Each of these items would deserve its own post with its own analysis but quite frankly, I am a bit burned out today. I can only offer so many words before these issues take a toll. So, here’s a roundup of items regarding the ongoing dehumanization of migrants/ People of Color in Europe:
At The Guardian, Diane Taylor writes “The UK dehumanises immigrants – no wonder tragedies happen in detention”. From the article:
Asylum seekers are widely perceived to be a large group of undeserving people who scrounge benefits and gobble up social housing and jobs that should be reserved for British citizens. The facts – that asylum seekers only make up about 5% of migrants, are banned from working, and often have zero government support or accommodation – are drowned out by scaremongering from rightwing tabloids and politicians.[…]
Hardwick manages to claw back some of the humanity we have lost by highlighting shocking individual cases, including the pregnant woman who was tipped out of a wheelchair
Also at The Guardian, Diane Taylor and Rowena Mason write “Home Office staff rewarded with gift vouchers for fighting off asylum cases”
Home Office officials are being rewarded with shopping vouchers for helping to ensure failed asylum seekers lose their attempt to stay in the country, new documents reveal.
Official guidance obtained by the Guardian shows that immigration staff have been set a target of winning 70% of tribunal cases in which asylum seekers are appealing against government decisions that they should leave the UK.
These officers are also incentivised by Home Office reward schemes involving gift vouchers, cash bonuses and extra holidays, according to information received under freedom of information laws.
This is such a textbook example of the marriage of capitalism and racism. What better way to “incentivize” dehumanization and Othering than through the promotion of consumerism? For every failed asylum seeker, a shopping reward as a tool to enforce white supremacist capitalism.
At Enet English (Greek Independent Press), Investigation into alleged Greek coastguard abuse of migrants. From the article:
"The Hellenic Coastguard commandant has ordered the investigation of three distinct cases of alleged ill-treatment of third-country nationals by staff of the Hellenic Coastguard for the period between August and December 2013," Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis informed Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, on January 10.
In November, a German-based human rights organisation produced a report that said refugees attempting to enter Greece through the Aegean were being systematically, illegally and, in cases, brutally pushed back by the Greek authorities, in contravention of international law and with the complicity of the European authorities. Amnesty International has also raised its concerns about the same issue.
Ireland, 700% gap in reports of racism to gardai [Irish Police] and PSNI. From the article:
A MASSIVE 700pc gap between racist incidents reported to gardai and those reported to police in the North has prompted a call for an urgent review of reporting in the south.
The figures suggest that many victims in the south “are still choosing to suffer in silence rather than come forward,” according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland, which has reviewed statistics for the two jurisdictions.
At Open Democracy, Clare Sambrook writes “Man, 84, dies handcuffed in hospital: UK border control by the GEO Group”. From the article:
At Gatwick Airport last year, on Wednesday 23 January, British immigration officials detained an elderly Canadian man. He was taken to hospital. Then he was locked up at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre. A doctor examined him, reporting to the authorities that he was “frail, 84 years old, has Alzheimer’s disease …demented”.
The doctor marked his papers: “UNFIT for detention or deportation. Requires social care.”
The British Home Office chose to ignore the medical advice and continued to detain him.
On 8 February he was taken to hospital in handcuffs, then returned to his cell. Two days later he was taken back to hospital and kept in handcuffs for five long hours. His condition worsened. The cuffs stayed on. His heart stopped. Medical staff tried and failed to resuscitate him. The handcuffs were removed. His name was Alois Dvorzac.
Bonus Australian newspaper feature: What do you think about Australian Customs not retrieving the bodies of the asylum seekers who were in the boat that capsized off Christmas Island?
Newspaper facsimile via Courteney Hocking H/T Sabine
Earlier this month the EU’s border agency FRONTEX was accused by migrant support groups on the Greek island of Mytilene of expelling migrant families from rooms that they were occupying, in order to set up their own offices at the PIPKA “open” migrant centre. FRONTEX subsequently disputed these claims, saying that the events described never took place. Now groups on the island have issued a statement disputing FRONTEX’s statements and describing in detail their version of events.
