Across Europe many governments are ratcheting up their repression of migrants and migrants communities following an upsurge in right-wing electoral successes. We have already seen an increase in attacks by riot police on the squats housing migrants in and around Calais following pledges from French government ministers, egged on by their UK counterparts, to remove all migrants from the area this summer. In Italy things have gone even further with what amounts to re-enactments of Mussolini-era fascist legislation with mass fingerprinting of the Roma, mob attacks on Roma camps, the legalising of vigilante patrols and plans for mass expulsions of 'foreigners'.
Greece also seems to be going down the same road as the Italian state towards a resurgence of fascism, whilst also taking a leaf out of France's book. Yesterday Greek police attacked and destroyed the refugee camp near the port of Patras. The 13 year old settlement was surrounded at 5 a.m. by about 100 riot police, who then started arresting undocumented refugees inside. At the same time fire broke out at one end of the camp and it was allowed to rage for a number of hours, burning large areas of the camp to the ground. The rest of the camp was bulldozed flat. Greek citizens who tried to show solidarity with the migrants were arrested.
Those migrants with legal status were taken to local hostels, many of which are already overcrowded, and at least 40 under-age migrants were believed to have been removed to the detention centre at Konitsa, near the Albanian border. The remaining undocumented adults were detained and dispersed to other detention centres around Greece.
Greece has earned a particularly bad reputation for the inhumane conditions that prevail in its detention centres. Most are sited in the east of the country on the islands of the Aegean, near the Turkish border on Crete. Many are converted warehouses and have routinely been criticised by the EU and organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières and the UNHCR as not fit for purpose.
Despite being on a major migration route into Europe, Greece is also notorious for refusing asylum status to refugees. For example, 12,000 - 13,000 people annually apply for asylum in Greece. In 2004 only 11 were given asylum status and only 3 in 2003. Greek police and immigration officials also have a reputation for illegal deportation such as towing boats back into Turkish waters or herding Albanian migrants back across the Albanian border,
All this comes against the background of the social rebellion at the end of last year, major gains by the far right Popular Orthodox Alarm (LAOS) party in the European elections, the recent upsurge in fascist street violence and new restrictive anti-immigration legislation. The new legislation, rushed through parliament in less than a month, doubles the length of detention to 6 months before migrants are issued deportation papers. This can be quadrupled to a year if the authorities consider that migrants fail to cooperate, or documents necessary for their repatriation are missing.
Anti-foreigner sentiment is also increasing in Greece, much of it whipped up by groups such as LAOS and the Golden Dawn, a fascist organisation with many members in the police. On Saturday fascists in a car opened fire on a group of migrants standing near the Golden Dawn offices in Athens, wounding three. The same day on the island of Simi the Pakistani community took to the streets in protest at the brutalisation of 3 Pakistani men by local police. These are just two of numerous incidents that have occurred in recent years and will no doubt not be the last.