• Rory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Mitarachis treats Greek people like morons

With his latest astonishing social media post, Greece’s Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis has shown his outright contempt for the Greek public.

Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachis on Wednesday 5 October tweeted what he claims to be the Turkish Coastguard ‘pushing forward’ refugees from Türkiye, in what even by his extremely low standards ranks among the most astonishing displays of belligerence and ignorance in recent history.


Above a video which certainly shows members of the Turkish Coastguard behaving violently against men, women and children at sea, Mitarachis posted:


Footage from Turkish coastguard violently pushing forward migrants to Greece, in violation of international law and the EU joint statement. This video was filmed by a refugee who was saved by Greece. It is further proof of the instrumentalization of migration flows by Turkey.


This is one of the most outrageous Tweets ever posted by anyone, let alone an elected politician, for the following reasons.


First of all, let us pretend for a moment that the video clip is in fact what Mitarachis claims it is, and took place in the context he states. We shall see that it is not, and did not, but we shall pretend it is and did for now.


It simply does not ‘prove’ that the Turkish government is ‘instrumentalising refugees’.


It could prove that on this occasion the Turkish government ‘pushed forward’ this group of people (it does not in fact prove that) and from there it may be reasonable to suggest that it may have done so more than once (though this would not, of course, be ‘proved’ by this video).


But there is no circumstance under which this could be said to ‘prove’ the Turkish government was ‘instrumentalising refugees’.


Because it is now eight months until the next Turkish elections, and this campaign is characterised by two things: the real possibility that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party may lose power, and the fact that the main opposition to it, CHP, is campaigning to send back all Syrian refugees to Syria.


This has led, predictably, to a ‘race to the bottom’, in which AKP is striving to prove that it, too, is willing to remove Syrian people from Türkiye. Some new arrivals to Greece in recent months have stated that they were told that if they did not leave for Greece, they would be forcibly deported to Türkiye.


But instrumentalisation has a very specific meaning. It is when a country attempts to use refugees to destabilise another country and/or political bloc.


And not only is there absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest this is what the Turkish government is doing, it would also be almost impossible to do with a neighbour as large as the EU.


Even if it were to force every Syrian person in Türkiye into the EU – and in fact Erdogan claims his government has already deported 500,000 Syrian people to Syria in the last eight months – this would be a total of 3.67 (or 3.17) million people, a fraction (0.8 or 0.67 per cent) of one per cent of the total 447,000,000 population of the EU.


It would have almost no impact on the bloc – the world’s richest political organisation in all of human history – whatsoever.


And the Turkish government absolutely has not done this.


This is not ‘instrumentalisation’. It is base politicking: using race and bigotry to win votes. It is disgusting and unacceptable, but that is no reason to lie about it.


Secondly, once again, even were we to pretend Mitarachis’ video shows what he claims, in the context he pretends it exists – and it does not do so – if the Turkish government is persecuting people in Türkiye, this means that not only is the Greek government legally obliged to allow those people into Greece and the wider EU to apply for asylum (and it is: all countries who are signatory to the Refugee Convention and Protocols is legally obliged to allow anyone who wishes to apply for asylum to do so), it is in fact legally obliged to actually give them asylum.


Thirdly, it is strange for Mitarachis, who has led the Greek government’s consistent, barbaric breaking of international law by pushing back thousands upon thousands of men, women and children seeking safe places to live, learn and work, to make demands based on ‘international law’ – particularly when it comes to people seeking safety.


It is also remarkable to hear him – or any other single member of the EU – criticising Türkiye for failing to fulfil its obligations under the EU-Turkey Statement. Because not only has the Turkish Coastguard, quite illegally, but as demanded by the EU in the Statement, stopped more than half (55.6 per cent) the people who tried to cross the Aegean between 2016 and the present, including 87.1 per cent of those who tried this year, the EU itself, Greece included, has completely failed to make good any of its promises to Türkiye.


