News / Europe

Greek Police Ignores Migrant Abuse, Rights Group Accuses

Athens police check immigrants' documents Athens police check immigrants' documents
Athens police check immigrants' documents
Athens police check immigrants' documents
Selah Hennessy
LONDON – Greek authorities are failing to crack down on a growing wave of xenophobic violence against migrants, according to a report published Tuesday by the campaign group Human Rights Watch.

The report says there is a clear pattern of increasing violence against migrants in Greece.

Benjamin Ward, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, says most of those abused are from Africa and Asia. Some, he says, are economic migrants but many have fled persecution in countries including Somalia and Afghanistan.

"Because of Greece's policies these migrants tend to end up living on the streets. Because of the color of their skin and the fact that they are living on the streets they are extremely visible," Ward explained. "And it is those groups that have really become the target of these kinds of attacks."

Greece has become a main gateway into Europe for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from Asia and Africa. But Ward says the Greek system for processing asylum seekers is “broken,” leaving many asylum seekers trapped.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 59 people for the report - people who said they had escaped or experienced a xenophobic attack between August 2009 and May 2012. The report says 51 of those incidents were serious attacks.

The report says most attacks take place at night, on or near town squares. Ward described to VOA how “vigilantes” have formed so-called “citizen groups” in Athens, patrolling the streets at night and attacking migrants.
Ward says the Greek authorities are doing little to protect them.  

"In some cases victims we spoke to said that when they approached the police they were told that they should fight back. In some cases victims were told that they had to pay a 100 euro fee, which was introduced a couple of years ago that has to be paid if you want to report a crime to police," said Ward. "And in some cases people were threatened with arrest because they were undocumented migrants."

Greece is in the middle of a major economic crisis. It is now in its fifth year of recession and unemployment is widespread with nearly one in four Greeks out of work. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have provided funds to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts.  But the cash comes with the provision that Greece make big spending cuts and hike up taxes.
Ash Amin, an expert in European racial integration at the University of Cambridge, says economic pressures in Greece are fueling xenophobia.  And he says it is a trend that stretches well beyond Greek borders.  

"This is a phenomenon that affects all of Europe- north and south, east and west- but of course to varying degrees. It's a real politics of fear of the stranger," Amin said.

He says political parties have played their part in fuelling anti-immigration sentiment. In a number of European countries right-wing politicians with an anti-immigrant platform have been gaining political ground in recent elections.
"Unless some of the major political forces take it upon themselves to define Europe as a plural society, as a multicultural entity, as a place in which the problem is not immigration but lack of growth and lack of social cohesion and lack of integration then I think Europe faces potentially a very dark future," said Amin.

In Greece, a new government was voted into power last month. Human Rights Watch says it needs to take immediate steps to tackle the xenophobic violence.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs