 1991. As a result of the implosion of state authority in Albania (one day the doors of prisons were opened and all detainees were released) there was an influx of more than two million Albanians who came to Greece by all possible means in search of a better life.
The absence of any proper preparation by Greek authorities to deal with such a great number of destitute people, often going hungry, set the scene for a public backlash. Additionally, among the new migrants were criminal elements and the crisis sparked a mass media response in which racist stereotypes were often used in relation to the newcomers.
Thousands of stories in the media, both print and electronic, focused on a crime wave driven by a so-called “Albanian mafia.” Albanians were blamed for many hideous crimes and were accused of being responsible for the rise in crime at that time, although this was never corroborated by official data or evidence.