During the last twenty years , significant numbers of people with various ethnic identities have entered Greece. Multiple terms have been used to describe ethno-cultural differences, such as “ migrants” , “minorities”, “repatriates”, “immigrants”, ‘emigrants” or “foreigners”. Through each of these terms has its own semantic content their common element is that they divide people into categories based on their cultural background(Paleologou,2004).
For the sake of conceptual clarity, we shall briefly introduce a distinction between different categories of foreigners (excluding EU citizens)residing and working in Greece today.
Immigrants: Citizens of non-EU countries who have entered Greece legally or illegally with the aim of settling and getting temporary or stable jobs.
Ethnic Greeks: They partly belong to the category “immigrant” since they are of Greek origin and/or practice the Orthodox Christian doctrine. There is one main recognised group of ethnic Greek immigrants, the Vorioepirotes who are Albanian citizens mainly from Southern Albania (Northern Epirus), but consider themselves (and are recognised by the Greek state) as ethnically and culturally Greek.
Asylum seekers: Citizens of non-EU countries who enter Greece legally or illegally and apply for obtaining the refugee status because they (claim to) fear prosecution in their country of origin for reasons related to their political beliefs, religion, race or creed.
Refugees: Foreigners who obtain the status of political refugee either by the Greek state or by the UNHCR delegation in Greece. According to some scholars, Pontic Greeks should be included in this category because they “return” fearing ethnic prosecution in the countries of former residence after the collapse of communist regimes.
Returnees: Citizens of non-EU countries who are of Greek origin in that they derive from Greece or regions beyond the borders of the Greek state which were formerly infl uenced by Greek culture. The majority of the individuals who belong to this category feel they have “returned” to their “homeland” and are Pontic Greeks or Rossopontii, i.e. emigrants from the region of Pontos. at the Southern coast and the Black Sea to the ex-Soviet Republics. Pontic Greeks acquire Greek citizenship upon arrival in Greece.
Repatriates: Greek emigrants who return to Greece on their own free will after a period of permanent residence abroad. Individuals belonging to this category may be Greek citizens or have acquired the citizenship of the host country. Children of Greek emigrants are also included in this category.