Judges: Immigrants are more likely to be offenders than victims

Judges are loath to be called racist and try to be unprejudiced so as not to be characterized as such. As people, however, they share the fears, worries and reservations of the greater part of Greek society toward migrants. As functionaries of the judiciary, when at the bench, they do not differentiate – or more precisely, declare they do not discriminate – between nationalities and races. The responses given by the 250 judges who took part in the study conducted by Vagena-Palaiologou were a pleasant surprise, as accusations and reports in the press have at various times revealed prejudiced behavior toward migrants. Naturally, the research identified certain areas where a great deal still needs to be done before foreigners living in Greece can fully enjoy the benefits of the system of justice, as was pointed out by the administrative judges. According to research findings: 1. The majority of judges blamed «foreigners living in Greece» for the rise in the crime rate; 35.6 percent believed that foreigners were entirely responsible for the rise in crime, 52.8 percent that they were partially responsible, and only 11.2 percent that they were not responsible. In fact, they made reference to certain nationalities as being more often involved in crime than others, namely Albanians and Romanians. 2. The majority of judges also said that foreigners were more often the offenders than victims. Crime committed by migrants was the result of financial, social and cultural problems. More specifically, 62 percent said they believed that foreigners were more often the offenders than the victims, 7.2 percent considered them to be victims and 29.2 percent both victims and offenders. ‘Too many migrants’ 3. Most judges think there are too many migrants currently living in Greece today; 60.8 percent claimed the number of foreigners in Greece is «very high,» 32.5 percent «high» and only 2.8 percent did not consider it to be particularly high. 4. To the question of whether they consider foreigners dangerous, 42 percent of judges replied negatively, 16.8 percent responded in the affirmative, while 40.8 percent stated that the situation was also due to other factors, as is true of Greeks in general. 5. When asked to state their feelings toward migrants, 45.2 percent of judges said they liked them, mainly as a result of the difficult circumstances they believe foreigners face in Greece, 16 percent responded neutrally and 15.6 percent declared that they had mixed feelings toward foreigners, that sometimes they liked them and other times feared them. Feelings of pity, sympathy and wariness were expressed by 9.6 percent of respondents. However, as many as 13.6 percent said they felt fear and dislike toward migrants. 6. An overwhelming majority of the judges (85.2 percent) thought that foreigners living in Greece could be protected by Greek law. Nevertheless, 14.4 percent were of the opinion that migrants were not protected in the same way as Greeks. A large majority (74.8 percent) did not think that being foreign affected a judge’s decision, while 24.8 percent claimed that it did. However, a fairly large majority (67.7 percent) said that being foreign had an adverse effect. Public unfavorable 7. Most judges (76.4 percent) said they thought public opinion was poorly disposed toward foreigners. Indeed, 54.8 percent of judges thought that racism exists or is latent in Greek society. However, one in two judges said that this racism is due to the behavior of migrants, whereas 20.4 percent attributed racist attitudes to xenophobia. This reply would suggest that judges seem to be turning against migrants and exonerating Greek society from any existing or latent racism. The replies given by administrative judges were particularly interesting: 100 percent said they thought that foreigners could not be protected in the same way as Greeks by the Greek judiciary. The majority (57.1 percent) thought foreigners did not fully enjoy all legal guarantees and one in two of the administrative judges who took part in the study claimed that being a foreigner had an adverse effect on the judge’s decision, while all agreed that it probably had an adverse effect. In the study, personal interviews were conducted with 15 Supreme Court judges, 13 court of appeals presidents, 32 court of first instance presidents, 72 court of first instance judges, 11 associate judges of the court of first instance, 11 magistrates, nine police magistrates, four Supreme Court deputy public prosecutors, six appeals court prosecutors, 10 deputy public prosecutors of the court of appeals, 16 court of first instance prosecutors, 18 deputy public prosecutors of the court of first instance, eight prosecution presidents, three court of first instance presidents and four court of first instance judges.

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