Migrant mobilisation during the economic crisis : identity formation and dilemmas

Karyotis, Georgios and Skleparis, Dimitris; Tsilimpounidi, Myrto and Walsh, Aylwyn, eds. (2013) Migrant mobilisation during the economic crisis : identity formation and dilemmas. In: Remapping the crisis. Zero Books, Ropley, Hampshire. (In Press)

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The Greek debt crisis that started to unfold in 2010 has further exacerbated pre-existing tensions between state, citizens and migrants. Against this backdrop, about 300 immigrants originating mostly from the Maghreb countries and residing illegally in Crete, travelled to Athens and Thessaloniki in January 2011 and commenced a hunger strike, which lasted for 44 days. Supported by solidarity groups and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the hunger strikers put their lives at risk but achieved some concessions from the state with regards to their legal status. This chapter utilises discourse analysis and a set of face-to-face interviews with migrant protesters and organisers of the hunger strike to analyse migrant activism in Greece during the economic crisis. It starts with a broad theoretical overview of framing, linking it to identity and the two dominant, competing frames that apply to immigration policy, the restrictive, realist one and the liberal frame. The following section provides a narrative of the hunger strike and draws on primary interview data to map the ethnic and ideological profile of participants and assess their migrant experience and evaluations of the protest action. The chapter proceeds to explore the framing of the protest movement by analysing its official press releases during and after the action, as well the discourse of supporters and opponents, which, in different ways, challenged or supplemented elements of the projected collective identity. The overall analysis thus offers a comprehensive account of the protest movement, identifies tensions and dilemmas relevant to its attempt to construct a collective identity, and allows for the migrants’ suppressed voices and untold stories to be heard.