Far-right groups and commentators are taking advantage of the refugee crisis on the Turkey-Greece border to establish patrols, cite comparisons with Biblical times and pledge solidarity with Greek border guards.
The ongoing migration crisis at the Turkish-Greek border has further emboldened far-right groups in Greece who see themselves as defenders of the country. Vigilante violence against immigrants and even journalists has also been in the increase.
Former neo-nazi Golden Dawn member turned European Union parliamentarian Ioannis Lagos was pictured along with locals patrolling the border against the illegal entrance of migrants and refugees early on Friday, according to local media.
Footage of Lagos appearing alongside men who are wearing paramilitary uniforms keeping warm around a fire may raise questions about whether Athens is fully aware of what is happening within its own borders.
A New York Time investigation found the Greek government was running “secret extrajudicial” black sites near the Turkish border where it is detaining migrants illegally before expelling them back to Turkey. The secret black sites are widely considered by legal experts to be illegal.
A photo of Ioannis Lagos, a founding member of Golden Dawn. The photo is from the border with Turkey, as the group vow to kill refugees. pic.twitter.com/JIBwPkhPti— Ruslan Trad (@ruslantrad) March 7, 2020
Several Golden Dawn members, the former party of Lagos, were implicated in the murder of a rapper and Lagos himself, was given a suspended sentence for instigating the attack.
Golden Dawn, was founded in 1993, however, it wasn’t until the financial crises of 2008 and the ensuing immigration crises of 2015 that the party grew to become the third-largest party in Greece.
The Party’s roots can be traced to Nazi Ideology and the party has been accused of using racist rhetoric and inciting xenophobia. Several of the parties members have found themselves in prison as a result.
More worryingly, far-right members of the Identitarian movement from Austria and Germany have also made their way to the border area declaring: “No way. You will not make Europe your home.”
On social media, members on their official account professed: “We declare our solidarity with the Greek border guards.”
One far-right British online activist, Katie Hopkins, bellowed on Twitter that Greek resistance to refugees was “biblical” with “Soldiers of the Cross holding the line” against invaders.
The video has gained hundreds of thousands of views and was first posted by a Polish far-right account. Hopkins has been widely discredited for her racist views. That, however, hasn’t stopped her from being invited on mainstream British and Australian shows to push her far-right agenda.
Erdogan says he will flood Europe with Muslims until the Crescent triumphs over the Cross.— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) March 7, 2020
This is the border with Greece. Mosque in the distance. Soldiers of the Cross holding the line.
This is biblical. #IStandWithGreece
Credit @BasedPoland pic.twitter.com/2orS8qbOLJ
Exclusive footage by TRT World last week saw refugees beaten by Greek border guards, stripped to their underwear and having personal items stolen before being forcibly sent back to Turkey.
Refugees trying to reach Europe from Edirne-Kastimines border tell us Greek security forces beat them up and stripped them off their cellphones, money and even their clothes before pushing them back to no man’s land in the cold half naked pic.twitter.com/DHr9YSce2H— TRT World (@trtworld) March 6, 2020
While other footage captured by TRT World shows a Greek border guard shooting in the general direction of refugees attempting to cross the border.
The far-right throughout Europe has been feeding and disseminating information with varying degrees of respectability in regards to the recent refugee crisis, sensing an opportunity to further cement pan-European far-right ideas.
Martin Sellner a well known far-right identitarian activist who sees his mission as protecting the "ethnocultural identity" of Europe, which means no people of colour or people professing the Muslim faith, is one such actor.
Sellner, who is now defending Greek operations to keep out refugees, was also linked with the Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant who killed more than 50 Muslims in the New Zeland mosque shooting.
The online far-right ecosystem also makes use of dog-whistle mainstream speakers like Douglas Murray, an associate editor of Spectator magazine, which is widely led by the British political establishment.
Murray’s work is often quoted and spread by Sellner and like-minded activists to give their movement a degree of respectability. Murray in the past has spoken out against a British government ban on Sellner, who is prevented from entering the country due to his extremist views.
Another online actor that has been galvanised in the refugee crises has been Paul Antonopoulos who was outed last year as belonging to the chat forum popular with neo-Nazis, Stormfront.
Antonopoulos like other far-right online activists is engaged in the spreading of memes, fake news and propaganda that often has the aim of demonising migrants.
They are spread throughout Europe and while they appear to work for conspiracy-orientated websites, over time, they are having a real impact on millions of voters throughout Europe, which is resulting in increasing right-wing discourse in mainstream European politics.
When the head of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen says that Greece is Europe’s shield, even as migrants are attacked on the border, that is a message that may embolden far-right activists.