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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More