This is our weekly round-up from Greece.
The country is gradually lifting all lockdown restrictions while the Covid19 situation is much worse than when we got into the second lockdown at the beginning of November.
A young refugee found dead surrounded by rats in a camp highlights once more that we have entered a new “normality” where refugees are considered something similar to rats.
French newspaper Libération reportage on how Acropolis is at risk of being permanently damaged by the new cement paths causes Greece’s Culture Minister’s furious reaction - who gives “journalism lessons.”
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Greece opens up everything with hospitals full and vaccinations low.
The gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions in Greece is underway, with the government determined to open up everything in the prospect of 15 May tourism opening. In an effort to present an unfounded positive Covid19 image of the country, Tourism Minister Theoharis stated during his working visit in Berlin that “Greece is one of the best-prepared tourist destinations,” while Prime Minister Mitsotakis stated in an interview with the “Financial Times'' that recent figures are “encouraging” for the spread of the pandemic in Greece. And that he expects a significant improvement by the end of the month. This is nothing else but pure Orwellian speech. Greece went into full lockdown on 7 November 2020, with the PM announcing it on 5 November, when 29 deaths, 187 intubated and 2,917 cases were registered (so, deaths and intubations were far lower than today). Did the government lie to us back then or is it lying to us now as to what way is best to protect society?
Opening up to tourism and positive statements targeting foreign audiences (read: potential tourists) are taking place while: a) on Friday there were 63 deaths, 749 intubated and 2,691 new infections and b) vaccinations are accelerating, but are still low: As of Wednesday, out of 10.7 million (country population), only a total of 3,201,212 jabs have been administered. 2,237,860 citizens have received the first dose and 1,027,773 (some 10% of the population) both vaccination doses.
Greece does not only open up tourism only for EU nationals, but as New York Times put it in a nutshell, the country “has reopened to many overseas visitors, including from the United States, jumping ahead of most of its European neighbors in restarting tourism, even as the country’s hospitals remain full and more than three-quarters of Greeks are still unvaccinated.”
At the same time, foreign nationals that live in Greece and may hold a residence permit or/and a tax system number still face the all-swallowing monster of the Greek bureaucracy that does not let them have a vaccination without having a social security number (AMKA). Those trying to issue a temporary one just for the jab are reportedly waiting for a very long time with meager results. It’s quite unclear if the law on temporary AMKA still applies only to permanent residents, as bureaucracy handling KEP offices would issue one as of Friday requiring only a passport number. Even those who finally got an AMKA say it takes forever to be activated, while some who have applied through their tax office account claim their application has been “lost in space” as they did not receive any proof of applying and there are no updates on the application progress. Athens Live found that temporary AMKA officially needs 21 days to be activated (employees issuing it did not know if this refers to working days or not). The issue had been highlighted by the Guardian on 20 April, but still, no solution is found and #noAMKAnojob records angry reactions on Twitter.
Back to the roadmap for opening now, Greece’s Civil protection announced:
- The opening of organized beaches on 7 May, a week earlier than originally planned.
- From May 8, the designated area per retail customer is reduced, e.g. for stores over 500 sq.m. would be 50 sq.m. per person. And from 14 May, the “click away” and “click inside method” will be abolished.
- On 10 May, the administrative courts will reopen along with certain procedures in civil and criminal courts.
- On 10 May, schools will reopen for face-to-face classes with mandatory self-tests available in pharmacies free of charge.
- On 10 May, tutoring and foreign language centers related to forthcoming examinations will reopen for face-to-face classes.
- On 17 May, practices, clinics, and laboratories will resume in Vocational Training Centres (IEK), and colleges, plus second chance schools will reopen.
- On 14 May, the museums will reopen.
- On 21 May the open-air cinemas will reopen.
- On 17 May, sports academies will reopen with up to 10 people.
