A leading human rights organization is urging Greece's new government to take "urgent action" to curb an "alarming" increase in attacks against Asian and African immigrants, including brutal assaults by gangs on teenage boys and pregnant women. In a 100-page report issued Tuesday, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said xenophobic attacks, including stabbings and serious beatings, in the capital Athens have increased over the past two years, leaving dozens of confirmed victims and possibly many more.
It called on the government to create a
national strategy to combat race-related crime, including obligatory
training for police officers, and surveillance methods used to fight
terrorism. "It is very shocking to see that scale of violence, of
that frequency and that brutality in a European country ... People face
certainly the risk of an attack on a daily basis," Judith Sunderland,
the lead researcher and author of the report told The Associated Press.
spoke with 79 migrants and asylum seekers and out of those 59 had
experienced some kind of an attack. And 51 had experienced an attack
that caused actual harm. We are convinced this is the tip of the
iceberg. Most people don't report the violence ... Undocumented migrants
fear they will be arrested and deported," she said.
suffering a fifth year of recession, is the European Union's busiest
transit point for illegal immigration. In Athens, many immigrants live
crammed in small apartments in squalid conditions, in central
neighborhoods that have seen a sharp rise in crime since the financial
crisis began in late 2009.
Afghan immigrant Razia Sharife, a single mother of three, said her basement apartment had been attacked four times in January.
"They wear black clothes and hoods," she was quoted as saying in the report, describing one attack.
first they threw bottles and then they broke the glass with stones and
threw stones inside and then they started kicking the door." Human
Rights Watch issued the report titled "Hate on the Streets — Xenophobic
Violence in Greece" following six months of research in Athens and
other Greek cities.
Sunderland said a Somali man who acted as an
interpreter for the rights group was himself the victim of a racist
attack last month, when he was chased and beaten by five men who broke
"I can't find another word besides shocking — it really
took me aback ... One woman attacked was six months pregnant and holding
her infant daughter. Another woman's hand was ripped open after being
hit by men on a motorcycle, by a bat with nails in it," she said, noting
that several of the victims interviewed were school-age boys.
attacks, including raids on immigrants' homes and stores as well as
streets assaults, have surged in the past two years, and often follow
public outcry over a violent crime blamed on immigrants, the report
said. Attacks most frequently occurred in or near Athens and the
western city of Patras. "Xenophobic violence has reached alarming
proportions in Greece," the report said. "The Greek authorities must
take urgent action to crack down on this alarming phenomenon."
recent general elections, the far-right Golden Dawn party — which uses
aggressive rhetoric against immigrants, and has been described by
political opponents as neo-Nazi — won 18 seats in the 300-member
parliament. Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, during a
weekend debate in parliament, described the country's immigration
problem as part of a plan by Greece's enemies to it turn into a
"wretched protectorate inhabited by sub-humans with no conscience,
country or culture."
He called for land-mines to be laid along the country's borders.
Golden Dawn has denied frequent allegations by the victims' of attacks that it has any involvement in the violence.
who is meeting this week with Greece's top prosecutor and senior
government law enforcement and justice officials, said Human Rights
Watch was concerned that extremist rhetoric was entering mainstream
She called for stronger public condemnation of hate
crimes, the use of domestic intelligence services to track violent
ultra-right groups, and financial support from the E.U. to help Greece
deal with the problem.
"The state should not be allowing gangs of thugs to mete out vigilante violence in its city streets," she said. "We certainly think all of Europe has to pay attention to what's happening in Greece."
Source: Associated press