This week's newsletter is about Greek cops, Greek borders, and an anti-smoking hotline.

Dear reader,


here's what we think you need to know about Greece this week. We've also picked some readings and videos about Greece for your weekend. But first:

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Last weekend’s Polytechnic anniversary rally was the most massive in years.

Thousands of Greeks, including former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, marched through central Athens on Sunday evening to mark the anniversary of a violently quashed student uprising in 1973 that helped topple a military junta. Police deployed more than 5,000 officers in central Athens. A helicopter hovered over the central Syntagma Square and neighboring districts throughout the day. Thirty-three people were arrested and 53 were detained during protests in the Athens district of Exarchia late on Sunday night, and another 14 people were arrested in Thessaloniki, 10 in Patras and seven in Heraklion, Crete, during the protests.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras commenting on reactions to his presence at the march on Sunday to commemorate the student uprising at the Polytechnic in 1973, said "there was no tension, but a mass, peaceful large rally of a strongly anti-government nature that bothered a large number of the media and my political adversaries." He also pointed out that there was a great number of young people participating, which Tsipras said was a reaction to the government's "interventions in the Economic University of Athens, places where people have fun, and at movie theaters," referring to recent events where police intervened.


But what’s happening with the Greek cops?

(Links in Greek) The latest revelation by the Greek Daily Efimerida Ton Syntakton is kinda shocking. Let us summarize it for your: Citizens complain that suspicious surveillance devices are installed on their cars and motorcycles ( here’s an older report by Omnia TV for a similar case). The ministry is refusing to comment on the reports by one of the country's biggest newspapers. The next day a journalist from the very same newspaper becomes an eyewitness to a new surveillance incident. However, a riot police squad intervened aggressively to allow plainclothes policemen to remove the vehicle. Only when videos were released Greek police were forced to issue a laconic announcement stating that it is their vehicle had an ordered service in Exarchia while denying any follow-up complaints, with no further explanation. It’s very hard to describe how many basic principles of the rule of law are abolished in these cases. Illegal surveillance by special police forces, threatened by citizens and journalists, and so on. The incident follows dozens of illegal actions by ELAS during the Polytechnic's anniversary (read the Legal Aid Group's announcement) while police forces stormed cinemas and nightclubs, raided houses or beaten citizens without any reason. Another case here. Amnesty International is asking for an independent investigation into complaints of 17 November detainees that have been allegedly tortured by Greek police. One more link here.


Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis is the head of the new police state. Literally.

Michalis Chrysochoidis is not your average minister of public order. As Wikileaks had revealed, he was the man who collaborated and informed the American ambassador about the radical change in the repressive mechanism in Greece. He was the minister in whose days the Golden Dawn became organically gaining access to the ELAS mechanisms.

Added to all the above, Mr. Chrisochoides announced the eviction of all squats. The Minister of Citizen Protection issued a 15-day ultimatum to the squatters in Greek territory, calling them to abandon the occupied buildings. The press release specified that if the occupied buildings are housing asylum seekers or foreign nationals they will be contacted by the ministry's relevant services which will see to their relocation in mainland accommodation facilities. In the case of privately-owned buildings, the squatters will have to come to a private leasing arrangement with the legal owners in order to continue their stay. 

The squatters are responding to the ultimatum by organizing either by occupying local TV-stations or by calling people in solidarity. In their own words: “We have been given a 15day deadline. 15 days…Notara 26 has existed for 1500 days. It has sheltered more than 9000 people from 15 different countries of origin. Hundreds of solidarians from all over the planet have participated in the project. Thousands of different stories. One constant common struggle for solidarity, self-organization of our lives, acceptance of difference and uniqueness. One struggle in our squat, our neighborhood, the street. You cannot evict a movement. Not now, not ever!”


And now Greece is building prison camps on five Greek islands.


A day later after the ultimatum, the Greek government also announced that it is planning to replace camps such as Moria and Vathy on the Greek islands. The government announced plans to set up five closed “pre-departure centers” for migrants on the Aegean islands of Samos, Chios, Lesvos, Kos, and Leros. According to the plan, which was announced on Wednesday by government spokesman Stelios Petsas and Deputy Minister of National Defense Alkiviadis Stefanis, the new centers will host between 1,000 and 5,000, some even as many as 10,000 people.

The government's overall plan for migration and for supporting local communities that shoulder the greater part of the burden from refugees and migrants was presented by government spokesperson Stelios Petsas and Deputy Defence Minister Alkiviadis Stephanis on Wednesday.

Petsas said that the government has planned out a different policy for managing refugees and migration. "We seek, in principle, to internationalize the issue and formulate a common European policy. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has raised the issue in all his contacts with European leaders at the United Nations and the EU Summit. We stress the need for accountability and solidarity, increasing the role of Frontex, changing the Dublin framework, shaping a common European asylum policy, but also the fair sharing of the burdens," he said. Petsas stressed that the government's policy is based on four principles: more effective border protection, speeding up the processing of asylum applications, increased returns for migrants and closed pre-departure centers.


