Seeds of hatred sprout in soil of Greek crisis

Gangs are attacking immigrants all over Greece – a fact ignored by authorities, says Human Rights Watch. Some are allegedly linked to the far-right Golden Dawn party. Migrants are blamed for crimes and for eating into shrinking government subsidies.

­Moreover, police often discourage victims from filing complaints and sometimes even threaten them with detention if they insist on an investigation.

“Migrants and asylum seekers spoke to Human Rights Watch of virtual no-go areas in Athens after dark because of fear of attacks by often black-clad groups of Greeks intent on violence,” says Tuesday’s report by the advocacy group, as cited by Reuters. “While tourists are welcome, migrants and asylum seekers face a hostile environment, where they may be subject to detention in inhuman and degrading conditions, and risk destitution and xenophobic violence.”

The report is based on interviews with 59 people who experienced racist attacks between August 2009 and May 2012. In two of these cases, the attacks were directed against pregnant women.

Human Rights Watch says certain facts suggest that perpetrators attacking migrants are associated with local vigilante groups and the far-right Golden Dawn party. It had no evidence, however, that the group directed such attacks.

The party itself, which campaigned on a pledge to clear Greece of all immigrants, denies any connection with violence directed against migrants, as well as denying its ideology is neo-Nazi.

Greece is a major gateway for illegal migrants from Asia and Africa flocking to the European Union for a better life. The issue has become particularly painful as the country goes through its fifth straight year of recession and record-high unemployment is fuelling anti-immigrant sentiment.

Lawmakers of the extreme-right ultra nationalist Golden Dawn party are sworn in during the inaugural session of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 28, 2012. (AFP Photo/Louisa Gouliamaki)
Lawmakers of the extreme-right ultra nationalist Golden Dawn party are sworn in during the inaugural session of the Greek parliament in Athens on June 28, 2012. (AFP Photo/Louisa Gouliamaki)

­Scapegoating as new national ideology

­Meanwhile, violent clashes between supporters of the Golden Dawn party and groups of anarchists shook the western city of Agrinio on Monday night. Police reports say that the fighting caused considerable damage to cars and shops, leaving the city's streets in a mess.

Yanis Varoufakis, an economist and lecturer at Athens University, says that “the serpent’s egg” of hatred begins to hatch whenever people lose hope and those spreading the hatred end up as the only winners.

“It should act as a warning for all of us that whenever a social economy implodes, as opposed to just going to a recession, scapegoating becomes the order of the day,” he told RT.

Greece’s authorities themselves are infiltrated by this kind of mentality, says the economist.

“We have, unfortunately, an extremely cozy relationship between neo-Nazis and police, and we have neo-Nazis in Parliament. And we have the breakdown, effectively, of the consensus that prevails since World War II in Greece, where fascism and Nazism were simply not on,” he explained.

“The only people who win are the ones who spread the [seeds] and narratives of hatred,” Varoufakis concluded.

The ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party, whose flag closely resembles the Nazi swastika, got around 7 per cent of the vote, which launched it from obscurity to win 21 seats in Greece’s Parliament in the May 6 election – the first time it had passed the threshold to enter the legislative body. More than half of the country’s police officers voted for Golden Dawn.