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 Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid