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  • Writer's pictureRory O'Keeffe, Koraki

Mitsotakis: shifting blame and attacking those who have human feeling

Kiriakos Mitsotakis' latest outrage against common human decency requires us, once again, to point out his lies, his deep unpleasantness as a human being, his repeated attacks on human decency and empathy, and ask just how many people have to die in Greece's worst ever disasters before he resigns?

Greece's last, and sadly likely next, Prime Minister, Kiriakos Mitsotakis, who has not, in seven days since the worst maritime catastrophe in Greek history, bothered to visit the survivors, has instead spoken in public to lie about his government's activities related to sea arrivals, and attacked anyone who has expressed concern about 650 people dying completely avoidably off the Pylos coast.


Speaking in Gytheio, Mitsotakis made a truly shocking and disgusting statement, saying:


'We should be outraged at the wretched traffickers, as much as we are shocked by the tragic migrants' shipwreck.


'But we are even more disappointed with those who, on top of this tragedy, once again found an opportunity, instead of turning their attention to the traffickers, to denounce -essentially- their own country and the Coast Guard, which made a commendable effort to save hundreds of people in extremely difficult conditions.


'The truth is that it was us who crushed the human traffickers with a fair, strict policy, with border surveillance and a solid guarding policy, which resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in illegal entries into our country.


'This way, we did not only protect our borders, we didn't just rid our islands of structures with tens of thousands of refugees and migrants, but in the end, we saved lives. Because the fewer people at sea, the less chance there is of a tragic shipwreck like the one that happened a few days ago.


'Therefore, we basically crushed the traffickers, protected our borders, protected the borders of Europe, and we simultaneously saved thousands of people who were in danger at sea.'


We are genuinely unhappy to have even read, let alone repeated, such a despicable and disgusting comment, particularly in the wake of Greece's worst ever maritime catastrophe, in which 650 men, women and children died.


And we are sorry to have to – as we so often must – address his genuinely astonishing and horrifying points one by one.


But we must, so we shall.


'People who oppose unnecessary deaths are worse than death and those who cause it'


First of all, we must not forget that what Mitsotakis has done here is claim that we should be less unhappy at the death of 650 people, and less angry with 'traffickers' who 'caused' it (we shall of course revisit this particular lie, in some detail) than we should be with people who have asked how the hell this could possibly have been allowed to happen.


This is a despicable call from Mitsotakis to set aside feeling bad that 650 people have died completely unnecessarily, or even those he pretends to believe are responsible for those deaths, and to ask zero questions about it, and instead focus all our attention on hating and attacking anyone who is asking such questions.


In effect, and indeed in actual reality, he is saying that people who are unhappy that 650 men, women and children have died in a completely avoidable catastrophe are worse than the people he claims are responsible for the 650 deaths, and the actual 650 deaths.


We have watched in horror throughout Mitsotakis' period in the sun. We know the severe limits to his talents and intellect. But even by his standards this is just an unbelievable statement, incredible in both its self-centred coldness, and its absolutely tin-eared, heart-freezing, desperate lack of tact and common human feeling.


For the record, in case he or anyone he knows ever reads this, Kiriakos, it's not 'Greece', or even the 'Greek Coastguard' that people are 'attacking' (if they are in fact attacking anything at all), it's you. You and your party and its despicable, barbaric, vicious and disgusting treatment of men, women and children travelling to Greece to seek safe places to live, learn and work.


Coastguard


And the Greek Coastguard appears to have many questions to answer regarding its 'commendable effort' to save hundreds of people in 'very difficult conditions'.


In part because the conditions, while all such situations are challenging, were more or less the least difficult one could ask for in carrying out a sea-rescue: almost no wind or waves, clear skies and the logging and notice of the boat and its distress 16 hours before it capsized, with a Coastguard vessel alongside it for at least ten hours.


