15 August 2012
Greece must bring an end to racist and xenophobic attacks
© ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/GettyImages
Such attacks are unacceptable and the authorities must do all within their power to calm their rise
The Greek authorities must do more to prevent racist and xenophobic attacks and fully investigate those that occur, Amnesty International said following the fatal stabbing of an Iraqi man amid a rise in xenophobic attacks.
The 19-year-old died in hospital on Sunday after being repeatedly stabbed near an unofficial mosque in Anaxagora Street in central Athens by a gang of five people riding four motorcycles, police officials said.
The gang had earlier tried to assault a Romanian and a Moroccan national before the attack, but the pair managed to escape, witnesses told police.
“Such attacks are unacceptable and the authorities must do all within their power to stem their rise,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Attacks by unidentified groups and individuals against foreign nationals and places of worship have also been reported in the past week in Athens, Pireus, Crete and other towns.
In one attack last Thursday in Pireus, flares were reportedly thrown into a prayer room for Muslim worshippers by some 15 members of an extreme right-wing group riding motorcycles as 10 migrants were praying inside.
There are no official mosques in Greece. Muslim worshippers pray in rooms, flats, warehouses, and any space that can be turned into a praying room. So far, plans to build official mosques have failed.
Two Pakistani nationals were taken to hospital after being beaten by a group of unknown men who entered their house in Vonitsa in Western Greece last Sunday evening.
Two Egyptian nationals also told the organization in July that they were attacked by around 20 members of an extreme right-wing group as they slept in a house in Pireus with four fellow nationals. One of the two men, a young fisherman, had to have two operations on his face and remained in hospital for days after the incident. Five men and a woman were arrested after the attack.
“The number of attacks is worrying and it shows how much rage and hate there is in the society. It is time for the Greek society to stand up against such shameful attacks and reassert its condemnation of racial and ethnic hatred,” said Jezerca Tigani.
The attack against the Iraqi man on Sunday came days after Amnesty International called on the Greek authorities to halt a police crackdown launched last week on “irregular immigrants”, in which more than 8,000 foreign nationals were arrested in the Greek capital. Of those, 1,660 individuals were found to be without official documentation and were placed in administrative detention, according to Greek police today.
“Recent police operations against immigrants have raised serious concerns that people may be discriminated against on the basis of their perceived ethnicity, and such actions fuel xenophobic sentiment.”
Amnesty International, while recognizing the Greek authorities’ right to control immigration, has previously stated they “do not have the right to treat people in the street like criminals purely because of the colour of their skin”.
“Greek authorities must prioritize and build up the confidence of minorities and foreign nationals in the ability of the authorities to protect them from the threat of racist violence by sending a strong message to all those who carry out these attacks – they will not be tolerated and will be fully and vigorously investigated, with perpetrators brought to justice,” said Jezerca Tigani.
Human rights groups say hate crimes in Greece are rising and that police behaviour is making the situation worse.
They say in the past six months there have been hundreds of victims and that state crackdowns on illegal immigrants are encouraging nationalist sentiment.
Activists say it is not just the frequency of the attacks that has increased but also the ferocity.
“In the past six months from the testimonies that we have, there have been about 500,” says Javied Aslam, president of the Pakistani Community of Greece. “Just over 500 people have told us that they were attacked by fascists. And now, in the past three weeks to one month it’s moved on from verbal attacks to knuckle-dusters and bats and now they go out with knives – so in the past three weeks more than twenty people have been stabbed and have had to have hospital treatment.”
Because of recent police operations against illegal immigrants, rights groups say people are now fearful of even going to the authorities if they are attacked.
“People are really scared now and they don’t say anything to anyone. It’s terrible, a really bad situation,” Aslam added.
Migrant groups say there is evidence to suggest that the people carrying out the attacks are associated with vigilante groups and Golden Dawn.
The extreme right-wing party gained seven percent of the vote at the last election.