The number of racially motivated attacks increased in Greece last year, as did the severity of the violence involved, human rights groups have said. The Racist Violence Recording Network reported 154 cases of racist violence in 2012, including 25 in which the victims said the perpetrators were police. The figures were released a week after more than 30 Bangladeshi workers suffered shotgun wounds on a strawberry farm in southern Greece during a dispute with foremen over back pay.
Kostis Papaioannou, the head of the National Commission for Human Rights, said the number of attacks recorded had increased 20% from the previous year. But, he noted, the true number could be much higher because many victims are afraid to come forward, fearing further mistreatment by authorities or deportation for entering the country illegally.
There have been numerous reports of police, who are at the forefront of a government crackdown on foreigners in the country illegally, mistreating immigrants during routine document checks on the street or during detentions. The police have repeatedly said they investigate all reported cases of mistreatment.
The network, composed of 30 aid and human rights groups, records cases only when it has spoken to the victim themselves. The 2012 figures show “some very interesting and very worrying tendencies regarding racist violence in Greece”, Papaioannou said. “We have both an increase in the numbers of attacks but also – which is really worrying too – we have an escalation in the intensity of this violence.”
The incidents have spiralled as Greece’s economy has worsened over the past few years. Relying on international rescue loans to remain solvent, the country has imposed deep spending cuts that have sent unemployment soaring to around 27%.
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