The Racist Violence Recording Network was set up at the initiative of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece (UNHCR), with the participation of 18 non-governmental organizations and other bodies, including Aitima, Antigoni, Doctors of the World, Amnesty International, Hellenic League for Human Rights, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Migrants, Greek Forum of Refugees, “Babel” Day Centre, Movement for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Patras), METAdrasi, Ecumenical Refugee Program, Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants, Group of Lawyers for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Thessaloniki), Forum of Migrants in Crete, i-RED Institute for Rights, Equality and Diversity and PRAKSIS, as well as the Greek Ombudsman as observer. All participating bodies have concluded a cooperation agreement with the aim of filling the gap caused by the absence of a formal and effective system for recording incidents and trends of racism and racist violence in Greece, in accordance with Greece’s international and European obligations. The Network is open to all bodies which meet the necessary participation requirements, namely: offer medical, social, and legal services or/and come into direct contact with victims of racist violence.
On 1 October 2011, the Network launched a pilot program aimed at systematically recording racially motivated acts of violence. A common Racist Incident Record Form was used, thus allowing clear and comprehensive indications on the quantitative and qualitative trends of racist violence in Greece. During the pilot trimester program, most incidents were recorded in the geographic working areas of participating bodies, namely in areas of central Athens (close to Omonoia, Attiki square and Agios Panteleimonas) and in certain areas of Patras. Due to serious geographic restrictions and a recording method based on victims’ unsolicited testimony, results represent only minimally the real situation. Participating bodies realized that even when the victim, usually bearing signs of a recent violent attack, seeks help resorting to their services, he/she avoids pressing charges. The reasons for this unwillingness could be attributed to fear, lack of trust in the system and sometimes, passive familiarity with racist behavior.
In brief, 63 incidents of racist violence were recorded during the period 1.10.2011-31.12.2011. The vast majority –51 incidents- involved more than one perpetrators.
Facts about perpetrators: 18 perpetrators seem to act as members of extremist groups and 26 as individual citizens. Most perpetrators are men (61 against 2 women). Yet, it is to be noted that in group assaults, women are also involved.
Facts about victims: men outnumber women by a ratio of 56 to 7 (in incidents involving more than one victim, recording was based on a single victim’s testimony). Victims mostly come from Afghanistan (25), Sub-Saharan Africa (21), Bangladesh (4) and Pakistan (2).
Of all victims, 27 are undocumented, 23 are asylum seekers, 5 are legal residents, 1 is a recognized refugee and 1 is granted subsidiary protection status (in 6 cases, the status of victim is unknown).
Facts about the act of violence: mostly physical assaults (30) and serious injuries (12) (10 in need of medical treatment). Cases of property damage have also been recorded (damage of a grocery delivery vehicle, arson attack on a flower shop).
The pilot trimester program revealed a trend of group violence with the participation of minors. Such acts are characterized by rudimentary organization in public areas (squares, etc.) and the use of improvised, yet potentially lethal, weapons. Moreover, there is a practice of “patrolling” by motorcyclists dressed in black, wearing helmets or covering their face, who attack while moving and often target people at bus stops. These groups usually have big dogs to intimidate. Attacks against women involve insults regarding their sexual dignity with explicit reference to their skin color.
There is a distinct category consisting of 18 incidents, where police and racist violence are interlinked (10 in Athens and 8 in Patras). These incidents concern duty police officers, who resorted to illegal acts and violent practices while carrying out routine operations. There are a few recorded cases of migrants and asylum seekers taken to police stations, where they were detained and maltreated during a certain number of hours, as well as cases where legal documents were destroyed during these operations. In one case, a police officer destroyed the drugs of a migrant provided by a NGO medical centre.
The Racist Violence Recording Network notes that the results of this pilot application are extremely alarming while mounting concern derives from the fact that the recorded incidents are not even the tip of the iceberg. Several factors, such as the short-term pilot period, the network’s restricted funds, the need to bolster cooperation with migrant communities and the repeated reports of racist incidents in areas other than those frequented by participating bodies, reveal that racist violence is spreading at a terrifying speed and presents a further threat to social cohesion. Particular attention should be paid to the fact that in the current context of economic recession, rupture of the social fabric and rapid marginalization of certain groups, the phenomenon risks running out of control.
The Racist Violence Recording Network reminds that impunity fuels criminality, perpetuates the vicious circle of violence and incites social conflicts. For these reasons, the Network proposes to the State:
- the creation of a common special system for recording racist crimes, which will be administered by the Ministry of Justice. This system will bring together all data derived from NGOs, hospitals and other competent bodies.
- the ongoing cooperation with the Racist Violence Recording Network, NGOs and migrant communities, who come into contact with victims, with a view to identify proper solutions and plan specific measures against racist violence.
- the formulation of special guidelines on police investigation procedures related to racist crimes, the fight against police indifference towards such behavior and the assurance that perpetrators are brought to justice, under current laws.
The organizations and bodies participating in the Network are aware that the serious problems of downgrading and increased criminality characterizing a number of areas with a great percentage of marginalized migrants and refugees, provide fertile ground for social tensions, xenophobic behavior, even tolerance of racially motivated acts of violence by certain segments of the population, to flourish. Therefore, they underline that the aforementioned proposals to efficiently deal with incidents of racist violence, should be accompanied by measures and policies to improve security in neighborhoods, crack down on human trafficking rings, drug trafficking, prostitution and criminality, upgrade these areas and relieve the entire population, limit the ghettoisation of destitute/homeless migrants and refugees and promote their social integration, where possible.