Text in Greek available here.
On the occasion of the International Migrants Day
From Anti-Immigrant Summer to Zero Tolerance on Election Bait
Just over a month and half ago Prime Minister Papandreou used the Global Forum on Immigration & Development proceedings in Athens to sketch government measures which would stand for a humanitarian turn compared to the policies and situation of the recent months . He described as necessary
“[T]o stimulate the participation of immigrants in the political life of the country, through the possibility of Greek citizenship acquisition, particularly of course for the so-called ‘second generation’, in which we are suggesting the acquisition of citizenship by birth for the new person born in our territory.”
For people in Greece, though, the announcement of the Secretary for Home Affairs Theodora Tzakri two weeks later, which made clear that Greek citizenship would be granted only to children born to legal immigrants, came as no surprise.
The doctrine of “Zero tolerance to illegal migration” goes hand in hand with this government’s humanitarian turn… As for what this turn is all about, it aims at incorporating immigrants mostly from Albania, after two decades of overexploitation, and in exchange for votes. A phony exchange indeed.
Along with this, the dividing of immigrants into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘useful’ and ‘superfluous’, ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ becomes more intense, and the system of exploitation grows deeper roots .
As we wrote in our above linked text on the Global Forum on Immigration & Development:
“The aim of developmental policy is to control migration flows (through the FRONTEX patrols and detention centres) as well as to regulate them (through 5-year rotating work permits, the annulment of asylum rights), in order to keep a stable proportion of productive inhabitants within the increasingly ageing, unproductive populations of Europe. In other words, recycling the migrants will keep the indexes of development in check, development being the systematic and bloodthirsty pillage of lives and resources, time and space.
According to the “UN Population Division report on replacement migration”, if the Europeans want to keep their ratio of older people to active workers at the 1995 levels, the Union will need 135 million immigrants by 2025.
This demographic issue is only part of the story, and maybe not the most important. Neoliberalization inside Europe has meant a weakened, destabilized labor force. It’s not just that capital wants selected migrants because it needs more workers, it wants migrants because they are powerless, unorganized, low-paid workers for whom there will be no job security, no health care and no pensions.In other words, they are far cheaper and less troublesome workers”.
Illegal immigrants are necessary because through them the rights of the legal ones are suppressed (there is of course rotation of people in these roles). At the same time, illegal immigration helps governments maintain a useful xenophobic atmosphere to impose authoritarian policies. “Migration management” includes both authoritarian hysteria and humanitarian logistics. The two seemingly opposite positions are the two sides of the same coin of subjugation.
So let’s outline against this backdrop the government’s humanitarian turn after the elections of October 2009…
The Doctrine “Insulated Greece”
The new doctrine was introduced by Minister of Citizen Protection (= Public Order) M. Chrisochoïdis on Tuesday, December 15, at his meeting with the FRONTEX Executive Director J.Laitinen. The construction of the Southeast Mediterranean FRONTEX Headquarters at the U.S. base of Aktion or at Piraeus has been a permanent request of the Greek government, which proudly stated that 75% of illegal entry arrests at the sea borders of EU for this year took place in the Aegean sea.
A few days earlier in the frame of FRONTEX operations (on Saturday, December 12) officers in Samos island, on no notice whatsoever and violently, carried out with utmost secrecy the transfer of over 85 Afghan refugees from the local detention center to the island’s airport at Pythagorio. There the refugees were boarded on an airplane which departed for an unknown destination.
The slaughter in the Aegean Sea continues
In less than two months, 16 migrants have died in the icy waters of the Aegean. Most of them were children.
- On Tuesday, October 27, 8 immigrants, three adults and five children, drowned in the east part of the Aegean Sea.
- On Saturday, November 7, the lifeless bodies of six children from Palestine, aged 2 to 12 years, washed up on shore near Bodrum (Alikarnasos), Turkey. The boat in which 19 Palestinians – half of them children – squeezed themselves on an effort to pass from the Turkish town of Turgutreis to Kos island overturned 500 meters from the shore.
- On Friday, December 11, a boat carrying undocumented migrants sank near the island of Leros. Fishermen found 25 migrants perched on a rocky island and two more lifeless bodies in the sea.
