Pro-Palestine Non-Greek Protesters Face Deportation

Protesters claim that open borders allows them right to protest, in addition to tourism and investment.

Mitsotakis and Netanyahu PM office photo

The government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Greece is facing criticism over its decision to deport nine foreign students, who were arrested after participating in a pro-Palestine rally on May 14 at Athens Law School.

During the rally, some 28 Greeks and foreigners were arrested. They face charges that include disturbing the peace, trespassing, property damage, and weapons-related violations. Some are charged with using burning flares during the disturbances. Of these, nine foreign nationals were designated as “unwanted aliens” who are a threat to public order and national security. The government thus moved towards deportation. They are currently being held at the Amygdaleza jail in Athens.

According to Al Jazeera, the foreigners facing deportation believe the government is taking extreme measures that endanger the right of free movement for Europeans, which they contend should not be limited to tourists and investors, but also to political activists, including those who support the Palestinian cause. The nine protesters facing deportation are citizens of Spain, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany.

Evidence of the arrestees’ radicalism include smoke flares, helmets, gas masks, poles, paint, leaflets, and Palestinian flags. A website in Greek and English urged students to join in. The detained individuals deny everything.

PM Mitsotakis is also the leader of the New Democracy party, which is pro-NATO and pro-EU. He has underscored his government’s stance that university protests over the war in Gaza will not be allowed. The government annulled in 2019 the Academic Sanctuary Law that had prevented security forces from entering university campuses, a measure that had stood in place since 1973 when the military-ruled government and police violently clashed with student protesters.  Violent student protests on campuses, including the sacking of academic offices, had been a staple of Greek politics for decades.

Under Socialist governments, Greece had been more favorable to Muslim causes in the Middle East. Under the socialist government of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou in the 1980s, Greek had a close relationship with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, while relations with the United States and NATO were nettlesome. 

But under subsequent governments, the birthplace of democracy has shifted its allegiance to Israel. Students, however, tend to favor the Palestinian cause. Mitsotakis was one of the heads of state who visited Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu soon after the Oct. 7, 2023 onslaught by Gazans that claimed the lives of at least 1,200 people in Israel. Mitsotakis called Netanyahu a “true friend.” Military ties between the two countries have flourished in recent years. Mitsotakis was re-elected last year and has repeatedly expressed his support for Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. 

Defense lawyers for the students currently under arrest vow to protest at trial the planned deportation. However, deportation orders have already been issued, which means the defendants may not attend their own trial. An administrative decision may allow them to remain for the trial.


Topic tags:
human rights Israel Greece Swords of Iron Hamas