ATHENS A drive by the far-right Golden Dawn party to get Greeks to donate blood only for their fellow citizens has outraged doctors and medical authorities, who have slammed the initiative as racist and inhuman.
Golden Dawn, which enjoyed unprecedented success in last month's election after promising to rid Greece of all immigrants, put up posters in Athens calling for volunteers to donate blood "only for Greeks who need our help."
"All the bottles of blood we collect will be handed over to patients we choose and to no one else," the party said in a statement. "This right to choose belongs not just to Golden Dawn members, but to all volunteer blood donors."
The party, which denies it is neo-Nazi, said it had managed to get such a blood bank up and running at a state hospital in Athens.
But health officials said this would be illegal, and the hospital's manager, Yiannis Stefanou, said there would be no discrimination as the rules required all blood donations to be made available to all patients who need them.
One of the biggest doctors' unions in Athens said the Golden Dawn initiative was an "insane, unscientific, illegal and racist action" and promised to do everything necessary to protect the "sacred procedure of blood donation".
"This would be inhuman. If someone needs blood, he or she should have every right to get it no matter who they are," a health ministry official said.
Golden Dawn, which won seats in parliament this year for the first time, has been flaunting its success by pushing increasingly prominent anti-immigrant initiatives in recent weeks.
Five years of recession linked to the euro zone debt crisis have fuelled increasingly virulent anti-immigrant sentiment in Greece, which has long struggled to cope with an influx of illegal migrants from Asia and Africa.
(Reporting by Maria Paravantes, writing by Deepa Babington, editing by Tim Pearce)