Greece ‘battling’ with racism-fuelled crimes

Greece ‘battling’ with racism-fuelled crimes

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Greece ‘battling’ with racism-fuelled crimes

Supporters of Golden Dawn clash with riot police in the Corinth. Capitalizing on economic hardship, the Golden Dawn was voted into Parliament in June. EPA photo

Greece’s public order minister said that Greece was now grappling with a “new phenomenon” of racism-fuelled crimes, but insisted that sweeps against illegal migrants should expand.

Racist violence is a “new phenomenon,” the minister Nikos Dendias told Kathimerini newspaper in an interview published Sept. 2. “For the police, this ‘field’ is terra incognita [unknown land]. Racist crime is a complex issue,” he said.

As Greece struggles with a fifth year of recession, a crippling economic crisis and austerity measures, the country has recorded a rise in social tensions and racist attacks, prompting international concern. In mid-August, a young Iraqi was knifed to death in Athens by five men in a hate attack after a police sweep to clear the capital of illegal immigrants. Police have arrested thousands of undocumented immigrants in a series of sweeps, sparking protests by human rights groups.

‘Question of survival’

Dendias, who has said in the past that ridding Greece of illegal immigrants was a “question of national survival,” underlined anew the importance of expanding the sweeps to the rest of the country. He added that an evaluation of the operation would be made on Dec. 31 and will set up next steps on the issue.

Capitalizing on rising unemployment and crime fears, for the first time a neo-Nazi party, the Golden Dawn, was voted into Parliament in June, winning 18 out of 300 seats. The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks has described it “the most extremist and Nazi party in Europe” and has called on Greece to examine if it is legal.