Annual Report 2020

Racism and the Pandemic: The New Reality and the Institutional Impact

The Racist Violence Recording Network captures the trends of racist violence in Greece for 2020

Athens, 22 April 2021 The results that came up by the recording of incidents of violence with racist motive during 2020, were presented today -Thursday 22 April- by the Racist Violence Recording Network, in an online Press Conference. This is the tenth Report published by the Network, capturing the quantitative and qualitative trends of racist violence in Greece.

The event was addressed by Panos Alexandris, General Secretary of Justice and Human Rights and President of the Council against Racism and Intolerance, Mireille Girard, UNHCR Representative (a.i.) in Greece and Professor Maria Gavouneli, President of the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR). The main conclusions of the Report were presented by Garyfallia Anastassopoulou, Assistant Coordinator of the Network, followed by a public discussion on the topic Racism and the Pandemic: The New Reality and the Institutional Impact with the participation of the following representatives of the Networks members:

  • Mokhtar Rezai, President of the Afghan Migrant and Refugee Community in Greece, member of the Greek Forum of Refugees and the Greek Forum of Migrants
  • Evgenia Kouniaki, Lawyer, HumanRights360
  • Efi Latsoudi, Social Scientist, Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)
  • Anna Apergi, Director / Empowerment Manager of Trans & LGBTQI Individuals, Greek Transgender Support Association
  • Nathanael Linardis, Project Manager of the project Tell us, Colour Youth, Athens LGBTQ Youth Community.

The online event was coordinated by journalist Maria Psara.

During 2020, an unusual year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the Network recorded through interviews with the victims, 107 incidents of racist violence with the following characteristics:

  • In 74 incidents the targets were migrants, refugees, or asylum-seekers due to their ethnic origin, religion or/and colour, human rights defenders due to their association with refugees and migrants, as well as shelters or facilities providing other services for the said groups.
  • In 30 incidents the victims were LGBTQI+ individuals.
  • In 3 incidents the victims where Greek citizens who were targeted due to ethnic origin.
  • In 50 incidents the targets were more than one victim, whereas in 77 incidents the assault was committed by a group (of at least 2 persons).

Regarding the perpetrators profile:

  • In 23 incidents the perpetrators were law enforcement officials, while in 4 the perpetrators were public officials.
  • In 59 incidents civilians were involved.
  • In 3 incidents the perpetrators were employers.
  • In 3 incidents the victims believe that the perpetrators are associated with extremist groups.
  • In 13 incidents the victims identified the perpetrators as mixed groups of civilians and members of extremist groups, while in 2, the victims reported that they were harassed by law enforcement officials, who were called by the perpetrators.

The new reality brought about by the pandemic has strongly affected the recordings of incidents of racist violence. The restrictions on the operation of the Network members services and facilities, as well as the movement restrictions (lockdown), led to the limited arrival of beneficiaries to those services and facilities. Despite the restrictions on victims access to recordings, the total number of the Networks recordings for 2020 is slightly higher than the previous year (100 incidents recorded in 2019) and in general stands at the same levels as the Networks recordings in recent years. This indicates that in 2020 the Networks recordings are, more than ever, the tip of the iceberg.

As highlighted during the event, the Network recorded incidents that are either directly or indirectly related to the pandemic. Refugees and asylum-seekers are perceived as a threat to public health, while discrimination against specific target groups in terms of access to services, intensifies. Harassments, arbitrariness and violence with racist motives by police representatives, during checks on movement restriction measures, affect almost all targeted groups, while the number of racist violence incidents where perpetrators are public officials has dropped, as expected, given the limited operation of public services with physical presence, due to pandemic-related measures.

In 2020, the Network recorded also an increase in incidents of racist violence against refugees, migrants but also human rights defenders who were targeted due to their affiliation with the above-mentioned groups. In 2019, the incidents against these groups were 51, while in 2020 they amounted to 74. The periodic intensification of these incidents is inextricably linked to the institutional targeting of refugees, migrants, and supporters. A the same time, the restriction of movement for refugees in public spaces, in the context of measures adopted against the pandemic, combined with reduced flows, seems to contribute to the invisibility of the specific target group and to the reduction of recorded incidents against them.

However, the causes of the problem, but also the perpetrators motives, continue to exist. The involvement of the same perpetrators in more than one recorded incident, constitutes an indication of the above (this trend was recorded in 21 incidents, compared to 7 that were recorded in 2019). A specific characteristic of the above is the fact that the incidents where the perpetrators are citizens and/or members of extremist groups, take place in areas where refugees and migrants gather, mainly in areas with accommodation and reception facilities, while in certain periods there is an intensification of incidents, such as the first quarter of 2020, as well as in September-October 2020. In comparison to the previous years, the increase in incidents of racist violence recorded by the Network on the islands is indicative. From 2015 to 2019 the attacks on the Aegean islands with the most refugee flows (Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Leros, and Rhodes) ranged from 8% to 20% of the total recordings, while in 2020 they exceeded 40%.

Regarding incidents against LGBTQI+ individuals amidst the pandemic, those are observed in very specific public spaces (e.g. squares, streets), while in previous years they were scattered in many different areas of the public space. An additional element of the new conditions is that half of the incidents against LGBTQI+ individuals take place either inside the victims residence, combining domestic violence with the racist motive, or online. For LGBTQI+ individuals, confinement in the home environment is associated with the expression of violent behaviours by family members who do not accept the individuals sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2020, the problematic and highly harassing behaviour against transgender individuals by employers and colleagues, public officials, but also people unknown to ordinary civilians, challenging the right to self-determination, is verified once more. These recorded incidents show that transgender people suffer verbal abuse or other kind of violence which intensifies as their transitioning progresses and becomes more visible. At the same time, RVRN finds that in a significant number of incidents due to gender identity, the victims experience racist violence in their workplace.

You may find the RVRN annual report for 2020 here.

You may watch the online Press Conference for the presentation of the report here. (In Greek)

RVRN is coordinated by UNHCR in Greece and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights and is comprised of 51 Non-Governmental Organisations and civil society bodies, as well as the Greek Ombudsman and the Migrant Integration Council of the Municipality of Athens, as observers. Members: Aitima, Solidarity Now, Antigone -Information and Documentation Centre, University of Aegean Anti-Racist Observatory, Arsis, Doctors of the World (MdM), Amnesty International, Network for Childrens Rights, Network for Social Support of Refugees and Immigrants, Pleiades Hellenic Action for Human Rights, Hellenic League for Human Rights, Hellenic Red Cross, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Migrants, Greek Forum of Refugees, Human Rights Commission of the Bar Association of Rhodes, Positive Voice, Medical Intervention, Caritas Athens, Caritas Hellas, Centre for Research on Womens Issues Diotima, Center for Life, Babel Day Centre, SYNYPARXIS (Coexistence) ECUMENICAL REFUGEE PROGRAM, Network for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Patras), World Without War and Violence, LATHRA? Solidarity Committee for Chios refugees, METAction, Rainbow Families, Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants, Group of Lawyers for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Thessaloniki), Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, Association of Afghans United In Greece, Association of Social Workers of Greece, Greek Transgender Support Association, Faros tou Kosmou, Refugee Support Aegean, Act Up Hellas, ASANTE, Colour Youth LGBTQ Youth Community of Athens, Generation 2.0 RED,HIAS in Greece, HumanRights360, Melissa Network, PRAKSIS, A21, Simeio for studying and fighting the far-right, Lesvos Solidarity, Steps, Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity | Christian Peacemaker Teams.