12 March 2020 — Institute of Race Relations weekly digest
Against Racism, for Social Justice
Another dark chapter in Europe’s history is being written on the Aegean islands of Chios and Lesvos, and at the Evros delta, the natural border between Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. In our regular calendar on racism and resistance, we document a series of racist acts, including the burning down of centres storing essential supplies for refugees, as well as an international school for refugee children. The scale and organised nature of the violence is reminiscent of the racist mob attacks in Germany, at Rostock and Hoyerswerdain 1991 and in Spain in 2000, at El Ejido, where Moroccan workers were driven out of town. And just as those events cannot be dismissed as simple spontaneous outpourings of local xenophobia, the escalation in violence over the last few weeks against refugees and NGO workers in Greece has been aggravated by the EU’s disastrous handling of (the apparently collapsing) EU-Turkey deal amid the flight of refugees from war in Syria.
Not so long ago, EC President Ursula von der Leyen got herself into a spot of bother by proposing that the commissioner in charge of migration and skilled labour be described as commissioner ‘for Protecting our European Way of Life’. Von der Leyen was pushed backover that. But her hastily arranged visit in early March to the Greek border town of Orestiada, to declare that Greece was Europe’s ‘shield’ against refugees, shows she has learnt nothing, so determined was she to see a humanitarian catastrophe through a security lens. As, under her nose, desperate refugees were being driven back into Turkey with stun guns and tear gas, she authorised a further €700million funding, the greatest share for the policing and fortification of the Greek (and hence the EU’s) border.
The EU is rather proud of its counter-extremism policies, and commitment to countering hate, but since von der Leyen’s visit, civilian vigilante groups have been photographed on patrol alongside the border police. And parliamentarians from France, Sweden, Belgium as well as the Greek MEP Ioannis Lagos (with a conviction for inciting violence) jostle for photo opportunities in Greek towns alongside border forces. One such the Belgian parliamentarian, Dries Van Langenhove currently awaiting trial for violations of the anti-racist code, is the founder of a racist, antisemitic extreme-right youth movement Schild en Vrienden (Shield and Friends)
But there is also a fight-back – not in the corridors of Brussels, but in the anti-racist anti-fascist initiatives mushrooming in Greece. This week, the IRR’s journal Race & Class releases, for free download, ‘Lessons from the fight against Golden Dawn’ in which IRR director Liz Fekete reports on a fact-finding mission to Athens to observe the trial of 68 members of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn and meet with colleagues working on innovative projects such as Golden Dawn Watch, Jail Golden Dawn, the Black Map of Racist Violence project, and the Justice for Zak campaign. Here lies the hope – in the cementing of anti-racist, anti-fascist identity in the day-to-day culture or ordinary Greeks who resist the role ascribed to them of the EU’s impermeable shield.
IRR News Team
Calendar of racism and resistance (26 February – 11 March 2020)
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe
The criminalisation of identity in Prevent and anti-gangs initiatives
Join us for an important seminar that will explore the criminalisation of identity in Prevent and anti-gangs initiatives.
Joint Enterprise Demonstation 25 March
JENGbA will be handing in their Private Members Bill to the House of Commons demading legislation to overturn the hundreds of wrongful convictions under joint enterprise.