This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of August, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 26 August 2019
Media Outlet: SKAI TV
Author: Stavros Balaskas, Vice President of the Greek Federation of Police Officers (POASY)
Description of the anti-refugee content: Appearing on a morning TV show on SKAI TV, a prominent media outlet in Greece, Stavros Balaskas, vice-president of the Greek Federation for Police Officers (POASY) was interviewed about security issues in Athens. The focus of the interview was a police operation, launched on that the same day, which left evicted many migrants and refugees who were currently housed in abandoned buildings in the neighbourhood of Exarcheia, a place in central Athens well-known for clashes between police and leftist, anti-authoritarian and anarchist groups. Asked to comment on the decision by the Ministry of Citizen Protection to intervene in the area, Balaskas said: “a finger switched on a silent and technologically new vacuum cleaner, the police, which will gradually suck all the garbage from Exarcheia”. Perplexed by his answer, the journalist asked whether by “garbage” he was referring to cases of criminality occurring in Exarcheia and not people. Balaskas then responded that his comments do not explicitly refer to migrants and refugees which he described as an ‘’irritating dust’’ but they mostly concern other left-leaning groups which he continued describing as the “real garbage”. Balaskas’s comments created a wave of reactions by political parties and civil society organisations, and an official administrative inquiry has begun.
Myth debunked: Stavros Balaskas uses highly inflammatory language when referring to refugees and leftist groups that have already and will be evacuated from the buildings in Exarcheia. Words such as “dust” to be “sucked out with a vacuum cleaner” are dehumanising and discriminatory. In recent history, dehumanisation has offered a moral justification to the perpetration of violence. Further, the description of some groups as “contaminated” blames minorities for the chronic challenges facing Greek society. This conduct is even more serious when it comes from a person in a position of power, such as Vice President of the Greek Federation for Police Officers, against a vulnerable group. The people living in the squats that the police raided and cleared at the end of August were primarily refugees and refugee families. The squatting of abandoned buildings offer an alternative to the poor living conditions of official refugee camps, hotspots and detention centres. In addition, although not always explicitly expressed, Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate are closely related to anti-refugee sentiments in Greece. Across Europe more broadly, anti-migrant Islamophobia marginalises Muslim refugees on the basis of a presumed incompatibility with “Western values”.
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