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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs