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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Mitarachis and the Turkish earthquakes: using catastrophe to spread bigotry

Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis has once again shown there is no position which is too low for him to stoop, by pretending that people whose homes were smashed in the Turkish earthquakes pose some kind of threat to Greece and the wider EU.

Two huge earthquakes struck Türkiye on Monday 6 February 2023, devastating large areas of the south of the country, as well as northern Syria.

So far, more than 47,000 people have been killed, and several million forced from their homes in both countries.

While Greek nationalists have celebrated the deaths, many others in Greece had up to now responded with deep concern, making donations of clothes, food, blankets and money, while others had travelled to Türkiye to help with emergency rescue efforts.

But Mitarachis has decided that common human decency is no more a good look for Greece than he believes it to be for him, and has chosen to ‘represent’ his country by saying on OpenTV (Greece) ‘s Tora Mazi (Together Now) show, as well as on his Twitter account, that:

The EU must support Türkiye to prevent migrant flows after the earthquakes.

He went on:

Greece guards its borders, something for which we are under pressure from SYRIZA and PASOK internally as well as in the European Parliament.

Now. We could first note that this at least marks a change from Mitarachis and his fellow Nea Dimokratia members that ‘Türkiye’ is forcing people to travel to Greece.

But at heart, what Mitarachis has done is take the gravest natural disaster to have occurred anywhere during his time in government, and turn it into a racist dogwhistle, designed to spread fear and hatred.

And we must, as we must so often it almost hurts, note that it is illegal to prevent people from leaving a country. It is also illegal to prevent people from entering your country if they wish to apply for asylum. Both of these things are precisely what Mitarachis is asking for.

‘Guarding borders’ is illegal in response to people arriving to apply for asylum, and at the very least despicably immoral when it comes to preventing people from staying in the short-term while their devastated homes and regions are repaired to make them fit to live in.

The attacks on PASOK and SYRIZA are clear pre-election swipes, a very deliberate trivialisation of massive deaths in two countries extremely close to Greece for political gain, even as one would hope that parties and politicians would ‘compete’, if at all, to be as kind and generous as possible to people whose lives have been devastated for at least the first time (in the case of Syrian people in Syria and in Türkiye, for the second, third, fourth or even more).

Instead, Mitarachis has chosen to follow the ‘Nea Dimokratia standard’ – attacking and demonising foreign people, whatever the circumstance, because they are foreign.

But the comment on the EU Parliament is worth addressing. Because the reason the EU Parliament is putting Mitarachis and his fellows under pressure is that they are breaking the law: what he and his party is doing is not only wrong morally, but legally.

If everyone on Earth keeps telling you you are wrong, you must at some point at least consider that they may have a point. On this occasion, they do.

Of course, in Greece, where the majority of the media is open only to the words of Nea Dimokratia members, and there is always a layer of nationalist slurry bubbling under the surface, the response has been predictable: within hours of Mitarachis’ despicable nonsense, SKAI TV and others were reporting that the Turkish earthquake ‘poses a new threat for Greece’, and began campaigning to stop people leaving Türkiye.

Türkiye is a large country, but even it might struggle to find decent short-term accommodation for more than a million people. Syria certainly cannot do so.

Mitarachis and his slavish followers’ demands are simply howls to keep men, women and children who have done nothing wrong, in squalor, homeless and reliant on handouts, when any decent neighbour – Greece and the EU of which Mitarachis pretends to ‘protect the borders’ – would step up and offer a bed while it’s needed.

It should not need saying, but Greece is largely populated by decent people, who care about the welfare of others and recognise that they, too, would need help if disaster struck them and their families.

Which makes it all the worse that it is led by barbarians who wish suffering and death on others, cheered on by slavering and often terrified media, which makes money by parroting their howls.


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