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Dossier - Balkans connectés

Distinguishing Different Categories of Migrants, Refugees, and Muslims in the Aftermath of the 2015-2016 Refugee “Crisis.” The Case of the Island of Kos (Greece)

Distinguer différentes catégories de migrants, de réfugiés et de musulmans au lendemain de la « crise » des réfugiés de 2015-2016. Le cas de l’île de Cos (Grèce)
Kira Kaurinkoski

Résumés

Cet article discute des perceptions locales des différentes catégories de migrants, de réfugiés et de musulmans sur l’île de Cos au lendemain de la « crise » des réfugiés de 2015-2016. Il étudie comment la présence de communautés de migrants et musulmanes historiques et antérieures a facilité l’acceptation de nouveaux groupes de migrants musulmans. Il réfléchit également à la manière dont l’arrivée de nouveaux groupes de migrants musulmans a affecté la perception de soi et celle des autres communautés à l’égard des communautés musulmanes anciennes et établies. L’article se fonde sur des sources secondaires, enquêtes de terrain et entretiens conduits sur l’île de Cos en juin 2018.

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I would like to express my gratitude to Christian Bromberger, Katerina Seraïdari, and the Journal Editors, Detelina Tocheva and Anne Madelain, for their insightful and constructive comments on earlier versions of this article. I also wish to thank Jennifer R. Cash for her excellent work and meticulousness in proofreading this article.

They were so many and came so suddenly. Nobody was prepared. Syrians were cultured, had money, came as families, stayed in hotels. They had fled war. Those who came later (Iraqis, Pakistanis, etc.) were uncultured (apolitistoi) and dirty (vromikoi). Most were single men and did not clean after themselves. They stayed in tents and left all the rubbish on the soil when they left. There were many people who took advantage of the situation and the fact that the borders were open. Some came in search of a better life. (A., June 2018)

  • 1 In social sciences, the term “crisis” is widely understood as a rupture, an exception to the establ (...)

1This paper discusses local perceptions of different categories of migrants, refugees, and Muslims on the island of Kos in the aftermath of the 2015-2016 refugee “crisis.”1 It investigates how the presence of historical and earlier migrant and Muslim communities has facilitated the acceptance of new groups of Muslim migrants. It also reflects on how the arrival of new groups of Muslim migrants has affected the self-perception and perception by others of earlier and established Muslim communities.

  • 2 Field research in Kos was carried out in June 2018 in the framework of my Master 2 thesis in Politi (...)
  • 3 Kaurinkoski Kira, “Globalization in the Life of Small Island Towns: Changes for Better or Worse? Th (...)
  • 4 For more on the Turkish community in Kos and Rhodes, see the collection of papers in Georgalidou, T (...)
  • 5 On Greek perceptions of Turks and on nation formation in Greece, see, e.g., Avdela Efi, “Η συγκρότη (...)

2Methodologically, this paper is based on secondary sources (official reports, written press, videos, social media) and field work (interviews and observations) I conducted on the island of Kos in June 2018.2 The choice of Kos was motivated by my earlier field research there,3 but also the fact that it is the most touristic, multicultural, and multi-confessional of the five Aegean islands hosting hotspots. Moreover, the island has been home to a Muslim community of Turkish origin since the sixteenth century,4 which is of special interest in light of the painful history between Greece and Turkey.5 Over time, other groups of Muslims have settled on the island too. I wanted to see how these parameters affected the acceptability of new groups of Muslim migrants and refugees at the local level.

  • 6 Contact with asylum seekers and recognized refugees was established outside the hotspot, namely at (...)

3In total, fourteen interviews were conducted (one with a local economic actor, two with people working in the Kos hotspot, and four with members of the Turkish community); seven shorter interviews were conducted with recognized refugees or asylum seekers outside the hotspot, in Kos town and in Pyli.6 Participant observation and informal conversations with residents of Kos (traders, employees) allowed me to better understand the local situation and issues. To protect the identity of my interlocutors, I use fictitious first names or a simple initial.

4This paper is divided into three parts. First, I will present the political and juridical context of the “crisis” in Greece and Europe. Then, I will discuss the hotspot approach and the five Aegean islands hosting hotspots in comparative perspective. Finally, I will analyse the situation in Kos, and more particularly, local perceptions of the “crisis” and different groups of migrants and Muslims.

From open borders to the EU-Turkey statement

  • 7 Kofman Eleonore, “Gendered Mobilities and Vulnerabilities: Refugee Journeys to and in Europe,” Jour (...)
  • 8 UNHCR, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015, Geneva, United Nations High Commissioner for Ref (...)
  • 9 Ibid.

5In 2015, more than 1,1 million people (58% male, 17% female, and 25% minors of both genders)7 crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. The great majority employed the Eastern Mediterranean route in the Aegean Sea to Greece. International media spoke of a global, and more particularly, a European refugee “crisis.” And yet, what Europe witnessed in those years is only a small drop of what was happening in the world. At the end of 2017, the global number of refugees and displaced persons was 68,5 million,8 out of whom 85-90% lived in developing countries. Turkey then hosted 2,5 million refugees, more than any other country in the world in absolute numbers; Lebanon 1,1 million, and Jordan 664,100.9

  • 10 D’Angelo Alessio et al., Mapping Refugee Reception in the Mediterranean. First Report of the EVI-ME (...)

6In 2015, the surveillance of outer EU borders was suspended, and people were allowed to enter practically without any controls. For a short while, the European fortress thus allowed the free movement of people enabling a hitherto hindered aspect of globalization. In Greece, only half of the migrants arriving on its soil were registered. Most continued their journey to Western and Northern European countries. Germany and Sweden in particular, were important destination countries. Later, several member states constructed fences or instituted temporary border control at their national borders. In February 2016, the land border between FYROM (from 12 February 2019, Republic of North Macedonia) and Greece closed for migrants and refugees. According to the estimations of the UNHCR, approximately 62,000 newly arrived migrants were trapped in Greece.10

  • 11 de Marcilly Charles, Garde Angéline, “L’accord UE-Turquie et ses implications. Un partenariat incon (...)

7Parallel to these events, Germany and the Netherlands (which then held the European Council presidency), supported by the European Commission, favoured cooperation with Turkey. An EU action plan for cooperation with Turkey was adopted in 2015. Subsequent encounters and negotiations with Turkey resulted in the adoption of the EU-Turkey statement which aimed to substantially reduce irregular migration along the Eastern Mediterranean route. It was a political deal without mandatory value in international law.11

  • 12 Stergiou Andreas, “The Refugee Crisis and its Effects on Greece’s European Integration and Relation (...)

8According to the principles at the heart of the EU-Turkey statement, adopted on 18 March 2016, all new irregular migrants or asylum seekers crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands would be returned to Turkey after a case-by-case examination of their asylum application in accordance with international and European Union law. For every Syrian returned to Turkey, another Syrian would be resettled from Turkey to the EU, taking into account the UN vulnerability criteria. Turkey pledged to take measures to prevent new irregular migration routes from opening. As part of this agreement, in addition to political concessions, the EU committed to granting a total of 6 billion euros to Turkey during the years 2016-2018. In parallel, more than 1 billion euros in EU funds were allocated to Greece between January 2015 and January 2018, of which around 800 million euros were disbursed. These sums were intended for aid organizations working with the Greek government but also for the Greek state itself.12

  • 13 Turkey formally applies the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees only to those fleeing war or persecu (...)

9Human Rights organizations have repeatedly criticized the statement, arguing that Turkey is not a safe country for refugee returns and does not respect the principle of non-refoulement. After the entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement, approximately 90% of migrants tried to apply for asylum in Greece.13

10The entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement reduced the flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route. However, an increase in arrivals was observed along the more perilous Central Mediterranean route. Since 2018, the number of arrivals in Greece has risen, the two principal crossing points being the maritime border in the Aegean Sea and the land border in Evros, in Northern Greece.

  • 14 On the hotspots in the Greek islands, see e.g., Dimitriadi Angeliki, “Governing Irregular Migration (...)

11The EU also supported the set-up of hotspots14 in Greece and Italy, the two countries that were the most concerned by the arrival of large numbers of migrants at that time; and put in place a relocation scheme, with the view of transferring to other EU countries persons in need of international protection. In Greece, hotspots were set up on five Aegean islands, namely Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, and Kos. They were tasked to receive, identify, and process asylum seekers and migrants under the EU-Turkey statement with the support of EU agencies.

Greece and the 2015-2016 “crisis” and its aftermath

  • 15 Since 2011, following two judgments by the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice (...)