Statewatch News Online: FRONTEX activities on Mytilene, Greece:Attempt to take over “open” migrant centre, new “closed” camp set up
Statewatch has an update on the Mytilene (Greece) migrant center incident with Frontex that I covered on my post yesterday. From the article:
"The incident happened Friday [6 September]…Two Frontex officers [thought to be Swedish and Italian] entered the building and went up to the first floor where the two [Syrian] families were hosted. (The main building has two extra rooms, where the most vulnerable refugees are hosted due to better housing conditions i.e. extra bathrooms). They told the families to move out of their rooms and go out, since they wanted to open their offices there. They had to move to the wooden houses that have no extra bathrooms, they are more exposed to the weather and they are shared by more persons. At night to go to the toilets you have to walk in the dark. The refugees were afraid and followed the "orders" of the Frontex officers."
Click through to read the rest.
In a security message, the embassy said the State Department’s travel section had been “updated to inform U.S. citizens of a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent in Athens and other major cities.”
The travel advice on Greece also said the embassy “has confirmed reports of U.S. African-American citizens detained by police authorities conducting sweeps for illegal immigrants in Athens.”
- US Embassy warns Americans of possible racist attacks in Greece | The Clarion-Ledger | clarionledger.com
Following a fact-finding mission (29.02.- 02.03.2012) the Greek Council for Refugees reported: “Complaints often concerned incidents where migrants were forced into the sea, with their clothes on and in freezing weather conditions, to stay in cold water up to their necks and then once out of the water were made to stand still for hours in their wet clothes, until they freeze (…). In addition, there were reports of migrants who were forced to stay on their hands and knees, while port authority officers would sit on them. In other cases, the victims were forced to take off their clothes, stand still with their legs extended, and beaten every time they moved. Furthermore, as we have been told, the authorities often destroy or confiscate migrants’ personal belongings – even food or their shoes. The port officers unleash their dogs, sometimes leading to serious injuries from dog bites or falls when migrants try to escape them.
From a report released by Pro-Asyl Foundation about the ill treatment of migrants and refugees in Greece.
A couple of things come to mind here:
Europeans and their outrage over Guantanamo Bay and the torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib would do well to read about the ways that the European Union itself treats undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.
When European media reports right wing violence in Greece, the issue is presented as the result of disillusioned fringe groups that should be brought to justice. That is obviously not the case and the involvement of both Greek government officials and Frontex employees proves otherwise. Just to give one more example, from the same report:
A public discourse exemplified by Minister Loverdos of the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity, routinely refers to migrants in Greece as a “hygienic bomb”, a “threat to public health” and a “financial burden” on the health system.
There is nothing isolated in these incidents. They are part of a continent wide policy of exclusion and dehumanization. These supposed “fringe groups” taking matters on their own hands now are nothing more than the normalization of this violence.
Athens, Aug 9 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Two flesh-eating piranha fish have been caught in a river separating Turkey from Greece. A Turkish fisherman caught an 18-inch piranha in the Evros river July 31. Earlier this week, a Greek fisherman caught a nine-inch piranha on a fishing rod, using sweet corn as bait.
The river has been a major entry point for illegal migrants from Asia into Europe.
Piranhas, known for their sharp teeth, voracious appetites, and occasional cannibalism, inhabit South American rivers. It is not clear how the fish got into the Evros.
Flesh-eating piranhas found in Greece river
Side eye news of the day, especially the part about not knowing how the piranhas could have gotten into the river. On Sunday evening, an Iraqi immigrant was killed in Athens. From the report:
A young Iraqi man was killed in the latest in a series of hate attacks against foreigners in Greece. The death comes amid a wave of anti-immigrant feeling and follows electoral successes for the far-right.
Police said on Sunday that the 19-year-old Iraqi was stabbed to death by five men traveling on motorbikes.
The police said the men had “tried to attack a Romanian and a Moroccan in the same area” late on Saturday, a version of events supported by witness statements.
Rarely could charity have had such negative connotations as on Wednesday in Syntagma Square, central Athens, where neofascist Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) handed out free food to passers-by, as long as they could prove they were Greek.
ekathimerini.com | Charity begins at home
From the report:
The discrimination exercised in how food was handed out or the fact that Golden Dawn defied a ban by the City of Athens to use the capital’s main square for its event is the least of Greek society’s worries. There was something much darker, more malignant going in Syntagma Square. Anyone wanting to avail themselves of the far-right party’s “generosity” was asked to produce an ID card proving they were Greek. This document was then taken by party members, who recorded all the details.
