The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Mainstream Racism and Xenophobia

A well-balanced, well-written article by Vassilis Monastirotis, Senior Lecturer in the Political Economy of South Eastern Europe at the London School of Economics European Institute. Bound to get my regular Golden Dawn supporters riled and he will be accused of being a bleeding heart liberal (as the comment below the article has already stated). Oh well, we’re used to it and someone has got to stand up and be critical of the current acceptance of xenophobia that is sweeping this country.

Via the London School of Economics and Political Science

Last week, the Greek government rounded up thousands of illegal immigrants in Athens, with many now awaiting deportation. Vassilis Monastiriotis argues that while illegal immigration is an issue that needs to be addressed in Greece, the government’s tactics of zero-tolerance show that it is jumping onto the bandwagon of xenophobia and shifting the blame for the country’s economic problems.

Illegal migration has been a galloping problem for Greece even before the crisis. But the crisis has made the situation truly unsustainable and especially in down-town Athens ‘normal’ everyday life has become almost impossible in recent years. Large parts of central Athens have effectively been taken over by groups of illegal immigrants and petty criminals, from pick-pockets and drug users to organised gangs involved in prostitution, robberies, and violent crime. Consistent with its policy attitude to attack the symptom but fail miserably to understand the cause, Greece launched on 4 August a – I can’t find a better word – pogrom against (legal and) illegal immigrants in Athens. Some 6000 have been summoned so far with over 1500 detained and awaiting deportation.

Tackling social disorder in inner city Athens is a long overdue issue and indeed a key responsibility of the state. But the events of 4 August (which are continuing and extending geographically) are hardly it. A look at the semantics is enough, I think, to make the case, but I will also touch upon the substance to avoid being accused of reading too much into things.

 The operation took place on the anniversary of the installation of a fascist-like dictatorship in the country back in 1936. As then, on 4 August  2012 Athens was bloated with police units which, admittedly in an untypically peaceful fashion, moved street by street, building by building, seeking to restore “order and social quiescence” – to quote the 1936 dictator. Quite conveniently, this happened to be on the first Saturday of August, on a day when most Athenians (who could afford to do so) were wetting their feet on a nearby beach – presumably, so that neither would they disrupt, nor would they be disrupted by, the operation. And almost incredibly, the operation was coded “Xenios Zeus“, the epithet given to the ancient Greek God – the king of all gods – to symbolise his hospitality to and patronage of foreigners.

If the official who came up with the codename was some ignorant twenty-year-old, one could perhaps see this as a tasteless joke or an unfortunate irony – and excuse the sarcasm. But the Minister of Public Order and Citizens’ Protection, Nikos Dendias, who allegedly came up with the codename, is not a twenty-year-old… The minister has defended ferociously the operation and its codename, arguing that the latter is simply meant to show how the operation ‘restores the human rights of the illegal immigrants’. [I refrain from commenting on how arrogantly patronising the above statement is, even if its assertion was to be true.]

Read the full article at the London School of Economics and Political Science

 UPDATE: Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the current police sweeps, arrests and detentions saying

these police sweep operations violate international human rights standards and should stop immediately (Amnesty)

violate international human rights standards and should stop immediately (Amnesty)

Greek police must have specific cause to stop and question people beyond the appearance of their national origin. Mass expulsions are strictly prohibited under international law. Greece is also legally bound not to return refugees to persecution or anyone to risk of torture. Yet Greece has failed to demonstrate its capacity even to receive asylum claims, let alone to process and decide them fairly. (Human Rights Watch)

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