17 activists threw yogurt and eggs at Greek news presenter Panagiotis Bourchas during an on-air studio interview in the Epiros TV1 newsroom on Friday night. Their message was for him to not invite any more neo-Nazi guests onto his show: The week before, Bourchas had interviewed a member of the nationalist far-right Chrystos Avgi or Golden Dawn political organization, which is openly anti-immigrant and neo-Nazi.
But the activists’ concerns about anti-immigrant sentiment should not go unremarked, or Bourchas’ having a Chrystos Avgi member as a guest on his show. Members of Chrystos Avgi have been linked to attacks on immigrants or on those who seem to have a foreign appearance. Anti-immigrant sentiment is running disturbing high in Greece.
90 percent of undocumented immigrants enter Europe through Greece via the border it shares with Turkey. In 2011, about 100,000 people were arrested for crossing into Greece illegally according to statistics from the Greek police. Still mired in debt and with deep discontent and despair among its people, Greece is ill-prepared to handle influxes of illegal immigrants and refugees and recently the Greek government announced two controversial new policies about illegal immigration:
On March 27, Greece’s Citizen Protection Ministry announced that it will open 30 detention centers, each holding 1,000 people, on the mainland to hold illegal immigrants who do not qualify for asylum prior to deporting them.
On April 2, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said that immigrants must obtain health certificates before being able to work, while those with infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis will be quarantined in medical facilities.
Those suspected of carrying HIV/AIDS could also be detained. Amnesty International says that the proposed law is “deeply alarming” and says that it targets the most vulnerable, including those who live in unhygienic conditions, use drugs or engage in sex work.
Just over a month before elections in May, a poll of 1,610 Greeks over the age of 18 by Kapa Research SA for To Vima newspaper found that 83.4 percent think that illegal immigration is a major problem in Greece. Moreover, 48.3 percent said that removing all immigrants gradually from the country should be the main focus of immigrant policy, a significant increase from 19.5 percent in a similar 2009 poll. Nearly 72 percent of those surveyed agreed with the new requirement for immigrants to obtain health certificates while 54.7 percent said they thought the new detention centers — which will cost more than $333 million in European Union funds — are necessary.
After being pelted with eggs and yogurt, newscaster Bourchas was seen to nonchalantly wipe himself and his laptop off and continue his broadcast. But the rising anti-immigrant sentiment and the new anti-immigrant policies in Greece cannot be “wiped away” so quickly and demand serious scrutiny.
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