We will not be gagged

An update on the legal situation in Greece by librarian Keira Dignan

New year, new human rights crackdown here in Greece. On 30th of November last year, the Greek government passed a new law that effectively criminalises whistleblowing about the abuses of the refugee camps. The law;

  • Applies to all camp structures, open and closed, and to temporary accommodation of asylum seekers
  • Applies to all workers, volunteers and solidarians present, regardless of whether they are also residents of the camp themselves
  • Outlaws the disclosure of any information relating to residents of the camp using personal or organisational media
  • Stipulates that we must not report crimes and abuses committed against camp residents to anyone other than the Ministry appointed Commander of the camp

How it can be used

Firstly, it may be used to justify excluding groups from providing services to people living in the camps. The government has already put in place a registration procedure impossible to follow for the grassroots organisations (like ECHO) who provide many of the services in the camps. It appears that this may have already begun in the notorious ‘Moria 2’ camp on Lesvos.

Secondly, it may be used to make an example of those who leak information about the ways in which people are being treated inside these camps. Civil society watch-dogs suggest that it’s unlikely that all ‘breaches’ of this ‘law’ will be prosecuted. However, the government has been known to make an example out of workers with high-profile, high-sentence cases, such as the volunteers who were imprisoned for over 100 days for rescuing asylum seekers from drowning in the mediterranean. This law could be used in the same way.

Thirdly, it may have a chilling effect on information getting out about what is happening in the camps. The law is very vaguely worded, listing simply “foreseen legal consequences” for breaking it. This, particularly if combined with a high-profile punishment of a selected worker or collective, could scare workers and volunteers away from speaking to the press or using social media to tell the world about what is being done to people living in the camps. 


ECHO’s position

At the ECHO library, we’ve already got our own confidentiality rules in place; we don’t take any photographs or distribute personal information without people’s informed consent. What we have never done is limit the distribution of information about the dire conditions and abuses. These camps are a (very expensive) human rights abomination that both the EU and the Greek government should be ashamed of. If they’re trying to stop the word getting out about what’s happening, then they’re in for a shock. We will not be gagged. 

Lots of love from the library.

If you work or volunteer in the camps, feel free to contact us at contact@echo-greece.org, Choose Love or Open Democracy for further information about the law or other elements of the human rights crackdown ongoing in Greece.

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