Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Greece Versus the World

Operation Xenios Zeus, launched in the summer of 2011 by the Hellenic police force, is ostensibly designed to halt illegal immigration into (and presumably through) Greece. As in the United States, Greece has a problem with people entering the country illegally. But as stories mount of foreign nationals being detained and, in some cases, severely beaten even after showing their passports to the "arresting" officers, there seems to be more going on.

U.S. citizens are strongly urged to carry a copy of their passport or some form of photo identification with them at all times when traveling in Greece.

[...] The U.S. Embassy has confirmed reports of U.S. African-American citizens detained by police authorities conducting sweeps for illegal immigrants in Athens.
Greece: Country Specific Information - United States Department of State
In a nation where austerity measures are ravaging the economy, one would think that it would make absolutely no sense to let things get to the point where foreign governments would take notice. People wealthy enough to travel internationally are normally welcomed for the money they spend. Allowing police officers to beat them up on the streets is bad for business.

As a matter of pure speculation, I wonder if we're not seeing a manifestation of a growing Greek anger with the whole of the outside world. What better way to tell the world to go drop dead than to start assaulting people from elsewhere who come to visit? Of course, to a certain degree, this is exactly what some officials say it is; rogue police officers who are violating both the law and public values of the police force. There is no reason to assume that the government is tacitly approving activities that have the very real potential to make their lives much more difficult for little or no noticeable gain. But it's worth remembering that Greece is the home of what we now understand as democracy. And, as the saying goes, there's nothing more democratic than a lynch mob. If a simmering resentment of "barbarians," is growing within the Greek population, the government there will find it an adversary they can't simply legislate away.

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