As the financial crisis in Greece enters its third year, rates of unemployment continue to soar. However, a report released by the Racist Violence Recording Network earlier this week showed that the number of racially motivated attacks is at an all-time high as well.
The network, composed of 30 different aid and human rights groups, reported that there were 154 cases of racist violence, of which 151 were committed against refugees and migrants from various countries including Egypt, Morocco and Guinea. Several victims of the attacks noted in the report that they believe that they were targeted because of their skin color or “any other characteristic revealing the fact that they were not natives.”
While the Racist Violence Recording Network, set up by the National Commission for Human Rights and the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, seeks to keep a record of racist acts committed in the country, the group only record the cases when they have spoken to the victims themselves. Member of the Hellenic League for Human Rights Kostis Papaioannou told the Associated Press that the number of attacks has increased 20 percent from last year, but the “true number could be much higher because many victims are afraid to come forward, fearing further mistreatment by authorities or deportation for entering the country illegally.”
The report shows examples of cases where the victims believe that even if they report an attack, police will take no action. One victim said that during an assault, police did intervene, but only to kick him and force him to leave the area. Others said that police will respond to a complaint by saying that there is nothing they can do and “that’s how things are in Greece.”
The southernmost entry point for migrants trying to enter the European Union, Greece is home to many immigrants from places such as Africa and Asia. However, immigrants face tension as the country continues to fight climbing unemployment rates and a deep recession.
Reuters reported in August of 2012 that Greek police had arrested more than 1,650 “paperless immigrants” in an operation initiated that month, “Xenios Xeus,” the name of the ancient Greek God for guests and foreigners. By November of the same year, more than 47,000 people had been detained and 3,672 were arrested for being in the country with sufficient documentation.
Operations like these are associated with the Golden Dawn, a right leaning xenophobic party that has gained popular support in recent elections with its promise to “clean up the stench in Greece.” Its policies on immigration seek to seal the Greece borders with “landmines and military patrols” as well as punish any Greeks “employing or renting property to migrants,” CBS News reported.
One Golden Dawn lawkamer told CBS last year that the only “racists attacks that exist in Greece for the last years are the attacks that illegal immigrants are doing against Greeks.”
However, officials from the party have denied any involvement in racist attacks.
A legislative intiative was introduced by the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection that the Racist Violence Recording Network said could contribute to addressing and preventing violence with racist and xenophobic motives.
But the network insists that there is still work to be done. This particular legislation does not guarantee safety for those who have filed official complaints against racist violence but do not have legal residence documents. The groups within the network hope to get legislation that will help further incriminate crimes when they are done with a racial motive.