I am always surprised at how polarization can make a public debate become so brutal. It happened in the case of the 38 refugees trapped on an islet in the Evros River and of 5-year-old Maria, who allegedly died of a scorpion sting there.
The migration minister, Notis Mitarakis, told Kathimerini recently that the incident was confirmed by 10% of the people who were questioned by the authorities in relation to the incident. The absence of a majority consensus appears to have convinced the government that there is no dead child. I have no reason to doubt that the evidence at the authorities’ disposal does not confirm the claims made by the child’s parents. But I do have good reason to question how the entire affair was managed by government officials, by politicians from other parties and by dozens of my own colleagues.
How could they, so early on in the incident and even when Mitarakis himself spoke of a “tragedy,” make jokes, dismiss it as fake news and even denounce journalists as agents of Turkey? And how could anyone on the other side of the river desire the reports to be true so they could rub Maria’s tiny dead body in the government’s face?
The affair is still too confused to say whether it was a hoax but also to say that a child died for certain. There is much to consider, such as that the parents may not want her body exhumed for religious reasons, which is why they don’t want to show the Greek authorities where she’s buried. And, quite simply, if her parents did lie, why? Because they’re playing Turkey’s game or because they want to mobilize humanitarian organizations and the Greek authorities so that they can secure a safe haven for their four other children after days languishing on a wild islet, trapped between Greek pushbacks and Turkish pushes?
Children’s lives don’t belong in the debate arena. Politicians, journalists and social media commentators have a lot more they can argue about and still maintain a shred of humanity.