12Over the years and against the backdrop of the refugee “crisis,” Greece has been blamed repeatedly by other EU-states for the excessive permeability of its external borders. Greece has also been accused of not improving its asylum service and judicial system enough so that each case can be considered individually and appeals can be heard before people are sent back to their country of origin.15

  • 16 A coalition between the extreme left (Syriza) and the extreme right (ANEL).
  • 17 In line with the terms of the EU-Turkey statement, the Greek authorities confine asylum seekers on (...)
  • 18 Howden Daniel, Fotiadis Apostolos, “The Inside Story of what Went Wrong in Greece,” Refugees Deeply(...)

13The open borders policy conducted in Greece in 2015 reflected the ideology of the coalition government led by Alexis Tsipras,16 who in this way tried to influence European migration policy in favour of a Europe without walls, barbed wire, and borders. The reluctance of other European countries to welcome more migrants and the closure of the Balkan corridor resulted in a chaotic situation in the Aegean islands,17 and in Eidomeni, in Northern Greece, although of a different nature. At the same time, it has been suggested that the amount of nearly 800 million euros allocated to Greece in the years 2016-2018 is disproportionate to its use. Weaknesses in management at the national level had an impact on the situation on the islands.18

After the “crisis”: restriction of movement, pushbacks, and human rights violations

14With the accession to power of the Conservative government led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the parliamentary elections in July 2019, security policies returned to prominence. The wall at the Greek-Turkish land border in Evros, began in 2012, was widened.19 In parallel, the attitude and practices applied to migrants have toughened.20 Since January 2020, the Greek government has increased demonstrably the illegal pushbacks of refugees with some victims stating that they have been beaten by Greek officials before being forced back across borders or into the sea.21 Pushbacks denounced by NGOs and shipwrecks have also been observed around Kos.22 In parallel, numerous migrants whose claims were deemed inadmissible have found themselves in a legal stalemate without access to asylum, without documents certifying their status, and without housing, money, or work.23

15In October 2022, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) revealed that pushbacks have been ordered systematically by Greek authorities, and that the authorities have committed human rights violations which have been covered up by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). The OLAF report also points to intimidation tactics being used by authorities to discourage Frontex officers from incident reporting.24 The Greek government has described the accusations as fake news and has since publicly attacked journalists, political opponents, and NGO members.25 However, this is not a specifically Greek practice, but rather one that includes actors across Europe.26

  • 27 Asylum Information Database (Aida), European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Country Report: (...)

16In January 2021, Greece declared Turkey a safe third country for people from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Somalia. Later the same year, the old hotspots in Samos, Kos, and Leros were replaced by closed reception and identification centres that simultaneously function as pre-removal detention centres. Funded by the EU, they feature barbed wire with fencing, surveillance systems, and ID and fingerprint screening at the gates.27

  • 28 Ibid.

17In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, asylum seekers residing in the hotspots have been subject to disproportionate restriction of their movement. These restrictions were imposed, with small variations, between March 2020 and March 2022. Since then, exit from the facilities has been allowed at specific hours, but only for representatives of families or groups, and only in order “to meet essential needs.”28

Islands as places of exclusion

  • 29 De Genova Nicholas, “Spectacles of Migrant ‘Illegality’: The Scene of Exclusion, the Obscene of Inc (...)
  • 30 Dimitriadi, “Governing Irregular Migration…”, art. cit.

18Islands have often been places of treatment, detention, selection, and repopulation, but also of confinement of people outside the law. The geographical location of islands makes them ideal as buffer zones and places of exclusion, places where “the spectacle of the border”29 has been extensively covered by the media. As a rule, the islanders recognize and assume the role of guardians of the borders. But they are also frustrated by this role. In addition, each island has its own identity, which influences attitudes and ways of understanding the arrival of migrants.30

  • 31 Wihtol de Wenden Catherine, “Les incommunications de l’Europe sur la crise de l’accueil des migrant (...)
  • 32 Amnesty International, Crise mondiale des réfugiés. De l’esquive au partage des responsabilités, 20 (...)

19The hotspot approach was developed as an expression of European solidarity towards Greece and Italy, and as an innovative and efficient way of treating asylum applications of persons arriving by sea. Officers from Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) were sent to Greece and Italy to assist the national coast guards and asylum services. In practice, the presence of Frontex translates into intergovernmental surveillance; this agency is responsible for checking that migrants arriving in the EU are registered and that their digital fingerprints are taken. These centres have also been criticized for being “detention centres” or “open air prisons” in which the examination of asylum applications is essentially based on nationality, in contradiction with the obligations of international law.31 The quality of interviews conducted by EASO officials has been criticized strongly. In Greece, the asylum legislation has been reformed substantially, compromising the effective exercise of the rights of asylum seekers through an accelerated procedure for examining applications for international protection within fifteen days. The lack of information and legal assistance provided to migrants and asylum seekers has also been criticized.32

  • 33 Wihtol de Wenden Catherine, “Une nouvelle donne migratoire,” Politique étrangère, vol. 80, n3, 20 (...)
  • 34 Vulnerable asylum seekers are – in principle – entitled for transfer to the mainland, but delays in (...)
  • 35 Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, “UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of M (...)
  • 36 Asylum Information Database, Country Report: Greece, op. cit., p. 36.

20Last but not least, and even though there has been some improvement over the years, reception conditions in the Greek islands are still substandard and resulted in a humanitarian “crisis” in Greece.33 Infrastructure, medical services, and waste management are under pressure, whereas overcrowding, unsuitable accommodation, and despair frequently lead to escalating tensions within and between different migrant communities. The security and human rights of vulnerable people, minors, and single women are not guaranteed. A high number of children reside in protective custody in locked areas, including police cells, without access to education, sufficient food, or child friendly activities, and with no information or explications concerning their situation.34 Human rights organizations have repeatedly criticized Greece’s detention policy of migrants.35 According to the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the way the hotspot approach is carried out in Greece is not sustainable from a fundamental rights perspective.36

The hotspots islands in comparative perspective

  • 37 A large number of studies have been dedicated to the situation in Lesbos, e.g., Pillant Laurence, T (...)
  • 38 The journey from Izmir to Lesbos, Samos, and Chios is shorter and less expensive than for Kos, Lero (...)

21Five Aegean islands host hotspots: Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, and Kos. The differences between these islands can be explained by the volume of migratory flows, the dynamics and development of tourism, and the dependence on mass tourism. Lesbos is the island that has received the largest number of migrants,37 whereas in Kos and Leros, the number of migrants has been the lowest (Table 1).38

Table 1. Number of migrant arrivals per island (2015 and 2016)

Name of the island

Island population (2011)

Number of migrant arrivals (2015)1

Number of migrant arrivals in (2016)2

Chios

52,674

120,556

40,521

Kos

34,396

58,503

5,147

Leros

7,917

Not available

Not available

Lesbos

86,436

506,919

99,361

Samos

32,977

104,360

15,157

Total

214,400

759 112

155,286

Source: Data from 1) the UNHCR, and 2) Port authorities, published in Ivanov Stanislav, Stavrinoudis Theodoros, “Impacts of the refugee crisis on the hotel industry: Evidence from four Greek islands,” Tourism Management, no 67, 2018, p. 214-223.

  • 39 Chios is historically known as an island of wealthy shipowners.

22Kos stands out as the island where the tourism sector is the most developed with more than one million international arrivals by air in 2014, and nearly one million in 2015. Lesbos is the island where the tourism sector has been hardest hit. In parallel, the demand for accommodation from migrants, and from representatives of NGOs, UNHCR, and Frontex, has also been more notable in Lesbos than on other islands. Chios and Leros are the least touristic (Table 2).39

Table 2. Number of international arrivals by air (2014 and 2015)

Name of the island

Number of international arrivals by air (2014)

Number of international arrivals by air (2015)

Chios

8,228

7,214

Kos

1,011,194

970,777

Leros

Not available

Not available

Lesbos

76,413

75,767

Samos

122,392

126,789

Source: Ivanov, Stavrinoudis, “Impacts of the refugee crisis on the hotel industry…”, art. cit.

Local communities and the 2015-2016 “crisis”

  • 40 Kirtsoglou Elisabeth, Tsimouris Giorgos, “‘Il était un petit navire’: ‘The Refugee Crisis’, Neo-Ori (...)
  • 41 Papataxiarchis, “Being ‘There,’” art. cit.; Papataxiarchis, “An Ephemeral Patriotism,” art. cit.; R (...)

23Encouraged by the positive attitude of the Greek state, in 2015 and 2016, local communities throughout Greece demonstrated high levels of empathy towards displaced persons.40 The “desire to help migrants in distress” also brought a large number of NGOs and international organizations to the Aegean islands. Depending on their motivation, these people have been qualified as “volunteers,” “solidarians,” or “professional humanitarians.”41 In some localities, employment and other opportunities appeared for Greek people, especially in Lesbos.

