Migration and Struggle in Greece

Posts Tagged ‘LAOS’

The rise of anti-migration discourse in Greece

Posted by clandestina on 20 July 2009


The rise of anti-migration discourse in Greece

Background information on the rise of anti migration discourse in Greece in the context of the forthcoming bordercamp in Lesvos.
A personal report from K.

Since the beginning of the campaign for the European elections, there was an evident effort to bring to the forefront the question of migration as a security threat. First, it begun with scattered reports in the free press about Greek trendy multicultural bars and restaurants closing down because of rising health ang hyigene hazards in areas with large migrant populations in the centre of Athens. It then turned into a more serious preoccupation with the “downgrading of historical centre of Athens” because of rising numbers of migrants – in particularly Muslim ones. This contributed to the rising popularity of the extreme right-wing group Chrisi Avgi in certain regions of Athens like Agios Padeleiomonas, where a committee of concerned citizens closed down even the local play ground because “there were too many mothers in scarfs there”. In several regions of West Athens the systematic violent racist attacks against Paksitani migrants by neo-Nazi groups have intensified. Police “scooping operations” have become an everyday occurence. In addition the municipal and national police all over Greece have engaged into a not so new project of systemactially terrorizing migrant petty traders, treating them violently, arresting and imprisoning them, and confiscating their goods.

The European elections brought the ultra right wing party LAOS (meaning “the People” – but also abbreviation for Popular Orthodox Alarm) to the fourth place for the first time. The vast majority of its voters are male aged 18-35. LAOS made a very open anti-migrant campaign based mostly on issues national identity, security and migration control. The main arguments of the campaign were that Greece cannot support any more foreigners, that migrants are a threat to national security and cohesion, criticizing the other parties for their lack of a real policy of preventing migrant influxes and deporting illegal migrants. During the campaign, the leader of the party, Giorgos Karatzaferis, met with Greek Roma representatives making the claim that if Greece is a country that cannot even provide for its own destitute citizens – like the Roma- it is impossible to support all those migrants that have “swamped” it. Because at the moment none of the leading parties PASOK (first in the European elections) and Nea Dimokratia (government) seem to be able to have the necessary majority in case of national elections (which are most likely to take place next March if not sonner), there is a lot of speculation about a cooperation of LAOS with Nea Dimocratia. The leader is a former member of ND anyhow.

But what is even more important is that the agenda that LAOS has set has been adopted by several institutions and politicians across the political spectrum. As a result, migration in official disocurse is now discussed amost exclusively according to the terms set by LAOS. The Minister of the Interior anounced that he was going to create a migration detention centre in the outskirts of Athens in order to put inside all illegal alliens and clear the centre of Athens, while all illegal migrants caught at sea will be held in a special boat which will act as a floating detention centre in internatioanl waters. In a TV debate, the Minister of Foreign Affairs claimed that her party lost because they ignored the security of citizens being threatened by migrants, while a spokesperson for the opposition argued that Greece should push EU institutions to accept that the Greek borders must be protected by all European forces and not just Greece, pushing Turkey to accept the burden for all these illegal flows. Even the spokesperson for the Greens said that a real policy of “sending people off” should be implemented in order to deal with the problem of refugees in Patras. Public discourse in general has turned and is more likely to turn towards an even more anti-migration direction with nationalist fears of Turkey sending Muslim migrants to Greece and refusing to respect readmission agreements in order to undermine Greek national identity being uttered daily in public.

From my personal experience in an occuppied municipal building, even independent left wing people (mostly over 50s) have emerged with anti-migration arguments of the short: “I am not a racist but there is a limit to how many migrants Greece can handle”, “It is OK with people like the Albanians who have families and have integrated, but when it comes to Muslim men like the Pakistanis or the Africans we cannot accept living together”.

There is a lot of contradiction and ambiguity of course – but overall this is the picture I have.