It promised to give the Turkish government €6bn by 31 December 2018. So far, almost four years later, it has still not done so (it has so far pledged, but not handed over, €4.85bn).


It also promised to speed the Turkish EU membership application, and to deliver all Turkish people visa-free travel in the Schengen Zone. It has done neither. With some reason, but nonetheless, these were the EU pledges in the Statement, and it has delivered none of them.


That is, the Turkish government has at least in part delivered on the EU’s demand that it break international law by preventing people from leaving. The EU has failed to deliver a single one of its promises to Türkiye. And yet, Mitarachis characterises the Turkish government as ‘breaking’ the terms of the Statement.


But with all this – the video does not ‘prove’ what Mitarachis claims, that even if it had, this would make it more important, not less, that Greece should give these people asylum, and that Greece and the EU, rather than Türkiye, have failed to live up to their promises in the EU-Turkey Statement said – we have still not reached the heart of the problem.


Which is this.


Mitarachis’ video does not, at all, show what he claims.


We will start with the context.


This video was shot not yesterday, last week, or even at the start of this summer.


It was shot on 8 September 2019. It is available on Youtube.


It’s more than three years old.


The video Mitarachis claims ‘proves’ the Turkish government is ‘instrumentalising’ refugees, is three years old. He presented it as if it is something new, or at least recent. Entire governments have changed since it was shot. Heads of state have died. Wars have started.


It is more than three years old.


Perhaps one might argue that the video shows something that happened then, and is still happening now.


Perhaps, except for another thing.


The reality.


This video does not show the Turkish Coastguard ‘pushing people forward’. It shows them, entirely illegally, but entirely as demanded by the EU-Turkey Statement which Mitarachis claims this video shows the Turkish government breaking, preventing people from leaving Türkiye.


There are points in a person’s career where they make a mistake. It can happen to anyone and none of us should expect others to be perfect, as we ourselves are not.


But Mitarachis has posted a video more than three years old, and claimed it is contemporary. He has posted a video which proves almost nothing, and claimed it proves something bad about the Turkish government.


He has posted a video which he claims shows the Turkish government breaking the EU-Turkey Statement and ‘pushing people forwards’ and in fact it does the opposite.


He even claimed the video was given to the Greek government by a man ‘rescued by the Greek Coastguard’ which seems a great deal of effort when he could just have downloaded it from Youtube at absolutely any moment in the last three years and 28 days.


But considering the video’s age, we must ask: when? When was this man rescued by the Greek Coastguard? When did he give you the video, Notis? We don’t need to know his name, or where he came from: he is entitled to his privacy. But when did this man give you a video showing the Turkish Coastguard behaving illegally to him, and when did he say you could lie about the video’s content?


Because that’s the final point. This was not a mistake. It has happened far too many times, and in this particular incident there are far too many simple falsehoods for this to have been an error.


Mitarachis is lying.


And he is lying because he believes he can get away with it, and because he believes enough Greek people will believe his lie to support him and back him and his vicious, violent, spiteful, barbarian government for another four years.


To put it another way, if you are a Greek person of voting age, or anyone else entitled to vote in Greece, or if you are a European politician of any kind, Mitarachis posted this video, and lied about it, to your face, because he thinks you are an imbecile.


He thinks so little of your intellect that he believes he can simply steal things from Youtube, pretend they are something else, and you will be so moronic that you will believe him, and support his violence against men, women and children exactly like you.


Notis Mitarachis thinks you are stupid.


That is what makes this Tweet so astonishing: he thinks you are so incredibly dim that he – hardly a man known for his intellect – can simply lie to your face and you will accept it as truth.


Notis Mitarachis is lying to every single person in Greece, and many more beyond, because he thinks they – including you – are simply too stupid to know better.


That is what passes for a Minister in Mitsotakis’ Nea Dimokratia. That is the sheer unadulterated contempt in which this government holds you.


Once again, if you are Greek, Mitarachis is lying to you. Because he thinks you are stupid.

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