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Latest Country Blogs: Greece
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Divide and rule in Greece and Egypt


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Greek state's racism scapegoats migrants

Greece’s economic crisis has prompted a series of criminal acts by the Greek state against migrants. The European Union is largely silent except where it is helping Greece to keep refugees from entering its borders.

In their desperation, undocumented migrants and asylum seekers have launched hunger strikes and protests, including attempted suicides and self-mutilation, in detention camps across Greece.

Rounded up by the Greek state with no access to lawyers or information about their future, thousands of migrants are imprisoned both on the mainland and on islands where people are locked up straight from the boats that many arrive in.

Detainees are on hunger strike at Amygdaleza, one of the largest camps which consists of dozens of containers. There in the hot sun, up to 2,000 undocumented migrants are kept short of food and rarely allowed out for exercise or activities.

Nearby, hundreds of children are being held in a dark building, and they too complain of never being allowed out, or properly fed or permitted to wash themselves or their clothes. In this film, a Greek police officer tells visiting members of the European Parliament that this is by far the best of the camps.

Hundreds of Syrians attempting to cross from Turkey across the Evros river have drowned. Greek police are accused of using boats to shove them back into Turkish waters. Police forces from other EU states are taking turns in policing the river area, and now a huge fence has been completed at a cost of €17m.

For black and Asian people living in Greece, life is little better. Greek police carry out thousands of checks on people's papers every day. They also facilitate attacks on them by organised gangs from the two Greek fascist parties.

Migrant agricultural workers are facing horrific exploitation, and there are calls for a boycott of Greek strawberries, after bosses opened fire on workers in Manolada, a farming area in the Peloponnese.

Around 200 mostly Bangladeshi workers at a strawberry farm confronted bosses over seven months unpaid wages and 28 were injured when supervisors opened fire with shotguns. Their rate of pay was less than €4 an hour and the bosses were deducting one day's pay every week to cover their accommodation in filthy polytunnels.

The immediate response of Nikos Dendias, the New Democracy MP who is minister for Public Order and Citizen Protection, was to order the arrest of the injured workers for being undocumented. Four were seized immediately on leaving hospital. After an international outcry Dendias said they would be given refugee status, but that has not yet happened.

Such attacks are commonplace in Manolada, a so-called economic success story which has been achieved almost entirely at the cost of terrible slave labour conditions for migrant workers.

All the parties in the Greek parliament are guilty of allowing this growing racism. The coalition is keen to keep the focus on immigrants to divert attention from the terrible economic crisis and the increasingly insane austerity measures being forced on Greek people by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Even Syriza, nominally a left party, recently signed a parliamentary pact with the fascist Independent Party calling on the Greek government to save the money-laundering Cypriot banks. This inexplicable move shows that none of the parties in the Greek parliament can offer a real alternative to the fascists.

The people of Greece urgently need to develop an independent political movement, with no connections to the state and its corrupt parliament, that is prepared to challenge the capitalist status quo. While the system stays in place, Greeks face decades of austerity, unemployment, poverty and misery – and the racism and fascism that it spawns and nurtures.

Penny Cole
6 June 2013

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