Greece's right-wing Golden Dawn party threatens safety and privacy of children

News & Analysis
Greece's right-wing Golden Dawn party threatens safety and privacy of children

Greek newspaper To Vima reported late last night that Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panagiotaros has requested the exact data of "foreign infants and young children, by country of origin, who are in nursery schools" in Greece from the Greek Ministry of Interior (the equivalent of the British Home Office or US State Department). To Vima’s headline read 'Taking a leaf out of Herod’s book'.

The request echoes earlier demands made by the party for information about immigrants’ use of national health services, and both requests give disturbing credence to pre-election statements like "if Golden Dawn are elected to parliament, we will storm hospitals as well as nurseries, and we will throw illegal immigrants and their children on the streets". There has already been a significant rise in incidents of violence against immigrants in Greece over the last six months.

Greek law ensures the right of access to nurseries for all children, irrespective of nationality, religion or gender and linguistic, racial or social group. This legislation protects a number of children’s rights guaranteed under the United Nations Coventions on the Rights of the Child - to which Greece is a signatory - including non-discrimination and access to education. If Mr Panagiotaros obtains the data he is demanding, the Greek government would not only be violating the children’s right to privacy but would also jeopardize the rights of their siblings' and parents'. Both legally and ethically, Greece would be reneging on the duty of care it owes its most vulnerable charges.

Make no mistake: should the Greek Ministry of Interior fulfil this request, a dangerous precedent would be set and no one's data would be safe - regardless of citizenship. Indeed, the recent case of Elder Pastitsios, in which the Greek police were reported to have procured the satirist’s personal data through Facebook following a court order, would suggest that the more widespread violation of privacy rights in the country is not far off. 

Some nurseries are already receiving 'urgent' requests from the Ministry to hand over infant data, according to To Vima article. Yet there are some glimmers of hope, as it is also reported that many teachers are resisting these requests, arguing unequivocally that they "will not hand over data of infants to neo-Nazis who openly threaten them". 

These reports come hot on the heels of disturbing revelations in The Guardian newspaper about the torture and humiliation of anti-fascist protesters by Greek police using practices reminiscent of the Colonels’ Junta of 1967-73. With international attention locked firmly on the latest developments of the economic crisis in Greece, we should not lose sight of the cosy relationship that seems to be quietly developing between Golden Dawn and the police, or of the dangerous implications of this infant data request presents for Greeks and non-Greeks alike.

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