A request for comments and advice from Dr. Komarine Romdenh-Romluc:
I have tried to be brief, but there is a lot of essential information to convey. Please bear with me.
The World Congress of Philosophy (WCP), to be held in Athens, is fast approaching. I am supposed to be giving a paper at one of the panels. However, there is dreadful news coming from Greece, and I am not sure whether I can, in all good conscience, go.
People will be aware that the economic situation in Greece is dire. There is no money and ordinary people are suffering. There are no jobs. Many of those with jobs haven’t been paid. There is homelessness and hunger. With these conditions has come the rise of fascism. The far-right Golden Dawn is gaining ground.
Newspapers and blogs report that immigrants sans-papiers have been rounded up and thrown into detention hell-holes. Conditions are appalling. Some have been held for months with no access to asylum procedures. People are on hunger strike, and some have sewn their lips together. Protests are met with extreme brutality. There is more here, and I encourage you to read it. In addition, general attacks on migrants are on the increase. Little has been done to either prevent the attacks or bring the perpetrators to justice.
Foreign tourists have been caught up in the mess. A Korean backpacker and an African-American both separately on holiday, were arrested and beaten by the police. The latter – on holiday with his wife and children – was beaten unconscious in police custody, despite having shown them his US passport on demand. The US Embassy has issued a warning to Americans of ‘African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent,’ which rather suggests this is not an isolated incident.
On the one hand, the terrible economic conditions endured by ordinary people means that those of us in richer countries have some obligation to go and spend some tourist money in Greece. The workings of the world’s financial systems are beyond my ken, but I know that Greece did not get into these dire economic straits on its own. I also do not believe for one minute that all ordinary Greeks have taken up with the far-right, and I would like to try and help in whatever small way I can. Moreover, other European countries are also guilty when it comes to the immigration situation in Greece. The EU legislation surrounding immigration – specifically, the Dublin II Regulation – means that the country responsible for dealing with an individual’s asylum application is generally the one they first entered. As a result, those countries on the edge of Fortress Europe are having to deal with more immigrants, whilst being either smaller and/or economically weaker than countries further in. Moreover, it’s not as if treatment of sans-papiers is wonderful across other parts of Europe, as the recent ‘unlawful killing‘ of Angolan Jimmy Mubenga by British immigration officials illustrates.
On the other hand, I feel distinctly uncomfortable taking part in a philosophy conference in a place whose treatment of migrants is so appalling. I would like to make some sort of stand – however small – against the actions of the Greek authorities. Boycotting the conference and publicly explaining why I have done this may be such a stand.
(More selfishly, I am also mixed race, partly of South-East Asian descent. The implications of this have not escaped me.)
I would very much appreciate people’s thoughts.