Greece: xenofilia with racist edge says HRW report today

June 12, 2013

I happen to live – and quite happily – in Greece but there are moments that I am almost ashamed. I reported on some of these moments before, but today’s report by Human Rights Watch confirms that there are good reasons. There is still a lot of ‘xenofilia’ – the tradition-honored habit of hospitality, of welcoming foreigners, especially tourists – but when it comes to migrants and asylum seekers police behavior turns nasty. And not just police behavior as explained by the man in the video above who tells how the police ordered all blacks of the bus and …the others started applauding!

The 52-page report, “Unwelcome Guests: Greek Police Abuses of Migrants in Athens,” documents frequent stops of people who appear to be foreigners, unjustified searches of their belongings, insults, and, in some cases, physical abuse. Many are detained for hours in police stations pending verification of their legal status.

Between August 2012, when Operation Xenios Zeus began, and February 2013, the police forcibly took almost 85,000 foreigners to police stations to verify their immigration status. No more than 6 percent were found to be in Greece unlawfully, suggesting the police are casting an extraordinarily wide net. This low percentage is hardly reported in the Greek media, so the impression remains that this is an effective method! Many of those stopped had a legal right to be in Greece because they are asylum seekers, legal foreign residents, or Greeks of foreign origin. Many said they felt they were stopped because of their physical characteristics and gave disturbing accounts of clear targeting on the basis of race or ethnicity.

Under Greek law, police have broad powers to stop people and require them to provide proof of their identity without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. Identity checks for immigration control, such as those conducted on a massive scale during the ongoing Operation Xenios Zeus, are not prescribed explicitly in law. The lack of training in immigration and asylum issues, and of specific guidance for officers participating in the operation, leaves too much room for abuse, Human Rights Watch said. The Greek authorities told Human Rights Watch that bringing foreigners to the police station is necessary to identify forged documents and to verify photocopies of documents. However, authorities have taken no steps to put in place the training and technical means to enable police to verify the documents on the street…

Since early 2000, Greece has become the major gateway into the European Union for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from Asia and Africa. Years of mismanaged migration and asylum policies and, more recently, the deep economic crisis, have changed the demographics of the capital city. The center of Athens, in particular, has a large population of foreigners living in extreme poverty, occupying abandoned buildings, town squares, and parks. Concerns about rising crime and urban degradation have become a dominant feature of everyday conversations as well as political discourse. Greece has a right to control irregular immigration and a duty to improve security on the streets for everyone. However, the breadth and intensity of immigration sweeps in the context of Operation Xenios Zeus raise serious concerns about whether the means to achieve those legitimate aims are necessary and proportionate, Human Rights Watch said.

One Response to “Greece: xenofilia with racist edge says HRW report today”

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