Greeks turn anger on immigrants

Greeks are to vote for the EU bailout deal as soon as possible. And as the country's economy teeters on the brink of collapse, the austerity-hit public is struggling with poverty and unemployment.

­On the streets of Greece protests have become a common occurrence. Now, their frustration is also turning to immigrants, who they blame for making the situation even worse.

An Afghan refugee tells RT that it is particularly dangerous to be a refugee in Greece now, especially in Athens.

Over the last few years, illegal immigration into Europe and Greece in particular has skyrocketed, whilst the Greek economy has plummeted.

“The crisis has led to unemployment, to poverty, increasing to a lot of people not being able to make ends meet,” Professor of Economics Tsakalotos Efklidis explains.

Faced with these tough economic conditions, it is not just extreme factions of society that have seen a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, but everyday Greeks who, faced with exceptionally tough social circumstances, have begun to point the finger of blame.

The streets of Athens have become a kind of limbo now for illegal immigrants, who are struggling to make money and survive. Even second-generation immigrants, who have lived in the country for many years, are feeling the tension.

RT’s crew visited one of Greece’s neighborhoods dubbed a “danger zone”, for its high immigrant population. A local park here has become a battleground of its own kind.

“We had to close the park because it was overrun with immigrants,” Local Councilor Spyros Dianatos tells RT. “They’d piss everywhere in the park, near the church mural. No one could cross the park, everybody was scared, and no Greek people could come here. It was not a playground anymore.”

The children are now forced to play their games outside the closed gates of the park after this area was named a “danger zone”. But whether or not the threat is real, the fear in this neighborhood certainly is.

“There is an issue, because it’s a symbol of the area,” says Leonidas Koukas, a resident of the “danger zone”. “They say it’s because of the immigrants… [They could just] close it after midnight… but to be closed like this, when there are children playing – I don’t see the reason.”

But as the euro crisis continues, ethnic tensions have been growing, leading to an extremely volatile and sometimes dangerous situation.

“We couldn’t go out of our house at nighttime, we are afraid, this is clear,” the same Afghan immigrant said.

Greece is a country now in the midst of not just a financial and economic crisis, but an immigration crisis too. However, finding a way to rebuild social cohesion here is not going to be easy.