Furthermore, inter-regional travel will be allowed from 15 May, but only with a negative test or a vaccination certificate. They haven’t clarified if the certificate will be given from the first dosage or when full vaccination is achieved.
From all the above, what we fail to grasp is a) Why the number of customers per sq.m. in the shops had to increase, b) Why open-air cinemas, where people don’t even talk with each other, could not open earlier with safe distances between the chairs - the same with open-air theatres and concert venues where people can be seated c) Why the negative test had not been set as a prerequisite for everybody that travels for any reason by plane, boat or bus.
Meanwhile, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis, known for his provocative statements, in an interview on Thursday did not rule out the possibility that Greeks and permanent residents in the country will continue to send movement SMS, contrary to the tourists, even after the 15th May. Minister, shall we instead leave the country so we do not stand as an obstacle to tourism?
He left the best for the end: It was breaking news on Thursday that US President Joe Biden has thrown its support behind a move at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily lift patent protections for coronavirus vaccines. Next thing you know, Greek state news agency ANA-MPA, quoting “government sources,” reported that “Mitsotakis first proposed that vaccines be a 'global good' in April 2020.” While it’s true that Mitsotakis had proposed for vaccines to be a global good and later on 4 May 2020 had signed the donors’ proposal for the vaccines to become a public good, his proposal was that the European governments would buy the vaccines and Covid19-tests patents, and not waive them, which is essentially different. Moreover, the PM had fiercely attacked main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in Parliament on 15 January 2021, as Tsipras was actually the one who had proposed waiving the patents. “Next thing you’ll ask from us is to nationalize Pfizer and Astra Zeneca with one law and one article,” he stated characterizing the proposal as ridiculous and misleading. “Some people, after money-trees, discovered vaccine-trees,” he said.
Well, at least he didn’t dismiss Joe Biden as a “communist”.
Dead refugee found surrounded by rats in Greek camp: End this disgrace now, Greece & Europe!
In our previous newsletter, we wrote extensively on the case of an alleged illegal push-back by Greece for which a lawsuit has been filed against the country with the European Court of Human Rights. We also covered the walls-building around refugee camps and the plan to install surveillance systems in them. This week, new evidence came to light.
2,000 refugee deaths are linked to illegal EU pushbacks, according to a Guardian analysis, which also found that “EU countries used brutal tactics to stop nearly 40,000 asylum seekers crossing borders.” Since January 2020, “Greece has pushed back about 6,230 asylum seekers from its shores,” according to data from the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), a coalition of 13 NGOs documenting illegal pushbacks in the western Balkans, which the newspaper cites. The same report stated that in 89% of the pushbacks, “BVMN has observed the disproportionate and excessive use of force. This alarming number shows that the use of force in an abusive, and therefore illicit, the way has become normality […]
What BVMN describes is absolutely disgraceful for Greek authorities: “Extremely cruel examples of police violence documented in 2020 included prolonged excessive beatings (often on naked bodies), water immersion, the physical abuse of women and children, the use of metal rods to inflict injury.” Additionally, according to the same source, in testimonies, people described how their hands were tied to the bars of cells and helmets put on their heads before beatings to avoid visible bruising.
Meanwhile, a researcher on borders and violence Lena K. tweeted she has researched the Greek public administration database to find information on the construction of fences in some camps, which has been mentioned by refugees on Twitter, but she did not find any. Yet, she found a procurement seemingly linked to the camp surveillance systems Algorithm Watch revealed last week. She tweeted: “The call doesn't just cover the island centers but ALL camps in the mainland & the Fylakio RIC. Cost €13.047.081,60 funded by the Internal Security Fund, so EU institutions know all centers and camps will be closed but prison-like. I doubt GR prisons have such high security.”
On Friday evening, another report came just to verify how Greece and Europe have “normalized” absolutely inhumane policies, reminiscent of fascist politics. “‘A scene out of the middle ages’: Dead refugee found surrounded by rats at Greek camp” was the Guardian title, a strong punch in the stomach.