Incidents of abuse and humiliation by the police amount to dozens, and most of them never reach the public attention. We report the following characteristic cases:
- In the afternoon of October 22, immediately after the visit of Secretary of State Vougias the detention center in Pagani of Mytilene, police officers responsible for guarding the center abused and beat prisoners, including a 17-year boy, who was evacuated to the Vostanio Hospital, where lesions were diagnosed on his head, back, waist and arms. According to the interpreter, the police promised 350 euros to the victim to buy his silence.
- On the 19th of November in the afternoon a 35-year old immigrant was beaten by two officers serving at the infamous Aghios Panteleimonas Police Station in Athens. Her two year old child witnessed the beating and the arrest, and along with her mother remained under custody at the Kypseli Police Station for four hours! The incident became known only because the woman is married to a famous Greek musician.
- On Friday, November 20 , immigrant detainee Mohammed bin Taher collapsed in the courts of Evelpidon street in Athens. His condition was such that he was taken to hospital by ambulance. As reported by the his fellow detainees (and he later confirmed) Mohammed bin Taher had been savagely beaten by police at the Omonoia Police Station.
- On the 9th of October Mohammed Kamran dies after the treatment he received by the policemen who had raided the house where he and fellow Pakistani workers resided in Nikaia, Athens.
The para-state mechanism was launched last summer against immigrants and since then it has been working relentlessly despite the supposed change of policy.
- The most recent incident was the attack of last Tuesday, December 15, against the Social Haunt – Immigrants Haunt in Chania, Crete (hometown of the former Minister of Public Order Markoyannakis). In the same city on December 8 there has been a savage criminal attack against two immigrants by unknown perpetrators. The near-killers attacked the immigrant workers in the back with crowbars, and left them with serious head and body injuries. One of the 2 victims was among the 15 hunger strikers of last year , who shook the island of Crete with their proud struggle. The intensity of the attacks in Chania definitely is related to the dynamic struggles of immigrants in the city.
- In Athens, brutal attacks against Arab shops took place at the Neos Kosmos district on Monday, November 22, when 40 people holding crowbars and molotov cocktails attacked and injured the employees in two mini-markets, destroyed the merchandise and stole the money of the cashier.
Para-state organized violence encourages and feeds the diffuse social one.
- Thus, on November 8, four immigrants who had been working at olive fields in Messolongi, Western Greece, were attacked with crowbars and clubs and beaten savagely by circa 15 people. The immigrants were transferred to the emergency dept. of the Messolongi hospital. The immigrants had been asking their wages from the owner of the fields in which they had been working. They were ambushed and beaten in an old warehouse, where they had an appointment with their employer to get their money.
- In late November the trial of 25 immigrants (mainly Arabs and one Afghan) took place; they had been arrested during the events of December 2008 and had been detained ever since. All this period they were considered missing. All of them were sentenced to imprisonment from 7 months to 3 years. It is characteristic for the fairness of the trial that only one interpreter had been assigned , who translated simultaneously for 24 defendants who were divided in three groups in the court’s room. The Afghan who did not understand Arabic was seated on the last bench of the room…
- On Friday, December 11, in Thessaloniki, a report was issued by the Hellenic League for Human Rights, about the detention centers in Evros and Rodopi. The survey took place from the 25th to the 29th of November 2009 and states:
In many cases there is inadequate lighting, ventilation and heating (…) At virtually none of the premises visited have the possibility to go outdoors on some yard. Even in detention centers where there is an adequate yard, the large number of detainees on the one hand and the lack of personnel on the other allows usually only for some prisoners to have outdoor breaks for a minimum period and not on a daily basis (…) Food in many cases is inadequate, the quantity and quality in general varies (..). The care taken for sanitation and hygiene conditions varies from inexistent to inadequate (…) The availability of medical and nursing staff is poor and at all cases occasional (…) The detainees were in total confusion regarding their rights, the time of their detention and ill-informed as to asylum procedures; interpreters were not available.
December 18, 2009
Group of Immigrants and Refugees, Thessaloniki