Amid fears that a forced Greek exit from the Eurozone could cause the country’s economic collapse and chaos, the British government is studying plans to limit immigration and evacuate its citizens from Greece if uncontrolled riots break out, reports said. The Guardian newspaper said that British Home Secretary Theresa May is looking at ways to restrict immigrants who want to leave Europe’s most troubled economies, especially Greece, where critical June 17 elections could decide if parties opposed to austerity measures demanded by international lenders will prevail and try to renegotiate or renege on the terms of two bailouts totaling $325 billion.
The Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) putting up the monies has warned any attempts by a new government in Greece to tinker with reforms, including pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions could lead to the money pipeline being turned off. That has sparked anxiety that Greece could drop the euro and collapse into anarchy and lead to mass migration, with a domino effect spreading to other countries.
In what was said to be a clear warning to Greeks who may wish to flee a crumbling Greek economy that may drop out of the Eurozone, the British minister suggested that “work was ongoing” to restrict immigration should there be a financial collapse in the euro area, although there has been no increase in migration from the Eurozone just yet, but that, it was ‘‘difficult to say how it is going to develop in coming weeks.” When asked whether the government was considering curbing immigration, May answered: “It is right that we do some contingency planning on this; work is ongoing.”
The Daily Telegraph added that London could contain the number of Greeks or other Eurozone citizens moving to Britain to work by forcing them to submit visa applications. Home Office data showed that the number of Greeks applying to obtain a British passport in 2011 rose by 30 percent compared with 2010, climbing from 250 to 325. For those who believe they can enter the United Kingdom unlawfully and stay, she had another warning. “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration,” she declared. Work is under way to deny illegal immigrants access to work, housing and services, even bank accounts. “What we don’t want is a situation where people think that they can come here and overstay because they’re able to access everything they need,” she said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also told Greeks either to accept more austerity or lose their lifeline loans and go back to the ancient drachma the country abandoned 12 years ago to enter the Eurozone. Media reports said Britain, like the European Union, is drawing up contingency plans to deal with Greece leaving the Eurozone, including preparations to evacuate Britons if civil disobedience spreads into wider unrest, and for banks to take steps to protect Britain against euro liabilities.
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he believes that Greece will probably remain in the Eurozone but that the Troika’s demands were too harsh and too rapid for the country to assimilate without unrest. Greeks have been protesting, striking and rioting for two years, to no avail. He said the reforms could take decades to complete and that the Greeks are being pushed too hard. “Anything can happen, but I think the most probable outcome is the one which is most positive for Greece and for all of us,” Monti said on an Italian television talk show, when asked if he believed Greece would stay in the currency bloc. “Greece has lost its sovereignty; it’s under the instructions of the IMF, the ECB, the European Commission. Having the others tell you, ‘here is the money but I’m deciding,’ must be a terrible, terrible humiliation.”
(Sources: Kathimerini, Athens News, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph)