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The New York-based rights organization says there has been a string of attacks and evidence that they are becoming more frequent, but police are failing to protect immigrant victims or bring the assailants to justice.
Most of the attacks take place at night or near central areas in towns. Usually, the assailants work in groups, often dressing in dark cloths with their faces covered. Attackers wield beer bottles and clubs, or punch with their bare fists, HRW reported after interviewing 59 people who experienced attacks. The witnesses said the attackers also hurled insults and threats to leave Greece.
Vigilantes mainly target immigrants from Africa and Asia. Some have come to Greece to make more money; others, including immigrants from Afghanistan and Somali, have fled to escape war.
“People coming from war zones are scared to go out at night in Athens for fear of being attacked,” Judith Sunderland, a researcher with HRW’s Western Europe division, said.
“The economic crisis and migration cannot excuse Greece’s failure to tackle violence that is tearing at its social fabric.”
In recent years, Greece has become a gateway of sorts for undocumented immigrants seeking asylum.
An opinion piece on Tuesday in GreekReporter.com, an English news source on Greek issues, says that media and extremists in Greece blame the migrants, but don’t examine the state’s role in allowing the situation or the public’s role in voting for corrupt politicians.
“Punching immigrants with sticks and knives is a rather common scene for people living in Athens. No one interferes—this is dangerous, of course. But who bears the largest part of responsibility for this increasing danger—politicians, refugees or extremists, I wonder?” wrote the columnist.
Sahel Ibrahim, a 26-year-old Somali man, said he was attacked in central Athens and was chased down a street by five young Greek men. His hand was broken when he tried to defend himself against the men who hit him with a piece of wood.
He said he would not go to the police. “I don’t believe they [the police] can help me,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying. “They know the situation, they know all the problems. Why are they still sitting [around]? We need some rules. We need big steps. This country needs it, this country deserves it.”
In several arrests, some of the attackers were alleged members of the far-right Golden Dawn party. Local media and oppositions politicians claim it is a neo-Nazi party.
The Epoch Times
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