Maria Katsounaki MARIA KATSOUNAKI

Can we live without stereotypes?

COMMENT

TAGS: Migration, Survey, Society

The tension surrounding the migrant/refugee crisis is such that any sense of moderation appears almost suspect and spurious. The reason is that everyone involved (local communities, organizations, politicians etc) is either afraid or worried – and very much so. Among the din of so many different and diverse voices, a new study from the Dianeosis think tank has for the first time recorded the views of migrants and refugees themselves, which challenge a number of obsessive Greek stereotypes. For example, 91 percent of younger refugees and migrants say that the main reason they left their country was to escape violence (75 percent have experienced airstrikes and 53 percent have seen their homes destroyed). Furthermore, 77 percent of respondents said they never or rarely take part in religious ceremonies.

The obvious question is: How far will we trust a study that challenges our perceptions? One of the more prevalent conspiracy theories (which even enjoys the support of certain purportedly educated citizens) is that the waves of “economic migrants” are coming into Greece as part of a deliberate plot to corrupt the makeup of the country’s population or even replace it. It is an offshoot of a broader and more paranoid Great Replacement theory, whereby Europe and the West are being targeted for Islamification. “The nation is at risk” is the key phrase used by sundry such theorists to support their views, claiming that they are acting for the greater good – be they earnest do-gooders or simply lunatics.

All of this noise takes our attention away from the seriousness of the issue and serves as a first-class shield against the really important and most persistent issues. These include the unjust treatment of the Aegean islands that complied (unfortunately) with the European Union’s demands of every Greek government so far; the unacceptable living conditions of some 40,000 people at the camps on all the frontline islands (half of whom are at the Moria camp and in its vicinity on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos); the role being played by more than 450 uncertified organizations that have been allowed to run rampant since 2016; and the question of how nongovernmental organizations managing large chunks of the significant funding that goes toward the migrant crisis are selected.

Conspiracy theories and stereotypes are thriving amid the failure to address these issues. They provide convenient answers without any solutions at minimum cost – intellectual or otherwise. But the fact is that we all have a share of responsibility in propagating this climate, both those who speak out and those who don’t care.

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