Greece: Alarming rise in violence against immigrants

Foreigners attacked and injured every day

25 June, 20:28

Greek racists, one of them (C) holding a knife, attacking a migrant (R) in the center of Athens (archive photo) Greek racists, one of them (C) holding a knife, attacking a migrant (R) in the center of Athens (archive photo)

(ANSAmed) - ATHENS - Racially motivated attacks are becoming more frequent and more violent by the day in Greece but, worse still, most of the attacks go unpunished because the police does not make arrests.

The alarm has been sounded by the Kathimerini newspaper, which reports almost daily brutal attacks and bloody brawls targeting immigrants, both legal and illegal. The paper quotes a surgeon practicing at the Evangelismos hospital in Athens, who says that "during every [12-hour] shift we have to deal with six or seven cases of foreigners who have been attacked and who are suffering from cuts, bruises and often even knife wounds".

The attackers, who generally catch their victims by surprise, arrive in groups, hooded and dressed all in black, making them difficult to identify. Even if victims are able to identify and report their attackers to police, they are very unlikely to do so for fear of being attacked again, or worse. Yet everyone knows that almost all of the attackers are members or sympathisers of Golden Dawn, the far-right party with clear pro-Nazi sympathies, which at the recent general election earned almost 7% of the vote and 18 seats in Parliament. Kathimerini reports as an indicative factor that attacks against immigrants in the Athens area of Thissio have doubled since the party opened a new office in the area two months ago, a statistic backed up by health officials at the local hospital. A number of attacks have been recorded in the last month across Attica, of which Athens is the capital, but also on the island of Crete. Last Monday, a group of assailants, who are yet to be identified, carried out a bloody attack on a 25-year old homeless Egyptian who had found temporary shelter in a square in Chania, in Crete. After being savagely beaten with iron bars, the man was taken to hospital in a life-threatening condition, and doctors were forced to remove one of his kidneys. A day earlier, four men had attacked two Algerian immigrants in their early twenties as they slept on the beach of Nea Hora. In this case, the attackers used not only metal bars but also wooden clubs and knives. The two victims, who also had their mobile phones and some money stolen, also ended up in hospital in Chania. These are just two of the most recent episodes.

In general, the attackers are not arrested and, even if they are, are soon released with a slap on the wrists. This was the case a few days ago, when a Pakistani man was attacked close to the Attiki underground station by a group of 25 people, including one woman, with police confirming that many were members of Golden Dawn. When the victim was unable to identify his attackers (or was unwilling to do so), all 25 suspects were released.

In an effort to tackle the phenomenon, and with the so-called "established authorities" unable or unwilling to step in, residents in Chania have set up a group named "Anti-Fascist Initiative" to condemn the attacks and force the police to act, to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

According to Yiannis Tsoukatos, a member of the new group supporting the immigrants, "these attacks are very likely to be racially motivated". The Anti-Fascist Initiative has released a statement saying: "Society as a whole needs to stay united and close-knit in the face of these episodes of extreme racism. We need to create a network of protection around all people against these fascist gangs. This does not only concern migrants or those that help them, but all of society as a whole, because migrants are the primary target for fascists, as they represent the weakest link in the chain. Later it will be the turn of all others".(ANSAmed).

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