  • 42 Papataxiarchis, “An Ephemeral Patriotism,” art. cit.

24This said, in 2015, the situation was difficult not only for migrants, but also for local populations and for economic and political actors. In local communities, tensions occurred in situations where both the migrants, and a part of the local population, were struggling to secure their livelihoods, but also because of far-right mobilisation. In this respect too, the situation was particularly bad on the island of Lesbos, where acts of xenophobia triggered by far-right political groups were observed.42

25Giorgos, a seasonal worker from Lesbos whom I met in a restaurant in Kos where he was working as a waiter, was very upset with the situation in Lesbos. His grandparents had come from Ayvalik in current day Turkey in the beginning of the twentieth century and settled in a village of refugees. He said the following:

Lesbos is an island of refugees. Those people [who came in the early twentieth century] all came naked (gymnoi). The people who come today, come with demands, showing off that they are here now, like occupants (kataktites). There are many single men who have been to war, who have endured terrible conditions, who are afraid of nothing. They are reckless. (Ehoun thrasos) […] They go out in the old town [of Lesbos] with knives. It is dangerous to go there. There are fights.

26He mentioned a case, where a group of male migrants surrounded a car and started tapping it. The woman and the children in the car got scared.

They want sex […]. These are men from Morocco and some other countries […]. Those from Syria are different, more educated, and cultured. They have economic means and come with their family. Here in Kos, I met a teacher from Syria, a musician. We lived in the same hotel. There are people from renowned families. One’s father was a mayor in the town where they lived. (G., June 2018)

27Apologetically, he concluded by saying: “We are not racists, but there are limits.”

  • 43 Mavrogordatos Giorgos, “Το ανεπανάληπτο επίτευγμα” [The Unprecedented Achievement], in Paschalis Ki (...)
  • 44 Herzfeld Michael, “Foreword,” in Renée Hirschon, Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe. The Lives of Asia (...)

28Moreover, among the locals, there seems to be a common understanding, and culturally and historically based expectations as to how refugees and newcomers more generally should behave. In this context, local inhabitants frequently refer to the arrival of the refugees from Asia Minor and Pontos in the early twentieth century. In comparison with the Asia Minor refugees who retrospectively are perceived as humble and hardworking people, those who arrived in the context of the 2015-2016 “crisis” and in its aftermath are perceived as “demanding” and “having audacity.” Today, the integration of the Asia Minor refugees is perceived as a success story and their contribution to Greek society and economy is publicly acknowledged.43 But all of this took time and was not painless.44

  • 45 Voutira Eftihia, The “Right to Return” and the Meaning of “Home,” Berlin, LIT Verlag, 2011.

29Numbers and visibility also matter. In comparison with Kos, in Lesbos the numbers of newly arrived migrants were manyfold (Table 1). In Mytilene, the commercial and administrative port-town in Lesbos, asylum seekers gathered in one of the main squares near the seaside promenade. Hence, they were not only visible, but also claimed a public space of their own. This in turn created an environment where a wide range of emotions and reactions were expressed. Demonstrations, as well as clashes between groups of migrants and locals, were frequent. In the end, what is at stake is not always ethnocentrism or racism, but collisions of various sorts between different groups of people who are competing for scarce resources.45

30In comparison with Lesbos, in Kos, the situation has been calmer and the presence of migrants better perceived, as I will show in the final part of this paper.

Kos: a brief overview

  • 46 In the Middle Ages, the Dodecanese first belonged to the order of St John (1309-1522) before passin (...)
  • 47 Ethnic Turks, or Muslims, as they are officially called in contemporary Greece, have been living in (...)
  • 48 A Jewish cemetery can be found in Platani, outside Kos town.

31Kos is one of the main islands of the Dodecanese after Rhodes and one of the most important administratively, demographically, and economically. Because of its geostrategic position, its history, and the diversity of its cultural and religious influences, this group of islands presents itself as a particularly rich field of study.46 Since the 1970s, development on Kos has mainly responded to the demands of the tourist sector. The island has an international airport and was among the first destinations in the country for charter flights. Today, the vast majority of the population is Greek Orthodox, but there are also ethnic Turks, referred to as “Muslims,”47 who have been present on the island since the sixteenth century. Until the Second World War there was also a Jewish community.48 Since the 1980s, Kos has welcomed a significant number of Western Europeans, among whom there are spouses of Greeks, but also pensioners and younger people who have settled in Kos permanently, while others maintain a second home there. Moreover, since 1990, Kos has become a destination for economic migrants and refugees from the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

  • 49 Kaurinkoski, “De l’île de Cos,” art. cit.

32According to the 2021 census, Kos had a population of 36,986. The main socio-economic occupations are agriculture and tourism. Within the population, approximately ten percent are foreign migrants, which corresponds to the average number of foreigners nationally.49

Kos in the frontline of the refugee “crisis”

33In 2015, Kos was one of the islands in the frontline of the refugee “crisis.” Thousands of people arrived daily. Petros, a young man who works in a rent-a-bike shop in Psalidi, recalls:

Then in 2015, it was an unprecedented phenomenon. I came to work in the morning and boats were arriving, one next to the other, 20 people, 50 people, etc. […]. Police were standing on the beach waiting for them. First thing, they [the migrants] were taken to the police station. (P., June 2018)

  • 50 Kaurinkoski, Les îles grecques face à la crise des réfugiés, op. cit.

34There was no infrastructure to receive the arriving migrants and refugees. People slept in the streets, in the harbour, on benches, under the bridges. Towards the end of 2015, when the area in the vicinity of the police station was evacuated, the migrants were invited to sleep in hotels or guest rooms. Those who could not afford private accommodation slept on the beach. Eventually, a stretch of the road near the harbour and some sports facilities were allocated for the reception of migrants. This was a place where displaced people could set up their tents. Most migrants left the island as soon as they received clearance from the local authorities, whose attitude was characterized by indifference and lack of organization. There was also a confusion between the roles of the police and the Coast Guard, with each blaming the other for the chaos. The absence of the state was largely filled by NGOs and civil society.50

  • 51 At this date, the hotspot in Kos had a reception capacity for 860 persons.
  • 52 « Διπλασιάστηκαν οι μεταναστευτικές ροές στην Κω το 2019 (ήρθαν 4.707) σημειώνοντας ρεκόρ τετραετία (...)

35According to data from the port authorities of Kos, between 2015 and 2019, 69,069 migrants arrived on the island. The vast majority (57,982) arrived in 2015. A total of 3,562 arrivals were recorded in 2016; 539 in 2017; 2,279 in 2018; and 4,707 in 2019. In January 2020, there were 6,200 migrants in Kos, out of whom 3,500 in the hotspot,51 whereas others were lodged in hotels and rented rooms. The number of asylum seekers was 4,120. According to the police, the number of expulsions from Kos had been minimal.52

Local reactions to the “crisis” in Kos

36According to my interviewees, in 2014 and 2015, many people, NGOs, and businesses, did what they could to help the arriving refugees. Locals – irrespective of religious and ethnic affiliation – showed solidarity. The Union of Hoteliers of Kos distributed food (until August 2015). Arvanitakis, a local bakery with two shops in Kos town, donated bread. Several NGOs, both Greek and international, were active in Kos. Many people cooked, distributed water, biscuits, chocolate, and clothes to help the newcomers.

37Ethnic Turks, as fellow Muslims, showed special care when speaking of the arriving refugees and migrants.

  • 53 A local Muslim association, the Muslim Brotherhood of Kos, was founded in 2000. It is a cultural an (...)

38The chair of the local Muslim association in Kos53 recalls that in 2014 and 2015, when people started coming, he invited two or three families to his home daily, so that they could wash and eat.

They are Muslims, and we are Muslims. It is very sad what happened. A human tragedy. We tried to help. Every fifteen days we cooked soup and took it to them. Now they are many, they are in the hotspot. Our association collects and takes clothes and other items to them, always, now and then. (K., June 2018)

39My interlocutor conceded that it was good that the hotspot was constructed to provide asylum seekers with a place to stay. But he would have liked the conditions there to be better, and to have allowed people to feel at home there. He admitted that it is better for the locals as well, that the asylum seekers are in the hotspot. According to him, many locals, old women who have not travelled, were afraid to see so many people from different cultures, to see veiled women. The Pakistani men walked around town in groups of two, or five persons. People got afraid. “Nothing bad happened. It was emotional, instinctive (K., June 2018).” Allegedly, there were cases of migrants stealing mobile phones and other items from people and shops, but this seems to have been a minor phenomenon.

  • 54 This is noteworthy as for a long time, official functioning mosques in Greece only existed in Kos, (...)

40The imam of the Muslim community in Kos was summoned to act as a mediator, to talk to the asylum seekers in Arabic, and to alleviate their pain. There are two functioning mosques in Kos (one in Kos town and one in Platani where most ethnic Turks live) (Fig. 1, 2).54 Additionally, a prayer room exists in the hotspot.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

The Defterdar Ibrahim Pasha Mosque (1780), Kos town, 2018.

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

The Kermete Mosque in Platani, Kos, 2018.

  • 55 Interview with Serif Damadoglu Sioukri, Imam of Kos, June 2018.

41Several migrants who lost their lives attempting to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkish shores to Greece have been buried in the Muslim cemeteries in Kos and Rhodes. Between 2014 and June 2018, the imam in Kos buried 37 bodies—often pro bono. Most were young children, 1-5 years old; the youngest was a baby, just 1,5 months old, and the oldest was a man of 76. Most were from Syria. Some bodies were transferred from other islands, from Samos, Leros, and Kalymnos, where there is no Muslim cemetery (Fig. 3, 4, 5).55

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

Aspect of the old Muslim cemetery in Platani, Kos, 2018.

Fig. 4. & 5

Fig. 4. & 5

Tombs of persons who died while crossing the Aegean from Turkey to Greece, and are buried in the new Muslim cemetery in Platani, Kos, 2018.

  • 56 Georgikopoulos Ioannis, “De l’accueil des réfugiés à la gestion des migrations. Les îles du Dodécan (...)

42Over time, confusion and solidarity were replaced by fatigue and frustration.56 In 2018, when I visited the island, the chair of the local Muslim association told me that some asylum seekers approached the local Muslim community and asked for a room, for a week, a month, or until they got papers and could leave the island. The average processing period at first instance was 8,5 months. In fact, some migrants and asylum seekers were trapped on the island for more than a year. For the chair of the association, it was not easy. He was not in a position to help everybody.

43A., who has a shop in Kos town, gave her point of view on the “crisis.”

  • 57 In July 2017, a 6,6 earthquake on the Richter scale shook the island of Kos. It left two dead and 1 (...)

We tried to help them, as we could. We feel bad for them, but we also have families to feed. Business here is five months a year. Many shops were closed the whole summer of 2015. The arrival of the refugees had an impact on 2016 as well. Business was low. In 2017, we had the earthquake.57 In Lesbos, tourism is less developed. The arrival of refugees and migrants was good for their businesses. In Lesbos business improved. (A., June 2018)

  • 58 Interview with a local entrepreneur, Kos, June 2018.

44At the same time, resentment towards “internationals” (volunteers, humanitarians, and journalists) who were active in Kos in 2015 remained strong. “Damn it, all crap (ola skata)” said a local trader to describe the international NGOs active on the island in 2015. “They came here from different countries in Europe and the United States and spoke to us as if they were superior to us, as occupants,” said another local entrepreneur.58 The fact that some of them were well paid was also felt to be unfair. What we see here can be seen as a competition for scarce resources, but also as a way of claiming one’s place and as an expression of local pride.

Perceptions of different categories of migrants, refugees, and Muslims

  • 59 McDonald Maryon, “The Construction of Difference: An Anthropological Approach to Stereotypes,” in S (...)

45Perceptions of otherness and cultural differences are often constructed through interaction and constitute one of the means of thinking about the “other.” Here, we will focus on the image of the arriving migrants and refugees from the viewpoint of local inhabitants, which varied according to the newcomers’ country of origin, religion, gender, and number. In many cases, interlocutors referred to presumed cultural criteria such as education, purity, religion – as well as economic factors – when distinguishing different categories and groups of migrants. Some groups were qualified as “cultured,” others as “uncultured,” “poor,” or “dirty.” Families were preferred to single men. Refugees who had fled war and armed conflict were preferred to economic migrants who had come in search of “a better life.” Implicitly, special emphasis was put on elements that honoured “local culture” to the detriment of the culture of the other, labelled as “uncultured” and “dirty.” Preconceptions about cleanliness/dirtiness play an important role in the construction of difference between “us” and “others.”59 My interlocutors largely used the word “culture(d)” as a synonym for “educated,” “orderly,” and “middle class,” and the word “dirty” as synonym for “poor,” “uneducated,” and “backward.”

  • 60 Kirtsoglou Elisabeth, Tsimouris Giorgos, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism: The Cultural and Racial Po (...)
  • 61 Silverstein Paul, “Immigrant Racialization and the New Savage Slot: Race, Migration and Immigration (...)
  • 62 Kirtsoglou, Tsimouris, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism,” art. cit., p. 1879.

46The locally produced categories mentioned above are reminiscent of Tim Ingold’s concept of the meshwork – in fact, a network of interacting concepts, such as culture, race, civilization, progress, modernity, religion, gender, ethnicity, and biology, which can be seen as a technology that aims at managing difference.60 Biological differences between races, once the foundation of racism, are now increasingly expressed in terms of cultural incompatibility, as shown by numerous researchers.61 Groups whose alterity is perceived as radical are distinguished from those who eventually can be integrated.62

  • 63 Ibid.

47Three years after the height of the “crisis,” there was still mistrust as to the true identity of some migrants. In a bakery I visited, the owner remained under the impression that the first comers were "jihadists" which she explained by "the thickness of their wallet." “They came to buy bread and when they opened the wallet to pay, I saw that it was full of big bills.” This example shows how the “crisis” has affected people’s mindsets. According to the populist discourse, widespread at the time, and exploited by the far right, “the Muslims were in the process of conquering the country,” which was explained by the number of Muslims who were entering it. According to this discourse, Muslim terrorists, radicalized individuals, or terrorist sympathizers regularly infiltrated refugee populations. Muslim refugees were thus transformed into a security risk.63

Identities in flux: local Muslims and the arrival of the refugees

  • 64 Horowitz Donald, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, London, University of California Press, 1985.
  • 65 Spickard Paul R., Mixed Blood. Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America, Madi (...)
  • 66 On the Greeks and Turks (the Greek Orthodox and the ethnic Turks) in Kos and on their perceptions o (...)

48The identity of the ego depends largely on a person’s affiliations. Feeling threatened in one’s values and in one’s affiliations gives a feeling of anguish and the need to defend oneself. According to Donald Horowitz, for this reason people often express hostility towards others, when those others provoke feelings of uncertainty about one’s own behaviour and reference groups. Such expressions of hostility often far exceed the actual threat posed by the others to the self.64 Often the greatest conflicts take place between two groups who are deeply close to each other. Even if there is no conflict, we willingly draw a line to distinguish one from the other. In each case, there is a perceptible boundary between “us” and “them.” It is not a question of a simple division into two categories, but of a continuity made up of a hierarchy of the various groups with which one associates.65 In the context of this study, Muslim Turks as members of the historical Muslim community in Kos are distinguished from Muslim migrants who have settled on the island since 1990. Settled Muslims are distinguished from Muslim newcomers.66

  • 67 This is explained by the collective and now publicly recognized perception of the successful integr (...)
  • 68 Triandafyllidou Anna, “Racists? Us? Are You Joking? The Discourse of Social Exclusion of Immigrants (...)
  • 69 Kirtsoglou, Tsimouris, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism,” art. cit., p. 1877; Triandafyllidou, Ambros (...)

49The terminology used to identify the other and to self-identify is important. In most cases, the terms used by local populations and the press to describe migrants who came in the context of the refugee “crisis” are those of prosfyges (refugees), an honorary term in the Greek context;67 and lathrometanastes (illegal migrants), a pejorative term used for undocumented migrants, who were numerous in Greece in the 1990s and until the 2008 economic “crisis,” and on whom there is extensive research.68 These foreigners, or xenoi (lit. outsiders or strangers), who mainly came from Eastern Europe (Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, Ukraine, etc.), the Middle East and Southeast Asia (Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), were almost indiscriminately portrayed as a cultural and physical threat to local communities and the nation in general, even if the perception of some of these groups, in particular those coming from Eastern Europe, improved with time.69

  • 70 Kaurinkoski, “The Ethnic Turks in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.

50When it comes to the ethnic Turks in Kos and in Rhodes, in official Greek parlance, they are Greek Muslims (Ellines mousoulmanoi) or Greek citizens of Muslim faith (Ellines polites mousoulmanoi sto thriskevma). The names that the members of the community use to identify themselves are more varied: Muslims, Mahometans (Mahometanoi), Ottomans (Othomanoi), Turkish-speakers (Tourkofonoi), Turks (Turkoi). Today, language is perceived as an equally important distinguishing factor as religion. As there are also other Muslims in Kos, increased emphasis is put on language and ethnic belonging. One local Turk in Kos said the following: “The Pakistanis, the Egyptians, and the Syrians are also Muslims.” Thus, putting emphasis on the Turkish language is a way to distinguish themselves from the Muslim “newcomers” who have settled in Kos since 1990 or more recently.70 That said, the presence of an old, established, and integrated Muslim community in Kos has certainly contributed to a better acceptance of recent Muslim refugees. The status of local Turks has remained unchanged. At the same time, the help they have provided as a community is recognized.

