Greek NGO's concerned over immigrant attacks and treatment amidst crisis
ATHENS, GREECE (OCTOBER 19 2012)(REUTERS) - Non-governmental refugee organizations in Greece said on Friday (October 19) that they were concerned over the state of immigrants in Greece who they say have become scapegoats of the economic crisis.
Organized by the Greek Council for Refugees, many organizations said immigrants are not receiving access to asylum procedures after being swept up by the government in police sweeps and thrown into detention camps, or the bureaucratic process at the asylum centre is unfair or tedious for them.
That they said causes more of them to be refused legal papers putting them into the illegal immigrants category and causing animosity amongst the public where they are currently suffering racist attacks.
"Amidst an economic crisis and recession that tears apart society they (immigrants) become the scapegoats. And of course this approach to the issue of immigrants and refugees does not but feed extreme and racist opinions that have escalated to such a degree that we are talking about racist attacks on a daily basis," said Spiros Rizakis, director of refugee assistance organization Aitima.
To appease the public's anger the previous and current governments have opened detention centres where they bring illegal immigrants after sweeping them off the streets into police vans if they do not have legal documents and putting them in the centres.
"These new sweep operations only result in taking many people and putting them to camps, so this does not solve any problem, because, ok, you put them in camps but after what? what do you do with these people? So this is practically hiding the problem rather than solving it in my opinion." said immigrant lawyer Maria Sfiliotakara.
The immigrants issue has become a controversial topic in Greece after many voted for a far right ultranationalist party in June elections which has been accused of violence against immigrants and openly speaks outs against them. Backing for the Golden Dawn Party, which has been linked to a rise in attacks against migrants in recent months, stood at 14 percent in a poll released on Friday, doubling their score in June elections that gave the party seats in parliament. The party's anti-immigrant message has stuck a chord with many voters angry over crime and ghettos in their neighbourhoods and who are channelling their anger over austerity - that has propelled unemployment - towards the immigrants. Even though Golden Dawn denies it is neo-nazi, it uses a swastika-like emblem and its supporters have been seen giving nazi-style salutes. Party memberEleni Zaroulia said in parliament on Thursday that immigrants were "subhumans" and its members speak openly in negative terms about immigrants. In September members of Golden Dawn violently overturned stalls at a fair in an Athens suburb in Rafina belonging to immigrants, and immigrant and anti-racist groups accuse them of being responsible for recent beatings of immigrants.