THE Greek authorities must act immediately to curb the growing spate of xenophobic and racist attacks, Amnesty International says.
It follows a brutal knife attack by a mob of around 20 men on two Pakistani migrants on the island of Crete in the early hours of last Tuesday morning.
Hours before the attack, the far-right political party Golden Dawn held a meeting in Irakleio. The party’s anti-immigrant message has grown in popularity at the same time as xenophobic and racist attacks – some of them deadly – have been proliferating across Greece.
The two young men approached Amnesty for help, saying they were too scared to report the matter to the police or seek medical attention for fear of being deported.
Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, Jezerca Tigani, said: ‘At the same time as we’ve seen a spike in xenophobic violence around Greece, the lack of laws to protect victims with irregular status has meant that reporting such crimes can result in the victims being deported while their attackers walk free.
‘This only contributes to the general climate of impunity for the perpetrators of such attacks and it allows for an acceptance of these horrific crimes.
‘The Greek authorities must do more to bring an end to these racist attacks, and to ensure that migrants are not further victimised by being at risk of detention or deportation when they report crimes or seek medical assistance.’
The victims of the attack told Amnesty they were walking along a street in the town of Irakleio in the early hours of Tuesday morning when around 20 men dressed in black surrounded them with cars and on motorbikes.
After asking where the migrants were from, the mob attacked them without any provocation, stabbing them before throwing them to the ground and kicking them.
Amnesty members arranged medical help for the victims after they sought assistance from the organisation on Tuesday afternoon.
Katerina Chasouraki, an Amnesty International coordinator in Crete, said: ‘We found ourselves in a tragic situation where we could not report the incident to the police or get the victims to the hospital because they were scared of being deported due to their irregular status.’
The men received medical treatment and are recovering from the incident, but photos show the deep gashes they sustained – to the forearm and chin – as well as bruise marks along their sides where their assailants kicked them.
At the end of last year, special police units were set up to tackle racially motivated crimes in Greece, but there is still no provision that would protect victims who are in an irregular situation from arrest and deportation during the investigation of such crimes.
Amnesty is running a campaign Greece: Protect lives at the gate of Europe.
A campaign statement says: ‘Men, women and children fleeing war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan trying to reach the EU via Greece are being illegally “pushed back” to Turkey by Greek border guards – denying them the right to have their individual cases heard or to challenge their expulsion.’
It cites B’s story
‘When B’s parents and older sister died in a bomb blast in Ghazni, Afghanistan, the teenager was left fearing for his life, and for the lives of the five children left in his care.
‘In September 2012, he took the children and his sisters and left Afghanistan.
They stayed in Iran for five months before moving on to Turkey. There, B negotiated with some smugglers to take him and his family across the Aegean Sea to Greece.
‘In late February 2013, under cover of darkness, B, his family and 36 others – fleeing Syria, Sudan and Iran – boarded a dinghy.
‘They were told that the light in the distance was a Greek Island and they should head in that direction. But they never made it.
‘After three and a half hours at sea they were found by police.
‘B and his family had headed to Greece to seek sanctuary. What they got was anything but.’
Beaten and stranded.
‘B says that the Greek police took the passengers onto their boat and beat them for three hours.
‘They took their money, their phones and then they took them back to the dinghy.
‘Before sending them back off in the direction of Turkey, the police scratched the dinghy with a knife and removed the motor, leaving all 46 passengers – including three small children – stranded in the middle of the sea.
‘They were eventually rescued by a Turkish coastguard and detained in a removal centre for “irregular migrants”, where B and his family now await deportation.
‘B’s is one of many stories of illegal “push backs” of migrants and refugees that our researchers heard.
‘This practice is not only illegal, it is very dangerous.
‘Please sign our petition to Nikos Dendias, Greece’s Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection, calling for an end to such blatant human rights abuses against refugees and migrants,’ concludes Amnesty.
l Meanwhile, the Greek Federation of Secondary State School Teachers (OLME), one of Education International’s national affiliates, has organised an online petition to protest against the planned suspension and dismissal of Greek teachers.
The Greek government is planning tough austerity measures which may result in additional suspensions and dismissals of workers in the public sector, mainly in education, health care and municipalities.
The suspensions would concern up to 8,200 workers in September alone and 12,500 by the end of December 2013. Additionally, 4,000 public sector workers would face direct dismissal by the end of 2013 and 14,000 by the end of 2014.
Under the European Troika-inspired plans, 2,500 teachers in Greece would be condemned to an eight-month suspension prior to their dismissal.
The government’s policy of implementing continuous cuts in education also means that more schools will merge or close during this year.
New law to hit
The Minister of Education is also expected to submit to the Parliament a new law on vocational education for adoption by the end of August and implementation in schools in September, OLME deplored.
The proposed law will lead to the closure of three sectors of Greek vocational education (health, art and cosmetics).
In September, 20,000 students will be unable to attend classes in their vocational education institutions. According to OLME, the Government is conceding a large part of vocational secondary education to the private sector.
The trade union further condemns the fact that it receives information from the press only and has been given no opportunity for dialogue with the Minister. OLME is planning strikes and other actions after schools open in September.
Reaffirming that quality public education is not a privilege and should be available to every child without social or financial discriminations, OLME demands that:
• No teacher be suspended or dismissed
• No sector of the public vocational education system be closed down
• The Greek Government stop destroying the country’s public education system through massive cutbacks and dismissals.