  • 71 Anti-Muslim prejudice and racialized Islamophobia have been prominent features in colonial and post (...)
  • 72 The categorization of Turks as enemies is not only the result of a construction of a “memory” that (...)
  • 73 In fact, migration to Turkey started already before the incorporation of the Dodecanese into the Gr (...)
  • 74 Grigoriadis Ioannis, “On the Europeanization of Minority Rights Protection: Comparing the Cases of (...)
  • 75 Kaurinkoski, “The Muslim Communities in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.

51On the whole, the situation of Muslims in Kos is not bad. There is no particular hostility towards Islam or Muslims, contrary to what has been observed in Greek society at large, especially as a result of September 11 and the War on Terror.71 Political changes in Europe and Greece since 1990, the pressure from European institutions, and the improvement of relations between Greece and Turkey have contributed to a better image of the “other.” But it has not always been so.72 In the 1960s and 1970s, when the Cyprus “crisis” was hot, the situation was very different. Sabotage of shops, fields, and cattle was common, while discrimination in the fields of education and health continued even later. In some cases, the discrimination of ethnic Turks was such that some preferred to abandon Greece and settle in Turkey. Some sent their children to Turkey to avoid the discrimination in Greece. Others migrated to other European countries in search of work or for studies.73 Usually, those who left Greece were deprived of their Greek citizenship, and in many cases, also of their property. According to Article 19 of the Greek Nationality Code, established by Legislative Decree 3370 in 1955, “A Greek citizen of non-Greek descent who left the Greek territory with no intent of return may be declared as having lost his Greek citizenship.” This provision explicitly discriminated against minority members compared to citizens of Greek descent whose citizenship could not be removed on that basis. Article 19 remained in force until 1998 and served as the legal basis for the removal of Greek citizenship from approximately 60,000 citizens, the majority of whom were members of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace.74 Approximately 4,000 Muslims in Kos and Rhodes lost their Greek citizenship in this manner. Later, most acquired another nationality; some remained stateless.75

  • 76 Kaurinkoski, “The Ethnic Turks in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.

52Today, in Kos, all ethnic Turks, totalling 1,500-2,000 persons, are Greek citizens. Since the 1970s, all children are enrolled in Greek public schools. The Turkish language serves mainly the purpose of oral communication within the community. The young men do their military service in Greece, and since 1998, they have been treated on an equal footing. Traditionally, many ethnic Turks worked in agriculture and animal husbandry. Today, the vast majority work for themselves, mainly in agriculture and tourism. Other frequent occupations are those of technician, store or restaurant owner, or construction specialist. Some occupy less prestigious positions in the public sphere, for example, in cleaning services.76

53This said, currently, ethnic Turks and Greek Orthodox live side-by-side, peacefully. This can be explained by tourism and wider globalization processes that have benefited the entire island population. Moreover, the cosmopolitan nature of Kos, and the neighbourly coexistence of different ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups, namely Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the longue durée, has also contributed to a positive atmosphere favouring socio-economic integration. After Greece’s accession to the European Community in 1981, tourism and immigration have further contributed to openness and diversity. Likewise, the recent refugee “crisis” has affected the entire island population, regardless of ethnicity.

Conclusion

54In connection with the 2015 “crisis,” Kos was one of the frontline islands, after Lesbos, welcoming a large number of migrants. After the entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement in March 2016, the number of arrivals diminished but remained consistent. The establishment of a hotspot in Kos in June 2016 resolved the “reception crisis.”

55In this paper, I have tried to show that perceptions of different categories and groups of migrants and Muslims in Kos differ vastly. Persons who have fled war and armed conflict are distinguished from those who are perceived as having come for purely economic reasons, in search of “a better life.” Educated people with economic means and families are preferred to single males with few formal credentials and scarce means. Moreover, not all Muslims are perceived in the same way. The ethnic Turks – as the old established Muslim community in Kos – are distinguished from migrants who arrived in the 1990s and in the early 2000s, mainly from Albania, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, although most of these latter arrivals have legalized their situation in Greece. Finally, there are the Muslim newcomers who have come to Greece since 2014, and in the context of the refugee “crisis.”

  • 77 Kirtsoglou, Tsimouris, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism,” art. cit., p. 1887.

56As the case of different groups of Muslims and migrants in Kos show, processes of inclusion and exclusion largely rest on a meshwork of seemingly disparate identification markers that form the basis of universalist, hegemonic visions of citizenship. To be accepted, migrants and minoritarians are expected to be hardworking and demonstrate their acceptance of a set of “European” values that form the basis of a universalist vision of the world.77

  • 78 Ibid.

57In this context, local attitudes towards migrant and minority populations largely follow the predominant views of the Greek political elites according to whom, Greece, culturally, economically, and historically, belongs to the West.78 With time, among the newly arrived migrants and refugees who choose, or are deemed to stay in Greece, some are likely to find their place in Greek society and contribute to its development. Others will continue their journey to other European countries or other continents. It is possible that some will return to their former home countries or to other earlier places of residence.

Epilogue

58In October 2022, when I revisited Kos, I found the situation and atmosphere on the island distinct. After the refugee “crisis,” the earthquake, and the Covid-19 pandemic, 2022 had been a good tourist season. Business had been good. Many of my interlocutors seemed overworked and longed for the quiet of winter. Something else was different too. In 2018, I had met numerous refugees and asylum seekers in Kos town and at the bus station for the bus to the hotspot (Fig. 6); and occasionally, also in shops and restaurants where some of them had found seasonal work. In 2022, tourists and holiday makers were all I saw. I asked one of my old-time interlocutors, an ethnic Turk, about the present situation with the “refugees” and the hotspot. He told me that the hotspot and the asylum seekers were in Pyli (Fig. 7). Reportedly, there was no racism and xenophobia against the newcomers, as everybody knew why they had come. “In the past, our people left Kos and Rhodes for Turkey because of similar reasons”. On the outside, the situation appeared calm and orderly, as if everybody had found a designated place in society.

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

Asylum seekers waiting for the bus to Pyli (hotspot) at the bus station in Kos town, Kos, 2018.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

Aspect of the road leading to the hotspot, Pyli, Kos, 2018.

Haut de page

Notes

1 In social sciences, the term “crisis” is widely understood as a rupture, an exception to the established social and political order. What is commonly called “crisis” or “emergency” is in fact an intensification of events hitherto confined to specific places: borders, detention centres, neighbourhoods inhabited by migrants. But in the background, there are also continuities: power relations, political and economic decisions, and other realities. In international relations, the term “crisis” is also understood as an “operational category.” From a practical point of view, crisis management is not the management of “crises” but the use of crisis management instruments. In Greek, the term krisi has a double meaning, “crisis” and “judgment.” In the scientific literature and the media, the “refugee crisis” (prosfygiki krisi) has also been referred to as a “migration crisis” (metanastevtiki krisi), a “humanitarian crisis” (anthropistiki krisi), a “reception crisis” (krisi ypodochis), as well as “the helplessness of Europe” (i anikanotita tis Eyropis). For more on the notion of “crisis,” see, Blanchard Emmanuel, Rodier Claire, “Crise migratoire : ce que cachent les mots,” Plein droit, vol. 4, no 111, 2016, p. 3-6; Dobry Michel, Sociologie des crises politiques. La dynamique des mobilisations multisectorielles, Paris, Presses de Science Po, 1986; Agamben Giorgio, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1998; Athanasiou Athina, Η κρίση ως κατάσταση «έκτακτης ανάγκης» [Crisis as “Urgency”], Athens, Savvalas, 2012; Buchet de Neuilly Yves, “La crise? Quelle crise ?,” in Marc Le Pape, Johanna Siméant, Claudine Vidal (eds), Crises extrêmes, Paris, La Découverte, 2006, p. 270-286.

2 Field research in Kos was carried out in June 2018 in the framework of my Master 2 thesis in Political Science (IR). It was further nourished by my participation in the Summer School, “Cultures, Migrations, Borders,” organized by the University of the Aegean and the Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies of the University of Amsterdam, in Lesbos, 3-12 July, 2018. Kaurinkoski Kira, Les îles grecques face à la crise des réfugiés : approches locales et européennes. Le cas de l’île de Cos, mémoire de Master 2, Science politique (RI), Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2019. In October 2022, I revisited Kos briefly.

