A statement by an opposition leftist deputy vilifying the possible holding of a barbeque serving pork and beer outside shelters hosting seekers generated an intense firestorm of debate in Greece this week, trending first among Greek-language social media users and with extensive media coverage.
Speaking during a routine Parliament committee session on Tuesday deliberating a draft bill on criminal code revisions, first-time Thessaloniki-area MP Christos Yiannoulis charged that extremists are threatening to invite people outside shelters housing asylum seekers and irregular migrants in order to roast pork meats, sausages and drink beer.
Yiannoulis, a previous news reader for the state-run television station in Thessaloniki before winning a Parliament seat with leftist SYRIZA party last July, said he was unaware if the current criminal code covers such actions, "which are shameful for any reasonable person... every citizen, every progressive Greek should condemn this as sadism, as a brutality... against people of a specific religion."
He was referring to an online call by a previously unknown group to hold such a arbeque outside the Diavata facility in the greater Thessaloniki area. The shelter hosts foreign nationals that landed on a handful of Greek isles after setting off from neighboring Turkey, a continuation of the migrant/refugee crisis that erupted in 2015. The vast majority of the would-be asylum seekers and undocumented migrants entering Greece are believed to be Muslim, as far as their religious affiliation is concerned, meaning a prohibition against the consumption of pork and alcohol.
In a sharp reply, ruling New Democracy (ND) deputy Kostas Kyranakis, himself a first-time legislator, countered that "...I'd like to remind my colleague that the consumption of pork in Greece is allowed, and under certain conditions (i.e. age, operating equipment etc.) the consumption of alcohol, too. A third country national cannot come here and impose his conditions, and your statement, Mr. Yiannoulis, is unacceptable, because it restricts, based on your own language, rights that every Greek citizen enjoys. Why should such rights to (food) consumption and lifestyle, which Greek citizens enjoy, be restricted because some third country nationals arrived here? What's the reasoning behind this?"
Similar "protest barbeques", prominently reported but mostly thinly attended, are annually held by atheist groups on Good Friday in the east Mediterranean country, when a strict fast is observed by adherents to the Orthodox Christian faith, the predominate religious denomination in Greece.
In response, Yiannoulis said a shady and marginal group was trying to organize such a "protest barbeque", viewed by critics as a direct and hateful provocation against specific people hosted in very a specific location.