You are browsing the archive for Eurozone.

Migrant Workers Can’t Win In Xenophobic Greece

9:15 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Mitsos (Wikipedia/Creative Commons)

Originally posted at In These Times

Across Europe, the economic crisis is driving communities to deep desperation, and the people who were always at the margins are getting pushed straight off the edge.

Under misguided austerity policies, unemployment has reached devastating levels in the euro zone–reaching 12 percent across the region and topping 50 percent for youth in Spain and Greece. But some communities are sinking faster than others. Struggling migrant communities–both economic immigrants and refugees–are more neglected by the state’s social infrastructure than ever, while their native-born neighbors turn against them in a rash of xenophobic scapegoating.

Greece, which has long been a hub of immigration from Asia, Middle East and Africa, has become a cesspool of bigotry. According to a December report by Amnesty International, “Asylum-seekers, migrants, community centres, shops and mosques have been the target of such attacks which have been reported on an almost daily basis since the summer.”

Last September, an attack on a Pakistani-run barber shop showed how racism intersects with inhumane immigration policies:

The two men verbally attacked the Greek customer who was present for having a haircut in a shop owned by Pakistanis and stabbed him when he reacted. Then they started destroying the shop and throwing Molotov cocktails. The police came to investigate the incident and arrested two Pakistani nationals because they had no documents. In October, they were both in detention, pending deportation. Read the rest of this entry →

Hating in Athens

7:49 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Anti-racist demonstrations in the southern suburb of Kalithea, where repeated racist attacks took place against Egyptian immigrants. Three persons where injured, one of whom was hospitalized with multiple injuries from beating. (Image courtesy Zalmaï for Human Rights Watch)

Cross-posted from CultureStrike

Douglas Kesse, a Ghanaian asylum seeker who recently landed in Greece, was bewildered by how he was received in the cradle of Western Civilization. Reflecting on the epidemic of anti-immigrant attacks, he told human rights investigators, ”As human beings, we shouldn’t be treated like this…. I am not an animal to be chased with sticks.”

When anti-immigrant violence flares up in our communities, it may seem irrational, crazy, sometimes outright barbaric. But there’s one universal rule that holds true around the world: xenophobic riots, purges, and state crackdowns throughout history have hewed to a chilling logic; people respond to real threats–primarily economic instability or social upheaval–by lashing out at make-believe threats–like the neighbor who came from Mexico to build your other neighbor’s house. This is hardly unique to the U.S.: the anti-immigrant hatred that has erupted across Europe is actually a chilling parallel to the bigotry exhibited toward immigrants in places like Arizona. And in a place like Greece, where economic crisis is tearing society apart, it’s open season for xenophobia.

Read the rest of this entry →

Depression Symptoms: What’s Behind Europe’s Spike in Suicides

1:51 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Suicide rates in US (CDC, via earlywarn.blogspot.com)

Cross-posted from In These Times.

The metaphor of suicide has been used to depict the downward spiral surrounding countries bludgeoned by the economic crisis—particularly U.S. and Eurozone communities plagued by epidemic joblessness and a rash of budget cuts. Now the term literally describes the psychological dimension of the crisis, according to studies on suicide rates.

Some symptoms of the social despair have been grimly spectacular. Greece was jolted one recent morning after aging pensioner Dimitris Christoulas put a pistol to his head in Athens’s main square. In 2010 Americans were shaken by the suicide-by-plane of Andrew Stack, whose anger at the political establishment propelled him into an Austin office complex. Poorer regions have flared with public self-immolations, particularly in the communities of the “Arab Spring” where many youth come to see life as a dead-end street. Underlying these more dramatic examples are statistical patterns that reflect society’s unraveling.

A recently published Lancet study showed spikes in suicide across Europe during the recession. While many factors could contribute to this pattern, researchers found a significant correlation between unemployment and suicide trends. Read the rest of this entry →

While Wall Street Quakes, Greece’s Fire Still Burns Bright

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Police detain demonstrators and attack press photographers in Athens, Greece during a protest rally marking the 24-hour general strike on October 5, 2011. (Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Cross-posted from In These Times.

While we may be inspired to see a leaderless mass movement finally crystallizing in U.S. cities, the American occupations still can’t hold a candle to the fire raging across Greece.

This past week, demonstrators again unleashed their rage across the tiny Mediterranean republic, blocking government agencies and clashing with government thugs amid plumes of tear gas, with assorted spectacles like trying to burn a European Union flag in effigy. Wilder than the spontaneous encampments in New York, Boston and other cities, the Greek tempests of the past several months have been persistent and rancorous enough to actually shake up the trading floor and the halls of Eurozone-IMF officialdom, as the troika hover, anxious and vulture-like, over a smoldering pyre of sovereign debt.

The explosion in Greece (along with Spain) illustrate how common assumptions about the neoliberal consensus of the industrialized world can be overturned if people become desperate enough. Despite the draconian austerity policies, writes Times columnist Floyd Norris, virtually nothing could persuade the Greeks at this point to swallow more misery:

The tax collectors, of all people, have staged job actions because they fear being laid off. To say the least, there is no sign of a national spirit of sacrifice to save the country.

The message from Greece now may be summarized as, “I’m small. I’ve suffered. You can afford to rescue me. If you don’t, I can create chaos for all of you.”

They may be right.

Are there lessons for the Liberty Plaza protesters to learn from the Athenian class warriors? The Greece context is politically and culturally unique, but it does embody the principle of fierce solidarity. The Greek left is working to harness widespread bitterness into a united front against austerity, linking unions, the jobless young, professionals and laborers. Read the rest of this entry →