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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Social constraints and the decision to leave: Emigration from Greece at ...


Manolis Pratsinakis’ presentation, his inaugural as SEESOX/Onassis fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, focused on the determinants of the decision to migrate in the context of the currently unfolding big wave of Greek emigration and brain drain. 
Recession and austerity has made migration a survival strategy for several people who are finding it hard to make ends meet in Greece. However, there are others in less pressing need who are also leaving the country and present their migration as something they were considering already long ago. Focusing on the latter category, Manolis outlined how the crisis in Greece has altered the everyday discourse on emigration and loosened up social constraints towards long distance mobility, ultimately changing the emigration mentalities in Greece. 

In the first part of his talk, he provided a broad overview of the nature and identity of this wave of Greek emigration. Placing it as part of the current crisis-ridden Greek economic environment and complex migratory landscape, he outlined its differences from previous emigration flows and described its magnitude, dynamics and demographic make-up. In the second part of the presentation Manolis shifted the attention to the micro and meso level of analysis. 

Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews which he conducted with Greek migrants in Amsterdam and London and empirical material from participant observation at the Greek Community House in Amsterdam, he explored how migration decisions are actually taken by families and individuals. He pointed that the decision to leave lies somewhere between choice and necessity. The sudden increase in the emigration outflows after the deepening of the crisis in Greece allows for easy assumptions of a direct link between the two. However, Manolis explained that the increase of migration is actually strongly mediated by developments that we would analytically categorize as falling within the “social realm”. Exploring emigrant’s aspirations, social networks abroad and the reactions of friends and kin back home on their decision to leave, he highlighted the paramount significance of "the social" in the decision to migrate, relativizing mono-causal theories that make claims for the deterministic significance of economic factors. 

Lamprini Rori, AG Leventis/SEESOX fellow, St Antony's College, Oxford

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