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Greek government’s immigration plans – the summer of oppression gears up – military dungeons across the Aegean

Posted by clandestina on 12 June 2009


Four days after the European elections that saw far right parties rising in prominence across Europe, the Greek government announced measures aimed at curbing illegal immigration. Greek daily “Ta Nea” reports(translation from Greek):

Felony offenses for slavers and the creation of financial immigrant reception centers for 12 months are two of the immediate measures announced by the government to address the problem of illegal immigration. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos pointed out the european dimension of the issue, saying that no country can face the problem on it’s own. He also said that the Greek prime minister will broach the issue at the upcoming EU Summit, next week, and press for readmission treaties to be signed with third countries, as well as for signatories, like Turkey, to accede to treaties.In a previous article, “Ta Nea” quoted sources within the government and provided more details about the plan (translation from Greek):

The Defence Ministry sent a list of 11 military camps that could be used as concentration facilities for illegal immigrants arrested by police. The camps have been decomissioned but their facilities are in particularly good condition, the army department of infrastructure assured the police. Sources within the Interior Ministry told “Ta Nea” that the camps available are strewn across various parts of Greece. Greek police didn’t insist in creating just one big camp in Attica, fearing that it could be easily accessible to anti-statists attempting to cause unrest.

The government’s proposals attracted strong opposition criticism. George Papandreou, the leader of Socialist PASOK, described the measures as “sketchy and inadequate” and proposed instead an eight-point plan foreseeing the boosting of border controls and a drive to upgrade parts of the capital that have turned into ghettos for migrants. The Communist Party accused the government of seeking to imprison migrants in “concentration camps.”

The government is accused by the opposition of pandering to the nationalist LA.O.S. party, which doubled it’s seats in the European Parliament, after ethnic tensions flared in recent months in downtown Athens. The center-right Greek government of Kostas Karamanlis, besieged by scandals and the dire condition of the Greek economy, came second at the European elections behind the socialists, losing for the first time in 15 years.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday chaired an inner cabinet meeting devoted to illegal immigration and the positions that Greece will adopt at the upcoming European Union summit. Reporting on the results of the meeting, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that illegal migration was the issue expected to dominate the next meeting of the European Council.

According to Pavlopoulos, the main focus at the moment was to convert the EU’s FRONTEX organisation into a European coast guard and to promote re-entry agreements. He underlined that each country separately would be unable to deal with the problem and that this required a common EU effort and policy.

The minister pointed out that the issue of migration had also been discussed by EU interior ministers on the Thursday before the elections, adding that Greece, along with other countries, had since 2005 been at the forefront of efforts for a common European policy on migration, efforts that had led to the European pact for immigration and asylum.

He again called on the EU to exert pressure on third countries to sign re-entry agreements for illegal migrants, stressing that Turkey must finally observe Community rules.

Referring to the problems caused by immigrants but also drug addicts in the centre of Athens, Pavlopoulos said the transfer of the headquarters of the drug rehabilitation agency OKANA to a new location decided by the health ministry would be speeded up, and announced plans to build a mosque in the city and a Moslem cemetery at Schisto. A coordinating committee will be set up in order to ensure the immediate implementation of the measures, he added.

Deputy interior minister for public order issues, Christos Markoyiannakis, said the government intended to introduce harsher penalties for immigrant smugglers, who would henceforth be charged with criminal offences rather than misdemeanours. In addition, the government intends to build organised centres where any illegal immigrants that are apprehended will be able to stay for up to 12 months.

Pavlopoulos said a sharp increase in illegal immigration had been worsened because Turkey, with which Greece shares a border, was not adequately enforcing an agreement to take back migrants facing deportation from Greece.

In 2008, Greek authorities arrested more than 146,000 illegal immigrants, a 30 percent increase from the previous year and a 54 percent jump from 2006, according to figures from the Interior Ministry.

The measures announced Thursday follow the surge in support for a rightist party in European Parliament elections last Sunday, as well a violence protest on May 22 by Muslim immigrants in central Athens, protesting the alleged defacement of a Quran by a Greek policeman.

Earlier this week, police clashed with rival groups of demonstrators near the center of the capital, when local residents tried to block mostly Asian immigrants from entering a public playground.

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