Residents ‘bullying’ migrants

Foreign residents and store owners in the central Athens district of Aghios Panteleimonas are being threatened by locals who oppose the growing presence of immigrants in their neighborhood, according to the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), which has lodged official complaints about alleged violence against immigrants and raids on their homes. According to the GCR, groups of local residents have been conducting night-time patrols of the neighborhood, threatening migrants on their way home but also foreign store owners. The council notes at least three cases in which unidentified intruders are alleged to have broken into apartments rented by immigrants. The intruders are alleged to have verbally abused the migrants and to have used pepper spray on them before warning them to move away from the area as soon as possible. Foreign store owners, some of whom have been in the area for years, are also said to be experiencing problems. Out of 12 foreign store owners in the area questioned by Kathimerini, 10 claimed to have been bullied on several occasions by locals. Three of these owners claimed to have visited a local police station but to have been told by officers that charges can only be brought against specific individuals. One of the store owners told Kathimerini that he receives almost daily visits from the local bullies. «They come into the store and tell us that they will beat us and torch our store if we do not close up early,» he said. One foreign store owner said that he approached a local resident to discuss the problem with him but was told: «We don’t want foreigners in our area. We are going to get rid of you one way or another.» Another migrant who lives in the area told Kathimerini that a group of residents barged into his home one recent evening. He said that one of the intruders grabbed him by the throat and asked: «Why are you still here? We told you to go.» In a related development yesterday, a migrant living in the area was hospitalized with cuts and bruises, police said. It was unclear whether the injuries had resulted from a brawl with another migrant or from a racially motivated attack.