Rory O'Keeffe, Koraki
The Sound of Greece’s Summer: ‘It’s Turkey’s fault’ Part Five. Police gather, transport, weapons
(This piece links to The Sound of Greece's Summer Parts One, Two, Three and Four )
Greek-government-friendly (and in Greece, at least, held as ‘reliable’ and ‘reputable’) newspaper Kathimerini has been handed more information regarding the Greek government’s plans to attack (and justify attacks on) men, women and children seeking safe and decent places to live this summer.
Following Monday’s handing to the newspaper claims Türkiye ‘is set to threaten’ Greece with people seeking safety, and efforts to ‘justify’ what it has several times confirmed will be the use of force against those people by using the term ‘hybrid threat’ and ‘destabilisation’ to describe them, the Greek government has now given Kathimerini access to Greece’s Directorate of Police Operations.
The Directorate has told the newspaper that there is:
‘A possibility of an attempted mass entry of migrants into Greece at the instigation of Ankara in a repeat of the spring 2020 incident at the Evros land border.’
And that the police are planning to use armed officers, water cannon, teargas, stun grenades and drones to prevent people crossing.
We’re going to stop here for a moment because there will probably be no more appropriate moment in this piece to note that in late February 2020, Türkiye did not ‘send’ men, women and children to Greece, despite this being the Greek government’s claim.
It opened its borders, and people chose to leave.
This is important because it is their right to leave, and their response when the borders were opened shows that they wanted to, and were being prevented from doing so.
It must be stated that this was the first time since 17 March 2016, when the EU/Turkey Deal came into effect, that the Turkish government had followed international law. Its borders being open for people to cross is what the law expects and requires for people who need to seek refuge for any reason.
The response of the Greek government was to line its border with armed men and women and attack these people.
And we must once more note that this – not the Turkish government’s actions – was illegal. Although the Turkish government certainly had its own selfish reasons for doing so, it opening its borders to allow people who wanted to leave, to do so, was simply it following international law.
The Greek government, by not only denying those people entry (and entry to the asylum application system), but also attacking them with water cannon, teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, absolutely broke Greek, EU and international law.
We must also point out that in opening its borders, the Turkish government was not ‘threatening’ or ‘trying to destabilise Greece’. Even if it had forced the people over the border (which it did not do) it was hoping to force the EU to back its (awful) plan to create ‘safe zones’ in Northern Syria, into which it could force some of the 3.76m Syrian men, women and children to whom it has given protection since they arrived fleeing the Syrian war.
The EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said so in as many words, in a press conference at which she – shamelessly and shamefully – backed the Greek government’s barbaric and violent law-breaking. She said: ‘Greece is Europe’s shield.’ Not, we must note ‘Greece is right to protect itself’ (it isn’t, from people seeking safety): Greece is ‘Europe’s shield.
Europe, she claimed (wrongly – there has never in all of the world’s history been a political unit better-equipped to deal with refugees entering, and in any case, if the EU believes 3.76m Syrian people will not ‘threaten’ or ‘overwhelm’ Türkiye, with its population of roughly 85m, it is impossible for it to pretend the same people would ‘threaten’ the EU, which is far wealthier than Türkiye, far larger, and has a population of 449,650,000) was ‘under threat’. The EU. Not Greece.
Of course, some people may counter that ‘the rest of the EU’ would not have allowed those people to have entered, so they would have stayed in Greece. This is extremely unlikely (the EU’s strong backing of Greece was far more of the nature of ‘a body which did not wish to have to do anything’, than one which knew it would not have to), but even had it happened, the responsibility for ‘destabilising’ Greece would then have laid with the countries which broke the law – those which ‘closed their borders’ to people travelling from Greece – than with the Turkish government, which obeyed the law (for three days, for the only time in the last six years and two months).
We must also note that even had the Turkish government ‘forced’ people to the Greek border (and that it did not is proven among many other factors by the fact that those people wanted to enter Greece) it would still have been illegal for the Greek government to deny them the right to enter and apply for asylum, let alone attack them. These people broke no law. It is their right to seek asylum. Greece’s actions were unforgivable, and von der Leyen’s backing of them is one of the lowest moments in the EU’s history.
To return to the Greek police’s plan.
Kathimerini has been told by Greece’s Police Directorate that:
- The Greek police force plans to line its border with Türkiye with armed officers. More, it says it has already partly done so because of what Kathimerini quotes as ‘a 20 per cent increase in migration pressure compared to last year’ (it means 20 per cent more people have arrived at the border)
- It will be able to draft in uniformed officers from Xanthi, Rodopi and the whole of the North of Greece to break international law by preventing people from entering to apply for asylum
- The Athens Police Directorate will send its water cannons, used against refugees in the 2020 incident, as well as against Greek people celebrating the finding the Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation, on 7 October of the same year, to the Evros border, and drones, ‘in addition to those already at the disposal of the Orestiada and Alexandroupoli police departments.’
- The Greek Police is already transporting tear-gas and flash grenades (used to great effect against Greek students at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki since Friday 10 May 2022) with which to attack vulnerable people who have broken no law ‘while there are suggestions for the procurement of additional material’ (in this context, ’materiel’ might be a more accurate word)
Kathimerini also reports that the Greek Coastguard ‘received information’ that ‘approximately 400-500 migrants (are) on the Turkish coast near Cesme.’
