October 2014, Volume 21, Number 4
Greece. Some 28 Bangladeshis picking strawberries were shot by guards in April 2013 when they protested unpaid wages in Manolada in the western Peloponnese. The workers say they were paid E22 a day to pick strawberries, minus E6 a day for food and accommodation, but had not been paid for five months. There are an estimated 6,000 migrant workers in the area each year.
In July 2014, two of the shooters were acquitted of charges including forced labor to causing grievous bodily harm; the other two were convicted but released pending appeals. The workers' attorneys vowed to appeal.
Greece's economy is 25 percent smaller than it was before the 2008-09 recession, and the unemployment rate was over 25 percent in summer 2014. Unemployment rates are higher for youth 15 to 24, almost 60 percent, and for older men with little education. Relatively few Greek women work for wages, only 43 percent in 2013 compared to an EU average of 62 percent, so that prolonged unemployment for men reduces family incomes especially sharply there.
Italy. More migrants left Libya for Italy during summer 2014. Almost 122,000, including 10,5000 unaccompanied youth from Eritrea, Egypt and Somalia, arrived in Italy during the first eight months of 2014, more than the number who arrived in 2011 during the Arab spring. Italy does not deport unaccompanied youth.
Most migrants pay smugglers about $2,000 to make the journey to Lampedusa in boats that hold 100 to 300 migrants. In October 2013, some 360 migrants died when their ship sank near Lampedusa. The International Organization for Migration in September 2014 reported that over 4,000 migrants died attempting to migrate in 2014, including 3,000 in the Mediterranean.
The EU's Dublin convention requires foreigners seeking asylum to apply in the first safe country they reach. However, foreigners are not required to provide fingerprints in Italy, and Syrians and Eritreans often refuse to be fingerprinted so that they can leave Italy and apply for asylum elsewhere in the EU.
Italian youth are struggling to find stable jobs. More than half of Italians with jobs in summer 2014 had short-term contracts. Entry-level wages in Italy have fallen by a third in real terms since the early 1990s.
Spain. Over a thousand African migrants tried to scale fences surrounding the Spanish enclave of Melilla in mid-July 2014 but were driven off by Moroccan and Spanish police. The EU has provided Spain with almost $15 million to enlarge the three fences that surround Melilla and Ceuta, but 500 migrants a month have climbed over the fences and entered these Spanish enclaves each month in 2014.
In August 2014, several boatloads of African migrants reached Tarifa on the Spanish mainland after Morocco relaxed controls that normally keep migrants from leaving. Once in Spain, migrants are photographed and fingerprinted and often given expulsion orders, but many stay in Spain illegally.
Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president August 10, 2014 with 52 percent of the vote, becoming Turkey's first elected president and evoking comparisons with Russia's Vladimir Putin, who also shifted between PM and president since being appointed PM in 2000.
Erdogan, who was Turkey's PM between 2003 and 2014, hopes to be Turkey's leader for the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic in 2023. He wants to move Turkey from a parliamentary system of government to a system in which the president has more power.
Erdogan is reversing the trend toward secular Turkey begun by modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, by allowing head scarves on college campuses and in Parliament. Erdogan reduced the power of the military in politics and won the support of most Turks as the economy boomed in recent years. Turkey is sometimes seen as a role model for Arab countries, since it has an expanding economy and democratic credentials.
Turkey's political opposition is split between Kemalists loyal to the principles of Ataturk and the modernist Turks who protested development plans in Istanbul in summer 2013.