Racist attacks on the rise in Greece

2013-07-15 08:00
Racist violence victim Omar, aged 28, from Guinea, hides his face during an interview in Athens. (Aris Messinis, AFP)

Racist violence victim Omar, aged 28, from Guinea, hides his face during an interview in Athens. (Aris Messinis, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Athens - Omar Diallo's head is still swollen after a recent assault on the streets of Athens which left him with several stitches.

Having fled his troubled homeland of Guinea, the 28-year-old is no stranger to violence, but the virulent racism he says he has experienced in crisis-hit Greece has come as a shock.

In the Athens neighbourhood where he lives - an area full of empty, graffiti-covered shops with "for rent" and "for sale" signs on the windows - it has become increasingly dangerous to be a dark-skinned foreigner.

"There are zones where we no longer have the right to go, or where we can only go in groups."

He was on his own when he was assaulted. The attack was swift and silent, unaccompanied by racist taunts or demands.

"Four people got hold of me on the street, one of them hit me with some object on the head. I fell down and they hit me. When they finished, they left."


Omar fled his West African home after a September 2009 stadium massacre during an opposition rally. His father was among the 157 killed, while he was thrown in jail.

After being released he decided to leave his country where he said he feared for his life.

But just a few years after coming to Athens in search of a better future, he found himself lying in the street, blood dripping from his head, until police officers found him and took him to the hospital.

His story is not unique.

"I saw a young Pakistani being beaten right in front of me, by two giants, who ran through the whole bus to get to him and then kicked him violently out on the street. I did not interfere because I was scared," a mortified retired Frenchman, who has been living in Athens for a year, told AFP.

A watchdog recording racial violence counted 154 victims in 2012, 107 of whom were assaulted in Athens. In at least eight cases, victims or witnesses said they recognised people associated with neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.

‘Visible injuries’

Omar, who used to study international relations in Conakry, feels that racial attacks have surged since conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras came to power in June 2012.

That is when Golden Dawn was elected into parliament for the first time, winning 18 seats out of an overall 300.

"They felt politically fortified," Omar said.

According to the report on racial violence, only 24 of the victims made a formal complaint to the police in 2012.

"In my understanding, they [perpetrators] try not to kill, but to make visible injuries, so as to spread the fear to the communities," said Doctor Nikitas Kanakis, secretary general of the Greek branch of the non-governmental group Doctors of the World.

Kanakis has long tried to highlight the problem, and victims of racial attacks often turn to him instead of going to a hospital.

He has brought attention to several attacks such as the case of a 14-year-old Afghan boy, whose face was slashed by a broken bottle in an Athens neighbourhood dominated by neo-Nazis.

"Almost every day in various parts of the country, particularly in Athens, racist attacks occur," said Giorgos Tsabropoulos, head of the UNHCR's Athens office.

The government's response to the problem has been ambiguous.

It has condemned Golden Dawn's attacks as unacceptable, and Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias recently told the BBC that "Golden Dawn... is clearly a neo-Nazi party".

He said a special police unit had been created to deal with racist crimes and "that the people who act unlawfully should end up in prison."

But in the same interview he said "creating new legislation won't help", despite being under pressure from the Council of Europe to do so.

Some progress

Dendias said the rise of Golden Dawn and its xenophobic and racist doctrine was linked to a surge in undocumented migrants arriving in Greece, which he said "are a huge burden to our society".

Dendias has appealed to the EU for financial aid to deal with the increasing number of migrants.

The premier recently made a big show of his meeting with Greek star basketball player of Nigerian origin Giannis Adetokunbo, who was drafted into the NBA, to counter accusations of racism.

Eva Cosse from Human Rights Watch admits that there has been some progress, notably the appointment of a special prosecutor in Athens, but "there is still a lot of work to do".

"They need to assure that every migrant and asylum seeker, even undocumented, has the right to access the judicial system," she told AFP.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Greece has warned US citizens travelling to Greece to be wary of "a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived as foreign migrants".

"US citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic or Middle Eastern descent in Athens and other major cities," the statement on the embassy's website, first posted last November, reads.

Read more on:    un  |  eu  |  human rights watch  |  greece  |  human rights  |  nazis

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


'Zuma's legacy will be judged by Nkandla'

The legacy of President Jacob Zuma is contingent on how he deals with the issue of upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, says Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The Blackberry Bold Touch 9900 is as the name says...

From R3565.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you feel...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.