The move to use women police officers to implement harsh anti-immigrant policies has been described as sexist by activists.
Earlier this week, Greek police fired tear gas at migrants who were demanding to be allowed to leave the island of Lesbos, after a fire at the Moria camp resulted in thousands being left homeless.
After tear-gassing, the migrants, the government in Athens sent in 70 female police officers to convince women and children to move to a new temporary tent camp near the burnt one.
Female police officers are part of a government strategy to better “persuade families with young children” to leave the camp. The move, however, has been condemned as the “feminisation of border security” by the Professor of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics, Lilie Chouliaraki.
“Female police officers sent to Lesbos to ‘convince’ families [to] ‘get into [a] new camp’. Let’s be clear. This feminisation of border security is no less violent than the #MoriaCamp brutality these #refugee and #migrant families have already experienced,” said Chouliaraki on Twitter.
One Greek newspaper noted that with an increased spotlight at Moria by the international community, a contingent of female police officers “will soften any reactions of a police operation” and the possible violent transfer of immigrants to the new camp.
Another Twitter user called the use of the female police officers as the intersection between “border policing and sexism,” whereas another said, “Yeah, nothing softens a prison camp like female guards.”
Yeah, nothing softens a prison camp like female guards. https://t.co/UFlImz0Bx3— Aliki Chapple (@AlikiChapple) September 16, 2020
Athens seems to believe the female police officers could appear to be more trustworthy, however, one migration campaigner argued for a simpler approach to earn the migrants’ trust saying, “if you wanted refugees to trust you, maybe you shouldn't have doused them in teargas to begin with.”
Reportedly the order came directly from the Minister's office. Shows the level of nuance one can expect from this Greek government...— Manos Moschopoulos (@maledictus) September 16, 2020
(Also, if you wanted refugees to trust you, maybe you shouldn't have doused them in teargas to begin with.) https://t.co/VNuYri9rj6
As the Greek government has attempted to set up new temporary migrant facilities in the aftermath of the fire, many of the migrants have been protesting against being placed in new camps that would replicate the same living conditions of Moria.
The Greek government said that of the 12,000 migrants living at the Moria camp, around 1,800 have moved to the new Kara Tepe as of Thursday.
Several media outlets have made special reference to female police officers leading families out of the shelter, something the Greek government is keen to showcase.
Tensions at the camp were running high after dozens of migrants tested positive for the coronavirus and were placed under quarantine measures.
Athens has used the virus to place tighter measures against migrants, leaving many in toxic conditions resulting in increasing tensions.
With the global pandemic still raging, the Greek government has been accused of doing little to prevent or mitigate Covid-19 infections amongst migrants.
Eva Cosse from Human Rights Watch has said,: “They [Greek Government] haven't addressed the overcrowding that makes social distancing impossible, the lack of health care, or lack of access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene products."
The Greek government has claimed that migrants started the campfire. However, the claim could not be independently verified. In the past, the camp has been a target for the far-right. In 2018, extremists attacked migrants, leaving many injured.
Greece’s treatment of migrants more broadly has come under increased scrutiny in recent months.
A report earlier this year found that Greek soldiers were likely to be responsible for the shooting of a migrant attempting to cross the Greek-Turkish border at the beginning of March 4. He was later pronounced dead.
The man, Muhammad Gulzar, was one of seven people shot by Greek border forces that day.
Even as evidence has mounted that Greece’s border guards are engaging in human right abuses against migrants, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has played down or denied the allegations.
Human Rights Watch has documented and reviewed numerous reports of the Greek coast guard pushing migrants back into Turkish waters, a policy that is illegal under international law.
Greece has become one of the main gateways for migrants wishing to make their way to the wealthier northern European countries. § continues to protest that it has been left to shoulder the migrant crisis alone and without assistance from its European allies.