The Racist Violence Recording Network was set up in 2011 by the UNHCR and 23 Greek NGOs to record racist violence in Greece. For the police, racist violence doesn’t exist. There are no numbers because there are no records of crimes motivated by racism.
The annual report for 2012 was published yesterday. It starts by stating that their numbers don’t represent the scale of the problem, they go as far as calling their report “the tip of the iceberg.” When skimming through the report, I remember the people we met and the stories they told us.
I remember Ahmed’s face in front of his house the morning after they were attacked by 20 masked men with iron bars when he said: “This is inhuman, when will this end?”
I remember the confused look in the eyes of Abouz as he was wheeled through the corridors of the hospital, after he had been beaten up in his sleep by those attackers and had to undergo surgery to his face and jaw.
I remember Ismail showing us how the police tore up his pink card, the residential and work permit, before making him take off his shirt on the streets and arresting him for not having papers. His torn up pink card was held together with clear tape.
I remember the prayer vigil for Shehzad who had been stabbed to death on his way to work. The agony on the faces of the assembled men. The media crowd jostling the coffin trying to get the best shot.
The Recording Network has reports of 154 attacks. Of those attacked, 79 were undocumented. It is important to mention the break down of the asylum system in Greece at this point: Many people try to make an application and fail. We heard from people who had been in the country for years, and had been unable to even start an asylum claim. They wanted to legalise their stay. It was the European asylum system and its implementation in Greece that was failing them.
Without papers, victims of racist attacks often cannot report the crime for fear they will be detained, and have difficulty accessing hospitals to get their injuries treated.
But those in the country legally are often not able to report the crime either: Of the 154 victims mentioned in the report, only 26 had made a police report. “In many cases, the victims of racist attacks stated that they attempted to report the incidents to the police but were faced with unwillingness or deterrence and, in some cases, the actual refusal of the police authorities to respond.”
This touched on the one issue which isn’t mentioned in the report, but which we received to independent reports of in Greece: When trying to report an assault by racists, the victims were told they had to pay €60 or their report could not be taken by the police officers. In the context of austerity measures and unemployment this sum is exorbitant.
As a press release by the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants puts it: “Law enforcement officials as well as extremist groups go largely unpunished when assaulting migrants.” They released their report The Silent Humanitarian Crisis in Greece: Devising Strategies to Improve the Situation of Migrants in Greece earlier today.
These reports come shortly after Amnesty visited detention camps in Greece and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe published a report calling for Greece to “curb hate crime and combat impunity.”
“The Greek police’s disregard for binding human rights standards has received international criticism. The authorities must eliminate the institutional culture of impunity and address effectively all suspicions of collusion of a part of the police with “Golden Dawn”, which have dealt an extremely damaging blow to public confidence not only in the police, but in the Greek state as a whole. An independent, effective police complaints mechanism is long overdue.”
In this context it is important to remember that, while Greece does need to deal with the problem, it is also European responsibility.
The detention camps, of which Amnesty says: “How can such places exist in this day and age, in Europe?” are part funded by European money.
Many of the assailants in racist attacks are connected to Golden Dawn. Golden Dawn representatives have been implicated in some attacks. Golden Dawn is a legal party in Europe, and their representatives have been sent to European bodies.
90% of those entering the EU without valid papers enter through Greece. The Dublin II agreement means they are trapped there. The undocumented immigrants we spoke to had all planned to go to other European countries, they were trying to transit Greece on their way to the country of their destination. It is EU regulation which puts this burden on Greece.
A coalition of human rights organisations and NGOs in Germany have just released a memorandum entitled for an equitable, solidarity-based system of sharing responsibility in which they propose to
recognise the right to free choice of member state and to link it with a system of financial compensation seeks to make a constructive contribution to a European asylum system that guarantees asylum seekers in the EU the chance of a fair and efficient examination of their grounds, based on the rule of law.
Watch our documentary Into the Fire: The Hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece. The film is released in a crowd distribution effort on over 100 websites and has received over 40,000 views in the first 4 days of its online release.