A message to those who are thinking of entering the country illegally.

According to Stephanis, the top priority at this stage is the decongestion of the islands, with the transportation of 20,000 migrants from the islands on the mainland. According to the deputy minister, the goal is to transfer 20,000 migrants from the Aegean islands by the beginning of 2020. The second phase and in plans for the medium term, 5 + 1 actions have been decided focusing on unaccompanied children, NGOs, asylum and returns, constructing and expanding closed facilities on the islands and the establishment of a single border surveillance body to help "seal and secure" migrant routes. “Welcome in Greece are only those we choose. Those who are not welcomed will be returned,” Mitsotakis said. 

Some 4,962 unaccompanied minors currently live in Greece, the National Center of Social Solidarity reported on Wednesday, while only one in four are accommodated in humane conditions. The main problems these children face concern very limited access to basic housing, food and water, and lack of legal representation, organizations said at a presentation.

1,117 unaccompanied minors live at the Moria hotspot, while “the most shocking data, however," Gabriel Sakellaridis, Greece Director of Amnesty International, said, "is that some 1,200 unaccompanied minors are gone missing and are most likely exposed to serious perils, wandering beyond and away from official protection systems." Last week a baby died of dehydration in Moria.

The Greek asylum system is drastically deteriorating under the rule of the new conservative Greek government. A new asylum law has been adopted, cutting back on the most basic procedural rights of asylum seekers and extending detention measures even further (e.g. through increasing administrative detention up to 36 months). While lawyers and human rights organizations have tried everything possible to prevent the systematic disenfranchisement arising from the draft law, the new regulation was adopted at the end of October and is supposed to enter into force in January 2020.

The Racist Violence Recording Network expresses concern over xenophobic reactions against refugees while Turkey’s deputy interior minister accused Greece of making baseless and false statements on Ankara’s handling of refugees in response to the Greek prime minister’s comments on the increasing number of arrivals from Turkey to the Greek islands. Kyriakos Mitsotakis who accused the previous government of the inability to deal with the crisis now believes that "Europe needs to proceed with the revision of the Dublin Treaty, which I described as outdated and extremely problematic."


Call 1142 and snitch on those who smoke.

The anti-smoking information and support hotline 1142 is in operation as of Tuesday. By calling 1142, members of the public can find out what the anti-smoking law entails, ask for help in stopping smoking and report any violations of the relevant legislation that they witness.

When callers seek help with stopping smoking, their details are recorded and a health professional will contact them within 48 hours, providing information and directing them to a stop-smoking clinic, where specialists will support their efforts to stop smoking.

At the same time, the 1142 hotline allows all citizens, by giving their name, phone number and e-mail (where available), to report any violations that they have witnessed with respect to the application of anti-smoking laws. More than 200 people called the hotline for the Smoking Ban in its first 24 hours of its operation, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

"The smoking ban is a bold initiative to protect public health. A symbolic move to modernize and refine our daily lives. But it is also an exercise in the mutual respect that ultimately strengthens social cohesion," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday, in his address at the official presentation of the health ministry's National Action Plan Against Smoking.

"The enemy is tobacco smoke, not smokers," Mitsotakis stressed while pointing out that other countries have succeeded in banning smoking in public spaces and Greece can do the same. "There is no longer any excuse, along the lines of 'these things cannot be done in Greece'," he said, urging all Greeks to uphold the anti-smoking laws.

"Eleven acts of legislation, presidential decrees and ministerial decisions in 10 years, with zero results. This is the sad account of the indoor smoking ban, supposedly enacted in 2009, " Mitsotakis said, noting that governments did not dare, administrations took no action and society tolerated the habit, "as if smoking did not concern our health and culture, as if it were a harmless detail."

The prime minister went on to present shocking figures concerning smoking in Greece, noting that one in six boys and one in eight girls at the age of 15 were smokers, while 94.6 pct of the population were exposed to passive smoking in one way or another.

Smoking was estimated to cause 20,000 deaths per year, he added, as well as being responsible for 700,000 days of hospitalization costing one billion euros. He also highlighted Greece's poor track record in terms of the public image is presented on smoking, with government ministers seen smoking on camera and even some doctors insisting on smoking in public, even in hospitals.

Mitsotakis sympathized with the 84 pct of citizens who considered the failure to implement anti-smoking laws a "cultural degradation" or the 76 pct who declared themselves outraged.

