Greek perspectives on migration: State institutions, the police and their agents

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  • 1. Greek perspectives onmigration: State institutions, the police and their agents
  • 2. Our ‘odyssee’ through Athens…
  • 3. The contact points• Immigration Offices (City of Athens)• Area north of Omonia• Omonia Police Station• Aliens Department Offices (Petrou Ralli)• Athens Police Headquarters• Ministry of Public Order and Protection of the Citizen• Ministry of the Interior
  • 4. General observations and perceptions• No official commenting without official permission• Very hesitant and insecure reactions on the topic of migration• Sarcasm → ‘Ridiculisation’ of the issue and of doing resarch on it• At times a frustrating experience…
  • 5. Aims• Original aim: speak to officials/civil servants and listen to their story, find out how they perceive immigration and experience their work with migrants. But this was difficult.• Most data from documents: state institutions officially paint a “pretty picture”.• Aim of this presentation: share what we could find, interpretation, starting points for possible further research.
  • 6. Stories from a policeman…• Stories from a policeman• Further questions• Methodological remarks
  • 7. Rough data; themes that appeared in the conversation:• “It is really hard, but I cannot do anything! I cannot do anything about it!”• Hard job• His colleagues and his position among them• Attitudes towards police• ‘Everybody just cares for his own ass’
  • 8. Interesting would be to further unravel..- Main motivations to join the police,- Attitudes in society, peers > implications?- Processes of decision making during working hours- Evaluations on the chosen ‘carreer’
  • 9. Methodology• Building rapport• Access• Being in ‘real places’• Chaos and messyness of fieldwork• Perhaps..Together with a lot of hard work sometimes one needs a good dose of ordinary luck..
  • 10. • ‘After the robbery, however, what struck me most forcibly was the policewoman’s insistence on trying to lay the blame on generalized ‘foreigners’, usually understood to be people of colour, Middle Easterners, or refugees from the impoverished Balkan nations to the north.’• (Herzfeld 2011:22)
  • 11. How do countries represent themselves to foreigners?• National narrative: tentative comparison of Albanian and Greek cases.• Possible “official discourse” in Greece: legitimization and contrast with other narratives (xenophobic/nationalistic)?
  • 12. Quotes Municipality of Athens website:• “The municipal administration does not view the migrant issue as a problem but rather a reality which can bring about myriad positive consequences for society as a whole.”• “The City of Athens has taken the initiative, adopting policies and implementing programmes which reinforce social cohesion, support harmonious co-existence and promote the integration of migrants.”• “Migration is not a problem if it is correctly managed.”• “We are creating an Athens in which Greek society ties in harmoniously with migrant communities, a city where our children speak the same language, the language of understanding and common goals.”• “We are transforming Athens into a global multicultural metropolis.”
  • 13. Statement of Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikolaos Dendias, 101st Session of the IOM Council Geneva, 27 November 2012• “We are in a reversing course. We have demonstrated the determination of the Greek people to correct past mistakes, to fight populism and extremism, to make a spectacular come back.”• “The Greek Government is establishing an effective, humane oriented response to the current migration challenges.”• “New Asylum Service … first quarter of 2013 … independent and will be operated by civil servants who are being actually trained by specialists in the field.”• “New First Reception … first semester of 2013 and will have the sole task of screening irregular migrants to identify their identity and nationality, to register them, to provide, if needed, medical and psychological support, to inform them on their obligations and rights. Special care is taken for vulnerable groups.“• “The on-going political and economic challenges in Greece have [been] affecting both governmental structures and key stakeholders dealing with migration as well as the number of migrants entering the country.“• “Achieve much more if … jointly pursued on a multilateral level, than on an individual level by each member state.”• “Deal with dangerous and racist attitudes observed in the Greek society … establishment of Special Departments in the Police Directorates of Athens and Thessaloniki to deal and prevent racist attacks and to investigate immediately all relevant complaints. The Presidential Decree has taken into consideration proposals of the National Committee for Human Rights.“
  • 14. Press release Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection 9 April 2012• “The coordinated State is here in order to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of nationality, race and creed, provided that they are legally established in this country.”• “On the other hand … we no longer can face this major human crisis which is currently spreading in our society. It is a humanitarian crisis. This is how we view it. It is a human tragedy and we cannot bear it. We are a small country facing a crisis and those who first and foremost feel the brunt of the phenomenon of illegal immigration are the legal immigrants living in our country.”
  • 15. Discourse• Economic and political crisis, small country, limited resources, human crisis/tragedy, new system being developed and implemented, manage correctly and humanely, comparison with other EU countries.• Legitimizing discourse of past and present bad conditions, hope for a better future.• Greece as hospitable, helpful and harmonious; promoting human rights; migration not a problem, manage it correctly; promote integration and social cohesion, common goals.Counter discourse to xenophobic/racist narrative or to the rhetoric of “cleansing”.
  • 16. Interview Angelos Syrigos General Secretary of Population and Social Cohesion• Legitimizing discourse: huge number of migrants, high costs, EU, Turkey, economic and humanitarian crisis, reforms and improvements.• Counter discourse: migration can be good; racist attacks and cleansing operations are bad.• Overlap: bad things, but situation makes it difficult to handle.
  • 17. Other findings…• Conversations with policemen, observations how they treat migrants; talks with people working for Ministry.• Got some impressions: controversial topic, hesitant to talk about the subject, not sure what they can and cannot say.maybe afraid of not telling “official story” to us, foreigners.
  • 18. Summary• State institutions point to improvement of situation, but migration seemingly is a controversial topic among people working for state institutions.• Moreover, reality is very different: Xenios Zeus, violence, detention centres etc.
  • 19. Directions for further research• Motivations and experiences of the people working as individuals with migrants, but all together make up “the state apparatus” (bottom-up approach, face-to-face relations).• Discrepancies: between “official” discourse and own opinion; between what people/governments say and what they do/actual situation; between different state-levels.• Different discourses for national and for international use.• Different discourses and counter-discourses within state institutions as well as society.• Discourses found in policy.• Possible politicisation of state institutions.
  • 20. From the local to the ‘global’ – ‘Athenian’ perceptions of EU migration policiesLocal/regional ‘immigration crisis’ -> which international relations/structures are underlying to this problem?→ Unsufficient data but general perception of ‘unfairness’ and inefficience of Dublin II
  • 21. Further research questions• How could a ‘fair’, practical, human, sustainable and feasible framework for a common European migration system look like?• Which institutional and reception structures could make the militarized EU borders obsolete?• Which organizational scheme (e.g. relocation?) could allow for a more genuine ‘sharing of the ‘burden’’?• How can we ‘convince’ EU member states’ governments of the ‘urgency to act’?