“At a desolate refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios earlier this week, a young man died alone in a tent. By the time the guards arrived on the scene, about 12 hours after the Somali refugee’s death, the body was surrounded by rodents. Asylum seekers who had initially alerted staff spoke in horror at seeing rats and mice swarming about.” It was reported that the 28-year-old man, whose name was not disclosed by the Greek authorities, died of natural causes. What exactly does “natural causes” mean for a 28-year old? Starvation could be “natural causes.”
“It was Orthodox Easter Monday, a national holiday in Greece.”
Greek Culture Minister VS Libération newspaper.
“The Acropolis, a cemented and disfigured beauty” was the eloquent title of French newspaper “Libération” reportage on 2 May, signed by the long-time newspaper’s correspondent in Greece Fabien Perrier. The piece was referring to the new ugly cement paths in Acropolis that have stirred a lot of controversy in Greece and we have extensively analyzed them in previous newsletters.
The reportage hosted harsh criticism on the “cementing” of the Acropolis. “On the pretext of restoration and of improving access to Greece’s most visited monument, they risk transfiguring the Hill in the heart of Athens forever,” it writes.
Talking to the newspaper, Greek Archaeologists’ Association president Despina Koutsoumba characterized the interventions as “a crime against the Acropolis.” She explains that reinforced concrete was used on the ancient rocks and then was covered with cement. Now, the top of the hill, 157 meters above sea level “looks more like a cycling lane or skateboard platform than a historic monument where you can enjoy the antiquities.”
Note that the Greek Archaeologists Association had reported they had not been allowed to visit the Acropolis for an autopsy on the interventions before the archaeological sites reopening on 22 March, so they finally paid a visit on that day - issuing a ticket! Koutsoumba had then stated in an interview: “We were confronted with a sight much worse than what we had seen till now in the pictures.” She also claimed the interventions confine the Parthenon aesthetically and functionally from the rest of the monuments and that the Sacred Hill has disappeared where the interventions took place.
Back to the Libération reportage, architect Tasos Tanoulas, who has worked 44 years on the restoration of the Acropolis, stated he was shocked when he visited the Acropolis after works had been concluded. “When I was in charge of the project, we were doing everything by hand. Now it seems everything has been done in an industrialized way. They used heavy machinery that damaged the installation,” explained the newspaper. “The Acropolis entails various tangible proof of our past. It’s not only the buildings that constitute this past. The rocks have been covered. Thus, part of our understanding of our past has been covered.”
The reportage also cites the Ministry of Culture aspect on the matter, interviewing architect Manolis Korres, it mentions the new elevator for the people with disabilities as well as the accident with the victim a disabled person (who had to have eight stitches) on the cemented path due to its allegedly big tilt. It also refers to the flooding of the Acropolis some months ago.
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni decided then to give a “journalism lesson” to one of the most historic and respected newspapers of the world by sending a 2,112 “protest letter” for the reportage. She rages against the journalist, claiming he expressed his personal opinion on the Acropolis works. “When Mr. Perrier supports easily and effortlessly his personal opinion that the Acropolis is at risk of being destroyed forever, he should be in a position to provide proof for that.”
Then, she turns against Koutsoumba and Tanoulas: “The journalist did not take care, as he ought, to check how reliable his sources are by verifying their statements, this is why in many parts the information he publishes is under review as to its accuracy and validity.”
We remind you that Mendoni had underplayed the fire that affected the landmark archaeological site of Mycenae, she has pushed forward with the “Legoland” solution for the “Byzantine Pompei” found in Thessaloniki defying cries even from the international community (that is to break, remove them and reassemble them instead of the “in situ” solution) and she has kept an at least dubious stance when sex abuse and child rape allegations came to light against government-appointed National Theatre Artistic Director Dimitris Lignadis.
For the moment, we can’t help smiling while waiting for Libération's reply to the Minister.
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