It is now commonly accepted that the previous months saw an immense increase in racially motivated violent attacks in Greece. Relevant reports in printed and electronic media reveal that racist attacks have become an almost daily occurrence. According to reports by migrant and refugee organizations, the number of known racist violence incidents does not represent the real extent of this phenomenon in the country.
The Racist Violence Recording Network, which apart from the UN Refugee Agency and the National Commission for Human Rights, numbers 23 non-governmental organizations and other bodies*, monitors the escalation of racist attacks and, by recording the incidents through the voluntary testimonies of victims, looks into and highlights the quantitative and qualitative trends of racist violence in Greece.
During the period January-September 2012, the Racist Violence Recording Network documented, after interviewing victims, 87 incidents of racist violence against refugees and migrants, of which83 occurred in public spaces (squares, streets, public transport). The majority of these incidents concerns physical attacks against foreigners while the types of crimes are mainly severe bodily injury (in 50 cases) and assault (bodily injury, in 30 cases). There were also two incidents of property damage and arson against foreigners’ businesses or residences, such as the arson of a hairdressers owned by a Pakistani national in the area of Metamorphosis as well as an attack with improvised explosive devices against a building inhabited by Syrian refugees in the area of Neos Kosmos.
73 incidents occurred in Athens, and in particular in areas of the city centre such as Aghios Panteleimonas, Attica Square, America Square and other areas around Omonoia Square, while 5 incidents were recorded in Patras and 3 in the wider area of Piraeus.
The victims who approached the members of the Network and were recorded consisted of 85 men and 2 women, in their majority 18 to 35 years of age, mainly from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, New Guinea, Pakistan and Somalia. As regards the legal status of the victims, 29 were asylum seekers, 2 were recognized refugees, 7 had residence permits, and 43 held no legal documents or were under deportation status (in 6 cases the victim’s status is unknown).
In 84 out of 87 incidents the victims consider the fact of their being foreigners the reason for the attack; they believe they became targets either because of their colour or due to any other characteristic revealing the fact they were not natives (in the cases of attacks against women both victims believe they were targeted because they wore a hijab). Verbal abuse and threats against foreigners that accompanied the attacks were proof for the victims of the reason for the attacks in the majority of cases.