3 Kaurinkoski Kira, “Globalization in the Life of Small Island Towns: Changes for Better or Worse? The Case of the Island of Kos (Greece),” Cultural Analysis, Narrative Spaces in a Multicultural City, vol. 10, 2011, p. 125-139; Id., “De Cos à Bodrum, d’Izmir à Rhodes. Les mobilités transfrontalières entre la Grèce et la Turquie chez les musulmans de Cos et de Rhodes,” in Nebi Bardhoshi, Gilles de Rapper, Pierre Sintès (eds), Social Practices and Local Configurations in the Balkans. International Colloquium, Tirana, European University of Tirana Press, 2013, p. 165-188; Id., “Οι μουσουλμανικές κοινότητες της Κω και της Ρόδου: Σκέψεις για την κοινοτική οργάνωση και τις συλλογικές ταυτότητες στη σύγχρονη Ελλάδα” [The Muslim Communities in Kos and Rhodes: Reflections on Community Organization and Collective Identities in Contemporary Greece], in Marianthi Georgalidou, Konstantinos Tsitselikis (eds), Γλωσσική και κοινοτική ετερότητα στη Δωδεκάνησο του 20ου αιώνα [Linguistic and Communitarian Heterogeneity in the Dodecanese in the Twentieth Century], ΚΕΜΟ, Papazisi, Athens, 2016, p. 431-485; Id., “The Ethnic Turks in Kos and Rhodes. Reflections on Culture and Rights,” in Mustafa Kaymakçi, Cihan Özgün (eds), The Forgotten Turkish Identity of the Aegean Islands. The Turkish Identity in Rhodes and Kos, Konya, Egitim Yayinevi, 2018, p. 118-136; Id., “De l’île de Cos à Bodrum et au-delà: représentations de l’altérité et pratiques frontalières entre la Grèce et la Turquie,” Études balkaniques, vol. LXI, no 2, 2023, p. 270-303.

4 For more on the Turkish community in Kos and Rhodes, see the collection of papers in Georgalidou, Tsitselikis (eds), Linguistic and Communitarian Heterogeneity, op. cit.

5 On Greek perceptions of Turks and on nation formation in Greece, see, e.g., Avdela Efi, “Η συγκρότηση της εθνικής ταυτότητας στο ελληνικό σχολείο: ‘εμείς’ και οι «‘άλλοι’«  [The Construction of National Identity in the Greek School], in Anna Fragkoudaki, Thaleia Dragona (eds), «Τι ειν’ η πατρίδα μας;» Εθνοκεντρισμός στην εκπαίδευση [“What is our Fatherland”: Nationalism in Education], Athens, Alexandreia, 1997, p. 27-45; Clogg Richard, Minorities in Greece, London, Hurst, 2002; Kirtsoglou Elisabeth, Sistani Lina, “The Other Then, the Other Now, the Other Within: Stereotypical Images and Narrative Captions of the Turk in Northern and Central Greece,” Journal of Mediterranean Studies, vol. 13, no 2, 2003, p. 189-213; Theodossopoulos Dimitris (ed.), When Greeks Think about Turks. The View from Anthropology, London, Routledge, 2007. On the lack of elaboration on the role of “other” in nation formation in Europe at large, see, e.g., Triandafyllidou Anna, Immigrants and National Identity in Europe, London, Routledge, 2001.

6 Contact with asylum seekers and recognized refugees was established outside the hotspot, namely at the bus station in Kos town, the bus stop in Pyli where the hotspot is located, or in places where they worked.

7 Kofman Eleonore, “Gendered Mobilities and Vulnerabilities: Refugee Journeys to and in Europe,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 45, no 12, 2019, p. 2185-2199.

8 UNHCR, Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015, Geneva, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2018, online: https://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends2018/ (accessed in October 2022).

9 Ibid.

10 D’Angelo Alessio et al., Mapping Refugee Reception in the Mediterranean. First Report of the EVI-MED Project, 2017.

11 de Marcilly Charles, Garde Angéline, “L’accord UE-Turquie et ses implications. Un partenariat incontournable mais sous conditions,” Fondation Robert Schuman, Questions d’Europe, no 396, 13 June 2016, online: https://www.robert-schuman.eu/questions-d-europe/396-l-accord-ue-turquie-et-ses-implicationsun-partenariat-incontournable-mais-sous-conditions (accessed in September 2023).

12 Stergiou Andreas, “The Refugee Crisis and its Effects on Greece’s European Integration and Relations with Turkey,” Review of International Law & Politics, vol. 12, no 2, 2016, p. 75-99.

13 Turkey formally applies the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees only to those fleeing war or persecution in Europe. UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, “UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Concludes his Follow Up Country Visit to Greece,” 16 May 2016, online: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19972 (accessed in October 2022).

14 On the hotspots in the Greek islands, see e.g., Dimitriadi Angeliki, “Governing Irregular Migration at the Margins of Europe. The Case of Hotspots on the Greek Islands,” Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa, no 1, 2017, p. 75-95.

15 Since 2011, following two judgments by the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, which found systemic shortcomings in the Greek asylum system, transfers from other member states to Greece under the Dublin Regulation were suspended. This suspension resulted from the case “M.S.S. against Belgium and Greece.” Triandafyllidou Anna, Ambrosini Maurizio, “Irregular Immigration Control in Italy and Greece: Strong Fencing and Weak Gate-Keeping Serving the Labour Market,” European Journal of Migration and Law, vol. 13, no 3, 2011, p. 251-273; Stergiou, “The Refugee Crisis and its Effects,” art. cit.

16 A coalition between the extreme left (Syriza) and the extreme right (ANEL).

17 In line with the terms of the EU-Turkey statement, the Greek authorities confine asylum seekers on the Aegean islands until their asylum claims are adjudicated as Turkey refuses to take back migrants from other areas of Greece. Reception and identification centres were initially transformed into closed detention facilities, but following criticism from NGOs, international organizations and actors, as well as due to the limited capacity, this practice was largely abandoned.

18 Howden Daniel, Fotiadis Apostolos, “The Inside Story of what Went Wrong in Greece,” Refugees Deeply, 6 March 2017, online: https://deeply.thenewhumanitarian.org/refugees/articles/2017/03/06/the-refugee-archipelago-the-inside-story-of-what-went-wrong-in-greece (accessed in September 2023); ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ, “Μουζάλας: Συμβολική η επανεισδοχή προσφύγων από την Γερμανία. Αναγνώρισε αδυναμίες της διοίκησης στο θέμα των νησιών”, [Mouzalas: The Readmission of Refugees from Germany is Symbolic. He Recognized Weaknesses of the Administration in the Matter of the Islands], Athens-Macedonian News Agency, 8 August 2017, online: https://www.lifo.gr/now/politics/moyzalas-symboliki-i-epaneisdohi-prosfygon-apo-tin-germania (accessed in January 2023).

19 Grigoriadis Ioannis, “Securitizing Migration in the European Union: Greece and the Evros Fence,” Journal of Balkan & Near Eastern Studies, vol. 21, no 2, 2019, p. 170-186.

20 Rori Lamprini, “The 2019 Greek Parliamentary Election: retour à la normale,” West European Politics, vol. 43, no 4, 2020, p. 1023-1037; Papataxiarchis Efthymios, “An Ephemeral Patriotism: The Rise and Fall of ‘Solidarity to Refugees,’” in Maria Kousis et al. (eds), Challenging Mobilities in and to the EU during Times of Crises, Cham, Switzerland, IMISCOE Research Series, 2022, p. 163-184.

21 https://aegeanboatreport.com/, https://aegeanboatreport.com/annual-reports/ (accessed in August 2023).

22 Ibid., https://www.hrt.org.gr/shipwreck-with-dead-people-at-kos-island.en.aspx (accessed in November 2015); https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/47211/two-migrants-found-dead-after-shipwreck-off-island-of-kos (accessed in August 2023).

23 “EU-Turkey Statement: Six Years of Undermining Refugee Protection,” 17 March 2022, online: https://www.gcr.gr/media/k2/attachments/Joint_NGO_EU_Tk_statement_EN.pdf (accessed in December 2023).

24 In December 2020, the European Anti-Fraud Office opened an investigation into the EU’s border agency Frontex, resulting in the resignation of Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri in April 2022. The Frontex OLAF report was kept confidential for eight months until it was leaked to FragDenStaat, Der Spiegel, and Lighthouse Reports on 13 October 2022, https://www.euractiv.com/section/all/short_news/brussels-gives-mixed-signals-on-frontex-greek-scandal/?utm_source=piano&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=25752&pnespid=66ZsFCZVL.kRx6LKpC6_FYzXth31DMJscPO83up4qEJmZh1PeDIWJxC1VsNx98ymuOL4K6Xr2w; https://fragdenstaat.de/en/blog/2022/10/13/frontex-olaf-report-leaked/ (accessed in October 2022).

