ATHENS (Reuters) - Attacks by organized groups against migrants, refugees and activists have been creeping up in Greece, the Athens-based Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) said on Wednesday, and it called for zero tolerance towards racist violence.
In its 2017 annual report, RVRN said the living conditions of refugees and migrants on Greek islands, where thousands are stranded in dire, overcrowded camps, drove xenophobic rhetoric in local communities, sometimes with “extreme manifestations.”
It found violent assaults had increased in Athens too, and said perpetrators appeared to execute instructions given to them by their organizations based on pre-meditated plans.
“The RVRN alarmingly observes an increase in the number of assaults committed by groups employing ‘hit-and-run’ like practices,” the report said.
On the island of Leros, asylum-seekers reported they had been attacked by groups of motorcyclists using sharp objects. One pregnant woman said she was targeted because of her headscarf. In Athens, one man was verbally abused and beaten in the face at a bus stop, the report said.
RVRN, established in 2011 by the U.N. refugee agency in Greece and the National Commission for Human Rights, gives a broad definition of racist violence as “criminal or violent acts or behavior against people because of their ethnic origin, color, religion, gender identity, sexual preferences or disabilities.”
On the basis of interviews with victims, it recorded 102 incidents of such violence in 2017, more than a third of which resulted in injury. That was up from 95 incidents in 2016.
Most of the attacks were against lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender or intersex (LGBQTI) people, followed by those against refugees or migrants, which made up a third of all attacks. The number of attacks against LGBQTI people fell compared with the previous year.
Hostility toward migrants and refugees has risen in Greece since it plunged into an economic crisis in 2010. Actual numbers are likely to be higher than those reported as victims are sometimes too scared to report attacks to the police.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Hugh Lawson