Greece's Antikythera is not offering incentives to draw Pakistani families - Featured image

Greece’s Antikythera is not offering incentives to draw Pakistani families

Greece’s remote island of Antikythera has for years been considering ways to entice a limited number of Greek Orthodox families to settle there to boost its dwindling population. But this has never involved bringing in Pakistani nationals, as claimed on Greek social media in November 2023. Posts started sharing this false claim after a Pakistani television channel aired a story about a plan to offer land, a house and other benefits to families willing to move to Antikythera. The story did not, however, mention Pakistan nationals or say that the scheme was aimed at them. 

Local authorities told AFP in November 2023 they had for years been considering a plan to have five Greek Orthodox families move to the island. But this was not an open invitation to anyone who wanted to settle there. There was also no offer of free land or tax relief, they said.

The plan is still in development and has not advanced since it was announced in 2018, they said.

The claim that Greece was offering to resettle Pakistani nationals on the island appeared on November 10 on X, formerly Twitter. The post included a video of a news bulletin in Urdu with subtitles in Greek.

“Because of the reduced population of the island Antikythera in Greece, a programme was introduced for the move and resettlement of families from Pakistan, with a free house, a piece of arable land, no taxes and a 500€ salary,” said the post, presenting this as information from the Pakistan news bulletin.

The video ends with a screenshot of a post about the scheme on the Greece Urdu Facebook page (archived here). The article was deleted from the page after it had been shared, for example, here.

The claim that the plan was aimed at Pakistani families appeared on Facebook the same day, for example here, here, and here. Most users sourced it back to the post on X. The claim was also shared on some websites, for example here, here and here.

User comments were angry, with one saying the supposed initiative was “giving away national sovereignty”.

Example of the false claim in a Facebook post. Screenshot taken on 15/11/2023

Antikythera was home to only 39 people in 2021, down from 120 people ten years previously. The island is most known for the Antikythera mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device discovered in 1900 and referred to as the world’s oldest computer.

Report on Pakistan television

The video shared with the false claim carries the logo of the Urdu-language Dunya News channel, which presents itself on Facebook as “The leading news TV network of Pakistan”.

It is an evening news bulletin that carries the date of November 9, 2023. News anchor Mahreen Fatima introduces a report by saying: “Greece has announced a monetary plan for the settlement of an island named Antikythera.”

The bulletin switches to Ishraq Nazir, a Greece-based Pakistani journalist, who says: “Yes, surely, the Greek Orthodox Church has made an important proposal for the settlement of the ancient island of Antikythera in Greece. Whoever wants to live there will be given 500 euros a month, a house, and a small piece of land which they can cultivate.”

Neither the anchor nor the reporter say the scheme applies to Pakistanis or citizens of any other country; nor do they say it is for selected Orthodox citizens of Greece only. The report says the proposal comes from the Greek Orthodox Church.

Nazir is also the administrator of the Greece Urdu Facebook page which published a text version of the story. We could not find the post on Facebook, which had been included as a screenshot at the end of the video circulating online. Nazir told AFP by phone on November 16 that he had deleted the post after an outpouring of reaction from Greek nationals, including threats. He had also been asked by the president of the Antikythera community to remove it.

Nazir said his own report was based on articles seen in the British press, including The Telegraph.

Screenshot taken on 15/11/2023 of the video used in the false claim at the point where it shows the post on the Greece Urdu Facebook page

The Telegraph article, dated October 5, 2023, does not mention Pakistan nationals. It links as a source on the settlement scheme to a tourism site called Kythira Info. However, the link opens to a page that says in red letters: “The Antikythira relocation program published on the internet does not exist! Please don’t send me any more inquiries!”

A key word search on Google found the story about the settlement plan was published elsewhere in English-language media in 2023, including in The Sun and Stuff in August. The Stuff article cites the Greek City Times as a source.

None of these reports say that the scheme is intended for Pakistani nationals but they also do not say it is intended only for five Greek families. However, this Greek report from 2023 says: “Priority is given to Greek families, but interested parties of other nationalities can also become new residents.”

The Greek City Times has a separate article entitled: “FAKE NEWS ALERT: The report inviting Pakistanis to live in Antikythera for €500 a month is NOT true!”. It was published in November 2023, days after the Pakistan news bulletin cited on social media.

Misleading claims circulating since 2018

An internet search with the key words (in Greek) “Antikythera + Church + 500 euros” found that articles saying that the island was offering incentives such as land and money to people willing to settle there have been on Greek media since 2018 and in 2019, for example here and here. It was also picked up by The Independent in 2019.

These reports do not say that the scheme applies to Greek Orthodox families only. They do not mention Pakistan nationals.

AFP contacted the Kythira and Antikythera municipality to verify information on the scheme. A local official told us on November 15 that these false claims appeared after the region’s religious authority, Metropolitan Seraphim Stergioulis, had given an interview to a newspaper in 2018.

Through another internet search, we found a December 29, 2018 article in TA NEA in which Metropolitan Seraphim spoke of a programme to bring five selected Greek Orthodox families with three or more children from Athens to the island. He said that the National Bank had approved a 500,000-euro donation for the construction of five houses and the shipowners’ union had expressed willingness to give a monthly allowance of 500 euros to each family for three years.

Some of these details appear to have been misrepresented in pick-ups of this story prompting the Municipality of Kythira, which covers Antikythera, to release a statement in 2019 entitled: “Denial of publications about allegedly subsidized housing in Antikythera.”

The statement said that the scheme to bring five families from Athens to the island was at the planning stage only. The municipal authority was not offering benefits to any person who chose to move to Antikythera, it said. It also would not “subsidize new inhabitants” nor “give away plot land or fields,” it said.

Screenshot taken 21/11/2023 of a Google Map location of Antikythera island

The Metropolis and local government deny the claim

After the claim started recirculating in 2023, we contacted the vice mayor for Antikythera, Ioannis Katsanevakis. He said there was no open invitation to people of any nationality to move to Antikythera. “None of this stands, it is just a rumour,” he said on November 15.

The mayor of Kythira Stratos Charchalakis also denied the claim in an interview with Proto Thema on November 13.

The Metropolis of Kythira and Antikythira issued a statement on November 13 also saying there was no general call for families to inhabit the island. The Metropolis was still studying plans for some kind of limited resettlement on Antikythera, the statement said. It had been considering the possibility of bringing only “five specific large Greek Orthodox families” to the island. In this case, the National Bank of Greece may donate five houses to those specific families.

“Therefore, the specific five (5) houses are going to be given to five specific multi-member families and not countless houses, to countless families and countless plots of land and allowances of five hundred euros!” it said.

According to the statement, the National Bank was still willing to support the programme but the participation of the shipowners’ union was unsure.

In a phone call with AFP on November 17, the president of the community of Antikythera Giorgos Charchalakis confirmed that the programme had been in the works for several years. It had not advanced due to bureaucratic reasons, he said.

While officials told AFP that the scheme was intended for Greek Orthodox families only, we did find a media report from 2017 which suggests the Municipality of Kythira and Antikythera had discussed the possibility of four Christian Orthodox families from Lebanon moving to the island.

We could not find any evidence that this had occurred.

Issues of migration are sensitive in Greece and have been the subject of several false claims on social media. AFP has previously debunked false claims regarding migration to Greece, for example here and here, as well as claims targeting Pakistani citizens, for example here and here.

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Fact Check, Politics, Society

Author(s): Petros KONSTANTINIDIS / AFP Greece

Originally published here.