News / Europe

Greek Police Ignores Migrant Abuse, Rights Group Accuses

Athens police check immigrants' documentsAthens police check immigrants' documents
x
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

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs