By Pantelis Houlakis & Yiannis Souliotis
Brutal attacks against migrants in Greece are becoming almost a daily occurrence, with violent mobs acting almost unhindered as police have failed to make any significant arrests.
As well as Attica, where numerous such assaults have been recorded in the past month or so, there have also been reports of similar attacks on the island of Crete, where two extremely violent incidents were carried out in as many days this week.
In the early hours of Monday, a group of unidentified assailants jumped a 25-year-old homeless Egyptian man who had found temporary shelter at Talo Square in Hania’s Nea Hora district. They beat him with metal bars, causing extensive injuries all over his body. The victim was taken to Hania Hospital, where he had to have lifesaving surgery which included the removal of a kidney.
In the early hours of the previous day, a group of four men attacked two Algerian migrants in their mid-20s who were sleeping near the Nea Hora beach. The assailants used iron bars, wooden bats and knives in the assault, and robbed the pair of their mobile phones and money. Hania Hospital treated them for extensive head injuries and stab wounds.
Back in Attica, late on Sunday night, a gang of young men assaulted a Pakistani migrant at the Attiki metro station, in an incident that was recorded by a bystander on a mobile phone camera. Police arrested 25 people in connection with the attack and confirmed that several were members of the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party, which was elected into Parliament on Sunday with 6.9 percent of the vote on an anti-migrant platform. When the victim of the Attiki station assault failed to positively identify his attackers, all 25 suspects were released from custody.
These attacks did not come out of the blue, as such incidents have been steadily increasing recently in frequency, causing rising concern among the majority of Greeks.
The first of this recent spate came on the night of May 28, when a Greek man, who remains at large, stabbed a Pakistani national at the Aghios Nikolaos electric railway (ISAP) station.
A day later, a gang brutally beat a Bangladeshi man, also at Aghios Nikolaos station. Witnesses of both attacks said they believed the attackers to be supporters of Golden Dawn, though police investigations could not confirm this.
On the evening of June 1, several Golden Dawn supporters were arrested after attacking a number of migrants they spotted while on a motorcycle rally through the capital -- in central Athens, as well as on Iera Odos and Pireos streets, south of the center. Among those taken into custody was the daughter of Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos.
Again, no one was arrested.
On June 12, an Egyptian man, who was working legally as a fisherman, was viciously beaten (photo) during a mob attack on the home he shared with another three compatriots in Perama, outside Piraeus, in the middle of the night. He told police that at least one of the assailants was wearing a T-shirt with the Golden Dawn logo on it. Five men and one woman were arrested after the victim identified them as being among his attackers. They testified before a Piraeus prosecutor last week and were conditionally released.
In Hania, however, local groups are trying to get a handle on the situation and responded to the latest assaults with the creation of the Anti-Fascist Initiative, holding an open meeting at the town’s soup kitchen in order to discuss the problem and ways of dealing with it.
Representatives of local groups condemned the attacks and called for immediate police action so that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
According to Yiannis Tsoukatos, a member of the Steki Metanaston migrant support center and rights group, the attacks are most likely racially motivated.
“They were carried out by a gang that most probably has a racial motivation,” Tsoukatos said. “These immigrants live within our society and they have never harmed anyone. Unfortunately, they had no work and were forced to sleep outdoors,” he added of the three recent victims, who were known by the local community as quiet people who could often be seen lining up for food at the soup kitchen.
Late on Tuesday, the Hania branch of the Steki Metanaston released a statement saying: “Society as a whole needs to stand united and strong against such phenomena of extreme racism. We need to create a protective net around all people against these fascist gangs. This is not just about the migrants or those who help and support them, but about society as a whole because migrants are the fascists’ first target because they are the weakest target. Then it will be everyone else.”
Meanwhile, two anti-racism rallies have been organized in Nea Hora next week, at 7 p.m. on Monday and Thursday, to condemn the attacks.
According to regional councilor Serafeim Rizos, “the murderous attacks of the past few days against economic migrants must be condemned by the whole of society, because it is the business of everyone to stop the spread of such phenomena.”
Hania bar representative Nikos Tzaras said on Wednesday that the attacks are a breach of the civil code and have no ideological content. They are committed, he said, “by people who have no regard for human life and who have no connection to society. The police must investigate these crimes and society must consider the magnitude of the problem.”