“Help on the spot”

European Diary, 25.9.2020: Austrian television reports from Lesbos. Late hour. Afterwards one cannot sleep well.

The nation’s best paid bouncer, Austrian Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer lands on Greek territory with the fattest plane he could rent from the Russians. He brings along some 55 tons of “relief supplies” and police officers. He stands wide-legged in front of the camera and speaks of “help on the spot”. We already know this. And he now also makes it very clear what he means by that.

It’s not about helping the people who have been imprisoned on the island for months, some of them for years. It’s about helping the Greek governement to continue to treat them badly, as a deterrent. With the Austrian tents a new camp is to be built, seven kilometers away, far from any other settlement, even more controllable, even more deterrent than Moria already was. But at least for the beginning a bit more orderly and clean. Until the press is gone and the people can be left alone again in the dirt, which will settle down by itself in the fall.

The people who are now forced into the new camp with “gentle pressure”, as they say, have to drag their few possessions, strapped on pallets, boxes or boards, along the road for miles and miles to the new camp. The children just pull the smaller boxes, the adults the big ones. These pictures, too, will not be forgotten so quickly. At least now we know how Austria sees “help on the spot”.

That which prevents us from sleeping should indeed look and feel exactly like this. As an Austrian (Greek, Hungarian…) politician you have to bring along a pathological sadism to do your job.

Meanwhile, the provincial governor of the islands explains to the Austrian journalists, how one views the situation in Lesbos: “We thank Austria for its efforts, but we would have had our own tents, we wouldn’t have needed this help at all.” What they are still waiting for on the islands is that Europe will finally distribute the refugees among the member states. Well, the Greek government could of course take them to the mainland, but on this issue the Greek government and the European coalition of the unwilling are in agreement.

Chancellor Kurz has been calling for such camps on Greek islands for years. And Austria’s former Minister of the Interior, Mr. Kickl of the right extremist FPÖ, who was so talented in creating new language, also had an inventive name for them: “Concentrating Camps”. Just say that Austria and many other EU countries have learned nothing from history.

Postscript on September 30, 2020: Today the news report the dry fact, that the “55 tons of supply” never arrived on Lesbos, but were stored somewhere in Greece on the mainland. The Greek government does not know what to do with the 400 tents Mr. Nehammer brought along last week. As they said before: “Tents we have…”