It is far from clear where the Coastguard ‘received’ this ‘information’ from.
But Kathimerini goes on to say:
‘Greek officials consider it probable these migrants will in the coming days attempt to board sailing boats bound for Italy.’
‘As a precaution, the coast guard has intensified patrols in the sea area in question, while the activation of a hired Israeli drone based at Tympaki Airport on Crete is expected in the next few days.’
We must ask, by what law, or indeed under whose orders, has the Greek Coastguard decided to use its employees and an imported Israeli drone to stop people exercising their fundamental human right to travel to and apply for asylum in Italy?
This is, as most people reading this are aware, the fifth time in the last ten days we have written on this subject.
This is important for several reasons.
The first is that we must remember that what Kathimerini reports today is only the Greek Police’s (illegal) planned response.
That is, it does not mention that last week the Greek Ministry of Defence sent its staff to ‘brief’ journalists outside parliament that the Ministry plans to use the Greek armed forces to prevent ‘hybrid threats’ from Turkey ‘designed to destabilise Greece’. When asked to explain their terminology, they confirmed that they meant people travelling to Greece to apply for asylum.
We must say, here, that not only is the Greek government planning to line its border with armed police officers, who are already planning to use tear-gas, flash grenades and water cannon against innocent men, women and children, and not only is it also deploying drones against them, it is also planning to send its army, navy, and perhaps air force, to stop them.
This is a wild overreaction. It is also illegal, immoral, and – not least because Greece urgently needs people to enter and work here because its demographic situation means that as things stand in 50 years’ time its working-age population will be too small for society to function – extremely stupid.
Let’s make no mistake. The Greek government is planning a summer of brutality against men, women and children – almost all of them extremely vulnerable, and absolutely none of them acting in any sort of criminal way.
There will be more people arriving in Greece this summer than last. Not because Türkiye will ‘force people to Greece (they want to come) or even because its government will open its borders (though of course it might, and that would be in no way illegal, unlike attacking people when they arrive at Greece’s border. If it does, however, the Turkish government will tell people it has, as it did in February 2020), but because this will be the first summer since 2019 during which Covid travel restrictions will not be in place.
It will also be the first summer – we believe – during which the government will reveal the actual number of arrivals to Greece, rather than covering up the enormous numbers of people (anywhere from 32,000 to 60,000 since 1 March 2020 on the Aegean alone) it barbarically pushes back to Türkiye.
It would be astonishing if more people did not attempt to reach Greece this year than in the previous two: the Greek government is cynically ‘preparing’ for this by blaming the Turkish government, and using terms such as ‘hybrid threats’ and ‘destabilisation’ to ‘justify’ pushing them back. It is possible the government hopes to be treated as heroes, rather than savages. Perhaps worse, there is the possibility parts of the EU – maybe even the body itself – will treat them as such.
And there is an extent to which, over the past few weeks, the Greek government has been building towards this.
We cannot, of course, be sure that it has deliberately picked fights with its Turkish equivalent (which, we must note, the Turkish government has entered with at least as much enthusiasm) – over the Eastern Aegean Islands, air-space, writing letters to the UN, appearing in front of the US government to tell it not to sell Turkey F-16 aircraft, complaining at EU leader’s meetings about Turkey’s ‘threatening’ behaviour and ‘destabilisation’ of the Eastern Mediterranean simply to ‘justify’ a planned summer of violence against innocent men, women and children.
But we can clearly state that it is using the same language and the same claims to make those justifications: either this was always the plan, or the government has been quick to spy their ‘potential’ as it prepares to behave barbarically against vulnerable people.
We will note, once more, the EU’s part in this. Because the EU claims to be a body which promotes and protects international law. But when Greece broke international law in February 2020, the EU not only took no action against it, its Commission President praised its violence and illegality, and named it ‘Europe’s shield’.
This certainly played a part in Nea Dimokratia concluding it could use pushbacks (most of which also include at least one of robbery, beatings, stripping people, injuring them or killing them) as its main – rather than SYRIZA’s ‘one amongst many’ – response to refugees.
It certainly also taught the Polish government that it could push back innocent men, women and children at its border with Belarus, deploying far in excess of 20,000 armed officers (as well as tanks and other armoured vehicles) to do so and expect not punishment, or even criticism, but active support. EU member states (and the UK) actually handed Poland money and soldiers to help it break the law.
And the language it – the EU – used in October, November and December last year to describe what was happening on that border: ‘destabilisation’; ‘hybrid threat’, is precisely the language the Greek government is now using.
The Greek government’s use of brutality and violence against innocent men, women and children in a situation which has made them vulnerable is, far from a response to a situation, a planned activity.
It has for the last ten days been announcing it.
We must call the ‘justification’ and what it seeks to ‘justify’ out for what they are: a series of half-truths, lies and sleights of hand designed to excuse a programme of viciousness, immorality, illegality and from a pragmatic perspective, idiocy.
It is still not too late for the Greek government to be prevented from taking this action.
But those who have the capacity to do so, must do so now.
Kathimerini, the Greek government’s newspaper of choice, is already reporting as necessary the deployment of more armed police on Greece’s borders. Far worse is still to come.