Some very worrying developments have been taking place in Greece in the past couple of days. The “food for Greeks” mentioned here took place on Thursday. And on Sunday, thousands of migrants were rounded up by police and detained. This is no coincidence, this is systematic.
ATHENS — Greek police vowed Sunday not to relent in their efforts to evict undocumented immigrants after a sweep they said had netted 1,130 in central Athens over the weekend.
Police said a total of 4,900 people were rounded up in the capital on Saturday, of which 1,130 were detained. “The police operation to evict undocumented immigrants will continue,” a statement said.
AFP: Greek police detains 1,130 immigrants
From the news:
Operation Xenios Zeus, named after the name of the king of the ancient Greek gods in his role as protector of guests, mobilised 2,000 police in Athens and another 2,500 on Greece’s eastern border with Turkey.
Police spokesman Christos Manouras said Saturday the operation was a necessity for debt-laden Greece’s national survival.
"We must send the message that Greece cannot afford work and hospitality" to would-be immigrants, he said.[…]
But as the country struggles with a crippling economic crisis and sweeping austerity cuts, social tensions are on the rise and the increase in undocumented immigrants has fuelled xenophobia and racist attacks.
For the first time in Greek political history, the country in June voted into parliament a neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, which has promised to purge the country of illegal migrants.
The family’s terrifying experience is part of wider epidemic of such violence in the Greek capital. Migrants and asylum seekers whom I and my colleagues from Human Rights Watch interviewed spoke of virtual no-go areas in Athens after dark because of the risk of attacks by vigilante groups. An association of Afghans in Greece provides newly arrived Afghan migrants with a map marked in red for areas to avoid.
Greece’s Epidemic of Racist Attacks - NYTimes.com
And more to the point regarding my previous post about the EU. Similar reports about growing racism and violence, this time in Greece.
My latest for Global Comment about the EU, democracy and the rule of financial corporations:
There is hunger in Europe. For the first time since World War II, this hunger and extreme poverty are not limited to pockets of exclusion in Eastern nations but running across the continent. Greece, Italy, Spain are in international media almost daily with depictions of hardships, soaring unemployment and deprivation. The European summer saw the birth of “the indignant ones”, a wave of protests sweeping these nations and to an extent, replicated across France. These “indignant ones” clashed violently with police at the peak of the Greek anti austerity protests, expressing a collective discontent that went, for the most part, ignored. Now, two months after these clashes, the European Union is still not responding with the haste that would be expected to aid its own citizens. A European Union that was once portrayed as “strength in unity” is now more fragmented and disunited than ever since its creation.
Read the rest here.
Journalist Stacy Herbert is tweeting from the protests in Athens, Greece.
Some background info on the protests, via Greek News agency ANA-MPA:
Thousands of Athenians were flocking to central Syntagma Square and the surrounding streets in downtown Athens from early Wednesday morning in the 22nd consecutive day of protests by the Indignants’ Movement, with the aim of encircling parliament.
Also via BBC News:
"Tramps, police informers, journalists!" That’s the chant of the front line of the protest and since my cameraman and I are the only journalists here it is aimed at us.
The protestors are taking a break from insulting the riot cops lined up in front; a woman tugs my arm and says, “Get out of here”.
The media is the target here in Syntagma Square for two reasons. First, because the people here believe the Greek media have sided totally with what they call “Big Capital”.
And Costas Douzinas for Comment is free @ guardian.co.uk:
When Stéphane Hessel wrote in Time for Outrage! that indignation with injustice should turn to “a peaceful insurrection” perhaps he did not expect that the movement of indignados in Spain and aganaktismenoi (outraged) in Greece would take his advice to heart so soon and so spectacularly.
The Greek resistance to the catastrophic economic measures was expected. Throughout modern history the Greeks have resisted foreign occupation and domestic dictatorship with determination and sacrifice. The measures imposed by the IMF, EU and European Central Bank with the full accord, if not invitation, of the Greek government, have led to 11 one-day general strikes, numerous regional strikes and imaginative acts of resistance. […]
Three weeks ago, things changed. A motley multitude of indignant men and women of all ideologies, ages, occupations, including the many unemployed, began occupying Syntagma – the central square of Athens opposite parliament; the area around White Tower in Thessaloniki; and public spaces in other major cities.