25 https://www.euractiv.com/section/all/short_news/brussels-gives-mixed-signals-on-frontex-greek-scandal/?utm_source=piano&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=25752&pnespid=66ZsFCZVL.kRx6LKpC6_FYzXth31DMJscPO83up4qEJmZh1PeDIWJxC1VsNx98ymuOL4K6Xr2w (accessed in October 2022).

26 Schildberg Arne, Dölemeyer Anne, “Greece’s Crumbling Democratic Façade,” IPS Journal, 8 December 2022, online: https://www.ips-journal.eu/topics/democracy-and-society/greeces-crumbling-democratic-facade-6374/ (accessed in December 2023).

27 Asylum Information Database (Aida), European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Country Report: Greece, 2019.

28 Ibid.

29 De Genova Nicholas, “Spectacles of Migrant ‘Illegality’: The Scene of Exclusion, the Obscene of Inclusion,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 36, no 7, 2015, p. 1180-1198.

30 Dimitriadi, “Governing Irregular Migration…”, art. cit.

31 Wihtol de Wenden Catherine, “Les incommunications de l’Europe sur la crise de l’accueil des migrants et des réfugiés,” Hermès, vol. 77, no 1, 2017, p. 194-196. 

32 Amnesty International, Crise mondiale des réfugiés. De l’esquive au partage des responsabilités, 2016, online : https://www.amnesty.org/fr/documents/pol40/4905/2016/fr (accessed in December 2023).

33 Wihtol de Wenden Catherine, “Une nouvelle donne migratoire,” Politique étrangère, vol. 80, n3, 2015, p. 95-106; Wihtol de Wenden, “Les incommunications de l’Europe…,” art. cit., p. 191-197.

34 Vulnerable asylum seekers are – in principle – entitled for transfer to the mainland, but delays in the vulnerability assessment procedure and the lack of accommodation on the mainland meant that thousands of eligible individuals and families remained cornered on the islands. Council of Europe, Preliminary Observations Made by the Delegation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (CPT) which Visited Greece from 10 to 19 April 2018, Strasbourg, 1 June 2018, CPT/Inf (2018) 20, online: https://rm.coe.int/16808afaf6 (accessed in October 2022); Human Rights Watch, “Greece: Dire Conditions for Asylum Seekers on Lesbos,” 21 November 2018, online: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/21/greece-dire-conditions-asylum-seekers-lesbos (accessed in October 2022).

35 Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, “UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants…”, art. cit.

36 Asylum Information Database, Country Report: Greece, op. cit., p. 36.

37 A large number of studies have been dedicated to the situation in Lesbos, e.g., Pillant Laurence, Tassin Louise, “Lesbos, l’île aux grillages. Migrations et enfermement à la frontière gréco-turque,” Cultures & Conflits, no 99-100, 2015, p. 25-55; Kalir Bakar, Rozakou Katerina, “‘Giving Form to Chaos’: The Futility of EU Border Management at Moria Hotspot in Lesvos,” Society & Space, 2016, online: https://www.societyandspace.org/articles/giving-form-to-chaos-the-futility-of-eu-border-management-at-moria-hotspot-in-lesvos (accessed in August 2023); Papataxiarchis Eftymios, “Being ‘There’. At the Frontline of the ‘European Refugee Crisis’ – parts 1 and 2,” Anthropology Today, vol. 32, no 2, 2016, p. 5-9 and vol. 32, no 3, 2016, p. 3-7; Papataxiarchis, “An Ephemeral Patriotism,” art. cit.

38 The journey from Izmir to Lesbos, Samos, and Chios is shorter and less expensive than for Kos, Leros and Rhodes. Moreover, Bodrum and Marmaris, located opposite Kos and Rhodes, are high places of Turkish tourism. It has been suggested that in these municipalities, the mayors did what they could to protect their tourist reputation. Therefore, it was more difficult for traffickers to operate in these areas.

39 Chios is historically known as an island of wealthy shipowners.

40 Kirtsoglou Elisabeth, Tsimouris Giorgos, “‘Il était un petit navire’: ‘The Refugee Crisis’, Neo-Orientalism, and the Production of Radical Alterity,” Journal of Modern Greek Studies. Occasional Paper Series, vol. 9, n1, 2016, p. 1-14; Kirtsoglou Elisabeth, “We Are Human: Cosmopolitanism as a Radically Political, Moral Project,” in Nigel Rapport, Huon Wardle (eds), An Anthropology of the Enlightenment: Moral Social Relations Then and Today, New York, Bloomsbury, ASA Monograph Series, 2018, p. 133-150.

41 Papataxiarchis, “Being ‘There,’” art. cit.; Papataxiarchis, “An Ephemeral Patriotism,” art. cit.; Rozakou Katerina, Από ‘αγάπη’ και ‘αλληλεγύη’. Εθελοντική εργασία με πρόσφυγες στην Αθήνα του πρώιμου 21ου αιών [Out of ‘Love’ and ‘Solidarity’. Volunteer Work with Refugees in Athens in the Early Twenty-First Century], Athens, Alexandria, 2018; Stevens Dallal, Dimitriadi Angeliki, “Crossing the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in Search of Asylum: Re-Evaluating Access, Agency, Policy and Protection,” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, vol. 17, no 3, 2019, p. 261-278.

42 Papataxiarchis, “An Ephemeral Patriotism,” art. cit.

43 Mavrogordatos Giorgos, “Το ανεπανάληπτο επίτευγμα” [The Unprecedented Achievement], in Paschalis Kitromilides (ed.), Μικρασιατική καταστροφή και ελληνική κοινωνία [The Asia Minor Catastrophe and Greek Society], Athens, Bulletin of the Centre for Asia Minor Studies, vol. 9, 1992, p. 9-12.

44 Herzfeld Michael, “Foreword,” in Renée Hirschon, Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe. The Lives of Asia Minor Refugees in Piraeus, New York and Oxford, Berghahn Books, 1998, p. XII-XV.

45 Voutira Eftihia, The “Right to Return” and the Meaning of “Home,” Berlin, LIT Verlag, 2011.

46 In the Middle Ages, the Dodecanese first belonged to the order of St John (1309-1522) before passing to the Ottoman Empire in 1522. In 1912, the Dodecanese were ceded to Italy. During the Second World War, they were first occupied by Germany, then placed under the supervision of Great Britain in 1945. The Dodecanese is the last region incorporated into Greece in 1947.

47 Ethnic Turks, or Muslims, as they are officially called in contemporary Greece, have been living in Rhodes and Kos since 1522, as subjects of the Ottoman Empire, and on a smaller scale, even before. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, significant numbers of Muslims of Turkish origin from Crete settled on these islands. During the Italian administration, the Muslims were recognized as one of the three existing religious communities with the right to elect their own councils. After the incorporation of the Dodecanese into the Greek state following the Paris Peace Treaties (1947), the great majority became Greek citizens. Although the Dodecanese Turks were not recognized as a minority, special status was acknowledged for the waqfs (foundations) and the Turkish schools. In this paper, I make a parallel use of the terms ethnic Turks, Muslims, and local Muslims when referring to this particular ethnic and social group.

48 A Jewish cemetery can be found in Platani, outside Kos town.

49 Kaurinkoski, “De l’île de Cos,” art. cit.

50 Kaurinkoski, Les îles grecques face à la crise des réfugiés, op. cit.

51 At this date, the hotspot in Kos had a reception capacity for 860 persons.

52 « Διπλασιάστηκαν οι μεταναστευτικές ροές στην Κω το 2019 (ήρθαν 4.707) σημειώνοντας ρεκόρ τετραετίας » [Migratory Flows to Kos Doubled in 2019 (4,707 arrived) Setting a Four-Year Record], Το Βήμα της Κω, 23 January 2020. According to the UNHCR, 58,503 migrants arrived in Kos in 2015 and 5,147 in 2016. On the politics of counting refugees, see Harrell-Bond Barbara, Voutira Eftihia, Leopold Mark, “Counting the Refugees: Gifts, Givers and Clients,” Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 5, no 3-4, 1992, p. 205-225.

53 A local Muslim association, the Muslim Brotherhood of Kos, was founded in 2000. It is a cultural and educational association of ethnic Turks. The main issues on the association’s agenda have to do with the institutionalization of Turkish language teaching and religious instruction of Islam in schools with many pupils of Turkish origin, as well as issues relating to the waqf management. Recent migrants from the Balkans, Southeast Asia, or the Middle East do not have their own associations on the island. Kaurinkoski, “The Muslim Communities in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.; Kaurinkoski, “The Ethnic Turks in Kos,” art. cit.