Also because if we believe the survivors' accounts, the boat only capsized because it was being towed by the Greek Coastguard, which was in that case carrying out an illegal push-forward, and if we believe the Coastguard's account, the people aboard the boat sent out a distress call at 9am on Tuesday 13 June 2023, the Coastguard arrived only six and a half hours later, despite having precise GPS coordinates and the boat being 47 nautical miles from Pylos, the people aboard then refused assistance – which they would have done only to avoid the government's despicable violence towards and theft from new arrivals to Greece – and the Coastguard reacted by sitting and waiting, doing nothing for more than eight hours until the boat capsized, and saved less than one in six of the people aboard, allowing 650 people to drown.


Then, as we always must, we come to Mitsotakis' use of the term 'traffickers'.


'Traffickers'


The people who sold places on this boat may or may not be terrible people, but as Mitsotakis is well aware, they are not traffickers. They are smugglers (if in fact even this tag can be applied to them), and are in fact the sole beneficiaries of Mitsotakis' and the EU's disgusting denial to people seeking safety of their human and legal right to travel to apply for asylum.


Mitsotakis knows this. His use of the term 'traffickers' is therefore a deliberate effort to deceive: a lie.


'Strict but fair' and '90 per cent'


He uses the term 'traffickers' again, claiming to have 'crushed' them with a 'strict but fair' policy, which 'reduced the number of arrivals to Greece by 90 per cent'.


Now, we appear to be in a never-ending battle on this point.


Mitsotakis keeps telling the same lie and we would be absolutely unacceptably neglectful not to point out that it is a lie, and why it is, every time he does so.


In any case, here we are.


As we keep pointing out, the Greek government's response to people arriving in Greece seeking safe places to live, learn and work, has been a violent campaign of illegal pushbacks, always breaking the law by denying people the right to apply for asylum, but also breaking the law by beating and robbing from them, as well as in many cases sexually assaulting and torturing them. Of course, several people have been killed, including at least 60 on the Evros border last year alone.


If we accept the Greek Coastguard's claims about what happened last Wednesday, this is the sole most likely reason that the people aboard the boat refused Greek aid and as a result died.


That is what Mitsotakis is talking about when he parades a 'tough but fair' policy: an illegal and barbaric stain on the history of Greece as a nation.


His claims that the number of people to have arrived has dropped 'by more than 90 per cent', is technically true, but only if one counts only those registered as having arrived, rather than all those who did, including the 70 per cent of people who arrived and Mitsotakis pushed back, and only if one uses as the sole point of reference the number who arrived in 2015.


In the three years, three months, since Mitsotakis and his party made pushbacks their main policy regarding new arrivals to Greece, 59,578 men, women and children have been pushed back in the Aegean alone.


Spread equally across the years 2020, 2021, 2022 and the first six months of 2023, that means that in fact rather than 15,696, 9,157, 18,780 and 6,979 (to Sunday 18 June 2023) respectively, the number of people to have reached Greece would be 35,555 (2020), 29,016 (2021), 38,369 (2022) and 16,909 (first six months of 2023).


This would mean that in both 2020 and 2022, the number of arrivals was higher than in 2017, and that does not even factor in pushbacks on the Evros border, where Mitsotakis and other members of his government have repeatedly boasted that 260,000 people were pushed back last year alone.


That is, factoring in everything we know about pushbacks, the number of people arriving into Greece is higher than at any point since 2015. Mitsotakis knows this. For him to claim a '90 per cent decrease' as if that is the difference between the moment he came into power and today, is a lie.


And as we have noted on a number of occasions, the choice of 2015 as the year of comparison has not been taken lightly, and is (deliberately) misleading for the following reasons.


2015


First, of course numbers have dropped since 2015: that is because the year 2015 was when most people arrived into Greece in a single year of the country's history. No other year even comes close.


