The Greek government have been looking to the Gods for inspiration as they carry out plans to deport thousands of illegal immigrants.
Bestowing a touch of irony to the proceedings, officials have named the operation ‘Xenius Zeus’, the same name given to the ancient Greek God of hospitality.
Six thousand people, suspected of having entered the country illegally, were detained in Athens, nearly a third now face deportation.
Thousands of police took part in the operation, rounding up suspected illegal immigrants in Athens and at the Turkish border. Fulfilling its election promises, the Greek government, currently facing its worst recession for decades, is taking back “control of the streets.”
“I honestly ask you all for your support in order to erase from Athens, the scenes that offend our civilisation and progressively erase them from all the regions across the country,” said Nikos Dendias, Public Order Minister.
A fifth straight year of recession and unemployment at a record high has helped to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment in Greece. Among their litany of perceived offences, migrants have been blamed for the rise in crime levels and for “stealing” jobs.
Anti-fascist groups said the government however, is trying to exploit anti-immigrant feeling. Tassos Anastasiades from the anti-fascist movement KEERFA said: “They (the government) are trying now to play the racist card. So that people will be distracted from what is really happening in their pockets and in their everyday life and try to blame immigrants for all the things that are going wrong in Greece.”
This would explain how neo-Nazi political party ‘Golden Dawn’ (with their slogan ‘Greece for the Greeks’) became the first far-right group to enter parliament in the country’s history. Last week it was reported the party gave out free food, but only to people who could prove they were Greek citizens.
Attacks on immigrants have become more frequent since 2011, a fact which has worried the UN’s refugee agency. The UNHCR’s denounced the rise of racist violence in the country but so far, critics say little has been done by the government to tackle the issue.
All this, in a country where some 100,000 illegal immigrants are estimated to enter every year. Most of them arrive via the Turkish border around the Evros river, the main gate for illegals entering the EU. The Athens government said it has dispatched 2,500 extra police to protect the area as part of the ‘Xenius Zeus’ operation.