"We are responding to this displeasure with a national strategy and a strict ban on smoking in public spaces, in private work areas, in spaces where there are children, in cars where children are passengers...but also with a piece of good and extremely inventive information and awareness campaign. Our aim is not to divide but an alliance for health. To highlight the individual responsibility that will lead to collective harmony," he said.


Alliance for better life without smoking.”

Presenting the campaign, whose central message is "Health unites us: Alliance for a better life without smoking", Mitsotakis said it marked the start of a nationwide effort that was backed by stiff fines of up to 500 euros for those breaking smoking laws - and up to 10,000 euros for owners of premises that tolerated smoking. The penalties under the plan escalate to temporary closure for businesses after the fourth offense and the revoking of their license in the case of fifth-time offenders. A four-digit phone line - 1142 - has been set up to report those breaking smoking laws, while inspections will be carried out by mixed teams that include police. Mitsotakis stressed, however, that these were "not a threat but a refuge" and reflected a realization of the dangers of smoking and the promotion of a new way of life "that will make us healthier and, ultimately, happier."

"It is part of the Strategic Plan 2019-2023 "Health Unites Us" that was drawn up by the health ministry and whose implementation will be supervised by an expert committee of top scientists," he said. The prime minister said the plan had four lines of action: creating a non-smoking culture that emphasized prevention; respect for non-smokers; care for smokers by increasing medical support for stopping smoking; evaluation of new tobacco products with the regulation of their circulation on the market. He also highlighted the protection offered to those working in bars, cafes and other premises where smoking was permitted, who were bombarded with smoke against their will, while restricting the 'rights' of smokers to their own private space.

According to Mitsotakis, first estimates showed that compliance with the law was over 70 pct and that "just as we learned to wear seatbelts and helmets, we will learn to smoke outside bars and cafes." It was now common knowledge that smoking was harmful and the state could no longer stand by without taking action, he stressed.

"I call on all of you to implement the anti-smoking law. It is not a matter of repression but our ability as an organized society to come together and do what we know is right," he added.

Here’s the Greek way to avoid the smoking ban.


In our previous newsletter, we wrote about the Chinese influence in Greece. Here are four questions about Xi’s visit to Greece waiting to be answered.

How these scientists and volunteers re-build one of the most iconic Epirus bridges, a landmark of art and engineering.

The final version of ruling New Democracy's proposed constitutional amendment concerning the voting rights of Greeks abroad was submitted to the Parliament plenary on Friday. Read our analysis here and help us do more reporting like this by becoming a member.

According to data published by international humanitarian organizations, more than half of any refugee population are children. Making up a significant part of those children are unaccompanied minors (UAMs), who arrive in countries of first entry without their parents or guardians, making them a highly vulnerable population group. In such a sensitive and urgent social issue, the political leaderships are required to promptly respond with concrete solutions. This report is the comparative outcome of three national studies in Greece, Spain and Italy. Each study provides information regarding the protection of unaccompanied minors in the European South and offers a critical account of the policies (on a national as well as European level) and their implementation. Regretfully, what is discernible is that the way that the policies are implemented practically leads to the social exclusion of the children, and their subsequent exploitation, leading to their inability to exercise their rights. The research Children Cast Adrift relies on interviews with professionals working directly with UAM, as well as policy papers, regulations and legislation, and records testimonies on the effects of social exclusion and the partial and ineffective child protection systems on the life of minors.


This short film by the pupils of a tiny village in southern Crete. They have lost over 1700 teaching hours each year due to the lack of teachers.

From 1967 till 1974 Greece was ruled by a junta regime who carried out torture on political prisoners. Those who did the dirty job were conscripts who had been given a brutal training for two months but after that a blue MP cap and privileges, especially when they had had a prisoner break down. Prime interviewees Michaelis Petrou, former conscript, and Anastasios Minis, former war hero and general, give a deep understanding of the mechanisms of totalitarian regimes. 'Your Neighbour's Son' is a Danish drama-documentary initiated by Gorm Wagner, MD, with links to Amnesty International. Directors are famed DRTV journalists Jorgen Flindt Pedersen and Erik Stephensen. 52 min, 1982. Financed by Danish Film Authorities, SVT and DRTV.

A greek TV-Series from the 90s proved prophetic about the police state in Exarchia!

The road rage of this Greek monk in Santorini. Hillarious!



Delphi. They have amazing advertising banners


The hour of Greece” Drawing largely on rare archival material from the private collection of Gregory Pappas, a member of the Greek Diaspora, including newspapers, cartoons and photographs, all of which on display for the first time in Greece, "The Hour of Greece" seeks to show the impact of the Greek victory in the United States in the early years of World War II. At the same time, the exhibition highlights the important contribution that Americans made to healing post-war hardships in Greece. Material from the Pappas Collection has been enriched with documentary material from the General State Archives of Greece to better illustrate the relations of the peoples of Greece and United States at that time.

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