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Greek Immigration Crisis Spreads to Universities

  • Henry Ridgwell

ATHENS - The Economic University of Athens is on the front line in the city’s immigration crisis. Immigrants and their student allies often clash with police and right-wing groups. A local resident supplied VOA with a video shot in early May showing a clash with police.

The police stopped VOA from filming their operations - but we did get inside the university gates. It is illegal for security forces to enter universities, so the immigrants seek refuge inside - and are welcomed by the students.

Student leader Yiannis thinks the immigrants are being made a scapegoat.

“Our parents were also immigrants. The immigrants who come here now do not do so by choice," he said. "They came from countries and regions where there are wars, where military regimes rule, and they have come here to create a better future for them and their families.”

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees expressed concerns over rising violence against immigrants.

"We have daily incidents of groups of supposed angry citizens, but also of extremist far right groups, instigating and hunting migrants just because of the color of their skin or of their nationality. What can I say? This is totally unacceptable,” said Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, head of UNHCR Greece.

Many Greeks blame the migrants for rising crime rates and the nation's economic crisis.

Another local resident gave VOA a video that he says shows immigrants attacking people near the university.

The far right Golden Dawn party polled seven percent in May’s election. Its manifesto includes laying mines along the Greek-Turkish border to prevent immigrants from crossing into Greece.

No migrants agreed to speak on camera. Some told VOA that the Greek government’s refusal to allow them to work - and EU rules that prohibit travel elsewhere in Europe - leave them unable to feed themselves.

“These people should be free to travel to whichever country they want," insisted student activist Yiannis. "To go there and find work where they can. It is quite simple.”
The political turbulence in Greece means the future remains as uncertain as ever for the tens of thousands of immigrants caught in the eye of Europe’s debt storm.

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