54 This is noteworthy as for a long time, official functioning mosques in Greece only existed in Kos, Rhodes, and Thrace. The first official mosque in Athens established after the Greek War of Independence was inaugurated in 2020 after a long and heated debate, as the Greek Orthodox Church and local populations opposed the project. Until its construction, Athens was the only European capital without a mosque. See, Skoulariki Athina, “Old and New Mosques in Greece: A New Debate Haunted by History,” in Stefano Allievi (ed.), Mosques in Europe. Why a solution has Become a Problem, London, Alliance Publishing Trust/NEF, 2010, p. 300-317.

55 Interview with Serif Damadoglu Sioukri, Imam of Kos, June 2018.

56 Georgikopoulos Ioannis, “De l’accueil des réfugiés à la gestion des migrations. Les îles du Dodécanèse : une zone tampon à fort potentiel entre la Grèce et la Turquie,” BAT-Anatoli, no 9, 2018, p. 95-107.

57 In July 2017, a 6,6 earthquake on the Richter scale shook the island of Kos. It left two dead and 115 injured. Several historical monuments as well as the port infrastructure suffered damage. The earthquake did not cause any damage to the hotspot or to asylum seekers living in UNHCR apartments.

58 Interview with a local entrepreneur, Kos, June 2018.

59 McDonald Maryon, “The Construction of Difference: An Anthropological Approach to Stereotypes,” in Sharon MacDonald (ed.), Inside European Identities, Oxford and New York, Berg, 1993, p. 219-236.

60 Kirtsoglou Elisabeth, Tsimouris Giorgos, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism: The Cultural and Racial Politics of Islamophobia and ‘Radical Alterity’ in Modern Greece,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 41, no 10, 2018, p. 1874-1892; Ingold Tim, Being Alive. Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description, New York, Routledge, 2011.

61 Silverstein Paul, “Immigrant Racialization and the New Savage Slot: Race, Migration and Immigration in the New Europe,” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 34, no 1, 2005, p. 363-384; Grillo Ralph David, “Cultural Essentialism and Cultural Anxiety,” Anthropological Theory, vol. 3, no 2, 2003, p. 157-173.

62 Kirtsoglou, Tsimouris, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism,” art. cit., p. 1879.

63 Ibid.

64 Horowitz Donald, Ethnic Groups in Conflict, London, University of California Press, 1985.

65 Spickard Paul R., Mixed Blood. Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1989, p. 371-372.

66 On the Greeks and Turks (the Greek Orthodox and the ethnic Turks) in Kos and on their perceptions of each other, see, e.g., Kaurinkoski, “De l’île de Cos,” art. cit.

67 This is explained by the collective and now publicly recognized perception of the successful integration and contribution of the Asia Minor refugees in the economic, social and cultural development of Greece. In reality, this process was both difficult and time-consuming. Voutira Eftihia, Refugees: Whose Term is it Anyway? Emic and Etic Constructions of ‘Refugees’ in Modern Greek,” in Joanne Van Selm, Khoti Kamanga, John Morrison et al. (eds), The Refugee Convention at Fifty: A View from Forced Migration Studies, Maryland, Lexington Books, 2003.

68 Triandafyllidou Anna, “Racists? Us? Are You Joking? The Discourse of Social Exclusion of Immigrants in Greece and Italy,” in Russell King, Gabriella Lazaridis, Charalambos Tsardanidis (eds), Eldorado or Fortress? Migration in Southern Europe, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999, p. 186-205; Triandafyllidou Anna, Maroukis Thanos, H Mετανάστευση στην Ελλάδα του 21ου αιώνα, [Migration in Twenty-First Century Greece], Athens, Kritiki, 2010; Triandafyllidou Anna, Gemi Eda, Ulasiuk Iryna, “Migrants and Media Newsmaking Practices,” Journalism Practice, 2013, vol. 7, no 3, p. 240-247; Sintès Pierre, La raison du mouvement. Territoires et réseaux de migrants en Grèce, Paris, Karthala, 2010.

69 Kirtsoglou, Tsimouris, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism,” art. cit., p. 1877; Triandafyllidou, Ambrosini, “Irregular Immigration Control,” art. cit.; Vertovec Steven, “The Cultural Politics of Nation and Migration,” Annual Review of Anthropology, 2011, vol. 40, p. 241-256.

70 Kaurinkoski, “The Ethnic Turks in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.

71 Anti-Muslim prejudice and racialized Islamophobia have been prominent features in colonial and post-colonial histories, whereas the production of the Orient as a distinct and different entity, inferior to the Occident rests on the systematic “coupling of modernity and civilisation with liberal Western institutions and values.” Kirtsoglou, Tsimouris, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism,” art. cit., p. 1881; Mandel Ruth, Meer Naser, Silverstein Paul et al., “Islamophobia, Religious Conversion, and Belonging in Europe,” History and Anthropology, vol. 26, no 3, 2015, p. 362-379; Said Edward, Orientalism, New York, Vintage Books, 1979.

72 The categorization of Turks as enemies is not only the result of a construction of a “memory” that stems from a distant past but is also explained by more recent political events between the two countries, namely the defeat of the Greek army in Asia Minor in 1922, the events in Cyprus which took the form of an armed conflict in 1974, and the much more recent events of Imia (Kardak in Turkish) in 1987 and in 1996. E.g., Theodossopoulos, When Greeks Think about Turks, op. cit.; Kirtsoglou, Sistani, “The Other Then,” art. cit.

73 In fact, migration to Turkey started already before the incorporation of the Dodecanese into the Greek state, especially among the elites, and was motivated by both economic and political considerations. The largest waves of emigration occurred in the years 1947-1954, 1964-1965, and 1972-1974. In total, some 10,000 ethnic Turks left Kos and Rhodes, mainly for Turkey. Baltsiotis Lambros, “Ιθαγένεια στα Δωδεκάνησα μετά την ενσωμάτωση: οι πολιτικές συμπερίληψης και αποκλεισμού” [Citizenship in the Dodecanese after the Incorporation: The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion], in Georgalidou, Tsitselikis (eds), Linguistic and Communitarian Heterogeneity, op. cit., p. 97-164; Tsitselikis Konstantinos, “Οι μουσουλμανικές κοινότητες Ρόδου και Κω: Δίκαιο και πολιτικές” [The Muslim Communities in Rhodes and Kos: The Law and Political Practices], in Georgalidou, Tsitselikis (eds), Linguistic and Communitarian Heterogeneity, op. cit., p. 279-308; Kaurinkoski, “De Cos à Bodrum,” art. cit.; Kaurinkoski, “The Muslim Communities in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.

74 Grigoriadis Ioannis, “On the Europeanization of Minority Rights Protection: Comparing the Cases of Greece and Turkey,” Mediterranean Politics, vol. 13, no 1, 2008, p. 23-41.

75 Kaurinkoski, “The Muslim Communities in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.

76 Kaurinkoski, “The Ethnic Turks in Kos and Rhodes,” art. cit.

77 Kirtsoglou, Tsimouris, “Migration, Crisis, Liberalism,” art. cit., p. 1887.

78 Ibid.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1
Légende The Defterdar Ibrahim Pasha Mosque (1780), Kos town, 2018.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/5071/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 602k
Titre Fig. 2
Légende The Kermete Mosque in Platani, Kos, 2018.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/5071/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 500k
Titre Fig. 3
Légende Aspect of the old Muslim cemetery in Platani, Kos, 2018.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/5071/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 953k
Titre Fig. 4. & 5
Légende Tombs of persons who died while crossing the Aegean from Turkey to Greece, and are buried in the new Muslim cemetery in Platani, Kos, 2018.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/5071/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 848k
Titre Fig. 6
Légende Asylum seekers waiting for the bus to Pyli (hotspot) at the bus station in Kos town, Kos, 2018.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/5071/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 650k
Titre Fig. 7
Légende Aspect of the road leading to the hotspot, Pyli, Kos, 2018.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/5071/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 917k
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Référence électronique

Kira Kaurinkoski, « Distinguishing Different Categories of Migrants, Refugees, and Muslims in the Aftermath of the 2015-2016 Refugee “Crisis.” The Case of the Island of Kos (Greece) »Balkanologie [En ligne], Vol. 18 n° 1 | 2023, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2023, consulté le 23 février 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/5071 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/balkanologie.5071

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Kira Kaurinkoski

Aix-Marseille University, Institut d'ethnologie et d'anthropologie sociale
kaurinkoski.kira[at]gmail.com

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