‘Migrants bring crime, but we like them’

«Is there racism in the judiciary and police?» This was the probing question that Evangelia Vagena-Palaiologou, a legal functionary and doctor in criminology, tried to answer in a seven-year study she conducted. A delicate question to respond to indeed. Who wants to be called racist, or to call themselves racist? The survey was conducted with personal interviews. The replies also are crucial, as those who have been nominated to positions in the judiciary and police are obliged to mete out justice and keep law and order, regardless of nationality and race. As Vagena-Palaiologou points out: «These ideologically loaded words ‘racism and xenophobia’ as the theme of the study often seemed to provoke a reaction in the respondents. Apparently they were afraid of being labeled as ‘racist.’» The survey findings confirm this, as both the judges and police officers questioned, whose opinion of immigrants was not very high, declared, however, that it did not influence their work. «There are many foreigners; they are to blame for the rise in crime; they are offenders rather than victims; and racism exists or is latent in Greek society, for which the immigrants themselves are to blame,» the respondents declared. However, at the same time, they also confessed to liking foreigners and believed that their rights are protected by the Greek judiciary. Not surprisingly, one in four judges said that if the accused was a foreigner this adversely affected their judgment in the case. Foreigners are to blame for the rise in crime, according to the police, half of whom have a neutral or negative opinion of foreigners. What is particularly alarming is that 13.6 percent of the police respondents said they believed that foreigners should be treated with greater severity.

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