There are a number of reasons for that: the situation in Syria had become so terrible that not only were Syrian people fleeing their homes in record number, but also many people who had paused in Türkiye in the hope of returning home soon realised this was no longer even a possibility, and so continued their journeys west; wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both conventional and unconventional, continued, and many Western European countries, to which most of these men, women and children were attempting to reach, were for the first (and to date last) time in their histories actually willing to allow them to do so.


None of those things now apply, and not one single one has changed because of anything Mitsotakis did. For him to claim 'credit' for them is simply to deceive the Greek population.


Second, the number plummeted and was far, far lower in every single year since then, three and a half of which SYRIZA governed Greece for. Even if a 'drop in arrivals' was an achievement for which to be claiming credit, by far the largest decrease in number happened when SYRIZA was in government.


Third, the number of people arriving in Greece dropped further due to the COVID pandemic, for which Mitsotakis can also not take credit.


The 90 per cent claim is simply fiction, and the idea that beating, robbing, sexually assaulting, in some cases killing and in all cases illegally pushing back can be called 'fair' is an outright lie. Mitsotakis is lying.


'Saving Lives'


He then claimed, as he often does, to have 'saved lives' with his despicable and barbaric illegal activity.


And it's an interesting claim.


First because the death rate – the number of people killed per person we know to have attempted to travel to Greece – was far higher last year, and considerably higher in every full year Nea Dimokratia has been in power, than in any since this response began:


one in 1,079 in 2015;


one in every 408 people in 2016;


one in every 616 people in 2017;


one in every 291 people in 2018;


one in every 1,052 people in 2019,


compared with one person in every 156 in 2020,


one person in every 91 in 2021,


and last year one person in every 50 who tried to reach Greece was killed in the attempt.


That's not 'tough but fair', it is a massacre on a grand scale, deliberately delivered by 'making it harder' for people to reach Greece.


What Mitsotakis has delivered is a situation in which it is more than 21 times more likely that you will die if you try to reach Greece now than it was in 2015, the year he chooses as a comparison.


We feel it's also important to note that in 2022, 343 people died trying to reach Greece by sea, in Greek waters. That is a higher number than in any year since 2016. We should also note that more people died in Greek waters in each of 2020 and 2021 than in 2017 or 2019.


And of course, we absolutely must note that including the 650 deaths Mitsotakis claims we should not care about from last Wednesday, so far this year, 698 people have died attempting to reach Greece. There are six months left of 2023, and that number is already higher than every year since 2015, and is 101 deaths fewer than in that year.


The death-rate in 2015 was, as we noted, one person in every 1,079 trying to reach Greece by sea. In 2023 so far, that rate is one death in every 8.8 people.


More than one person in every ten who has tried to make the journey has died, and it is extremely possible that more people will die this year even than in 2015, the year Mitsotakis chose himself as the 'base point' for comparisons, hoping it would flatter him. In that year, 856,723 people arrived by sea. So far in 2023, 5,434 people have been registered by Mitsotakis' government as having done so.


This is what Mitsotakis calls 'saving lives at sea'. It is mass murder on a grand scale.


'We have avoided a ship-wreck'

It is also extremely insulting and quite twisted to claim that because of his illegal activity, begun in March 2020, we have avoided a ship-wreck 'like that of a few days ago', when in fact we had precisely that ship-wreck a few days ago, certainly under that activity's influence, and likely caused directly by that activity.


It is also a bit much for Mitsotakis to claim to have 'crushed traffickers' at the same time as claiming 'traffickers' caused the catastrophe.


We shall note, for completeness, that it is illegal to 'protect borders' from people seeking safe places to live, learn and work, and that people doing so are breaking no laws and so cannot be claimed to have carried out 'illegal entry'.


If we were feeling uncharitable, we might note here that not only is Kiriakos Mitsotakis a liar – as we have clearly shown here – but he has also overseen and arguably caused both the worst rail disaster and worst maritime catastrophe in Greek history.


How many people will he kill before he is forced to resign?

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