News / Europe

Greece Targets Migrants Amid Economic Crisis

Afghan migrants Hafeez, Mohammed and Sahil [not pictured] are studying English at an evening class in Athens, Greece, June 2011
Afghan migrants Hafeez, Mohammed and Sahil [not pictured] are studying English at an evening class in Athens, Greece, June 2011

Multimedia

Henry Ridgwell

As the Greek economy teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, anger is being directed toward the tens of thousands of immigrants living in the capital, Athens.

Many Greeks blame them for rising crime rates and unemployment. Migrant groups say the authorities often ignore, or even encourage racist attacks against them.

The recent killing of a Greek citizen by an unknown assailant has unleashed a wave of anti-immigrant violence across the city.

Afghan migrants Hafeez, Mohammed and Sahil are studying English at an evening class in Athens. Like hundreds of other foreigners living in Greece, Hafeez was recently targeted by anti-immigrant mobs roaming the streets of Athens. His right eye still bears the scars.

“I was on my way back home from work," he said. "When I was walking along the street, there were about six or seven people coming from the opposite side. When they saw me they didn’t say anything, then when they came near to me they started to beat me. They didn’t say anything, they just started to beat me… on my face, on the back of my head, and all over my body.”

Greece is narrowly close to bankruptcy. Facing soaring unemployment and harsh austerity measures, there is a well of anger building in Greek society. Greece’s foreigners are among its victims.

This anti-immigrant demonstration in Athens earlier this year was one of many to turn violent. Still, the flow of migrants into Greece shows no signs of stopping. Up to 300 people a day try to cross the River Evros that divides Greece and Turkey, to reach the European Union. Detention centers are overwhelmed, so most migrants are released after a couple of days.

Nasim Lomani, an Afghan migrant himself, has set up an organization to support immigrants in Athens.

“They cannot find a job, they cannot apply for asylum, they are without papers, so they live on the streets around the city," he said. "For all the Greek problems, it’s the migrants' fault and they are paying for it. It’s the real situation now in Greece.”

Greece says the rest of Europe should do more to help it with the migrant influx. Many Greeks, like Athens resident Nicholaos Sofos, say the country cannot accommodate any more newcomers.

"The Greeks aren't having a good time," said Sofos. "They pay taxes. They have lots of expenses. The quality of life has dropped here in Greece. People who come from these places, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, basically that's where they're from, there are so many and they arrive in such big numbers, that no one can control the situation."

The attacks intensified after a Greek citizen was mugged and killed in Athens in early May, by an unknown assailant. The following day, right-wing gangs began assaulting immigrants, whom they hold responsible for rising crime and unemployment.

“One Bangladeshi guy was killed a few days ago in the center of Athens," said Lomani. "More than 50 people have been injured. From these 50 people, around 30 of them were in the hospital for a few days. During the night they attacked migrants’ houses, broke the doors and windows, they got inside and were beating people. They threw Molotov cocktails into the migrants’ houses.”

Lomani accuses police of arresting immigrants, while turning a blind eye to the violence meted out by right-wing mobs.

Hafeez and his friends are among the estimated 50,000 immigrants waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. He has been waiting for five years.

“I feel that we are not safe. We are in danger," he said. "We left Afghanistan to save our lives, to live safely, now we see here that we are not safe, we are in danger, we could die.”

As the Greek government tries to push through further spending cuts, migrants here fear the hostile atmosphere could get even more dangerous in the coming months.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid