Tuesday 7 August 2012

"If nothing matters, there is nothing to save" - Immigration in Greece

For me, what is worse is the mainstream discourse that surrounds the immigration issue. Today a member of the government stated that Greece has reached its limits and that illegal immigration is bringing Greece to the edge of collapse.* At the same time, the headlines of major newspapers referred to the government’s “epixirisi skoupa”, the hoover operation. It is amazing that from this word alone we can already deduce so many things. The government is cleaning up the country, putting the garbage away. The easiness with which people are dehumanised has always struck me. It then does not matter what the conditions in the camps are or how refugees are sent back to their countries. Nothing matters except the fact that they have to disappear. What is even more worrying is that it is not Chrisi Avgi that I am talking about but the Greek government. I am talking about parties of the centre having this kind of discourse, as if the refugees are the reason the crisis came in the first place. The government is stigmatizing these people because they are an easy target, because they have no legal rights and no possibility to make their voice heard. The government is stigmatizing them because they are clearly identifiable whereas those who are really responsible for the crisis are not easily distinguishable; because it is easier to blame a Pakistani than to blame the corrupted civil servant or the tax evador. It is easier to blame them than to blame us.

Immigrants in Greece
In Greece there is a crisis this is undeniable, but stigmatizing and chasing people who are poorer and worse off than you, and then asking other European governments to show solidarity, is hypocritical. This applies to the individual level as well; how can you ask others to show solidarity with you, if you consider people who risked their lives more than once to come here garbage? I would like to quote Jonathan Foer in his book Eating Animals: “If nothing matters, there is nothing to save.” Human rights and moral standards are not concepts that you can stretch and bend as much as you like and require. There is not a morality that is suitable for good times and another that you can apply in times of crisis, because then there are no more moral standards. It is even worse if you consider the fact that the majority of people here proudly call themselves Christians. If I recall correctly Jesus said “love your neighbour as you love yourself”. I always thought that it is in times of crisis that you can see the best and the worst of people and societies.  For now I have seen the worst. Now I hope for the best.

Alexandra Athanasopoulou

*That Greece is on the edge of collapse is ridiculous – EU funds for the improvement of the situation in the refugee camps have been available for months, but the Greek government is not using them.

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