Report urges Greece to take action against migrant hate crimes

A leading human rights organization has issued a report urging Greece to take "urgent action" to stop the "alarming" increase of attacks against Asian and African immigrants.

The extensive report issued by US-based Human Rights Watch said xenophobic attacks, including stabbings and serious beatings, in Athens have increased over the past two years. They urged the Greek government to create a national strategy to combat race-related crime.

"It is very shocking to see that scale of violence, of that frequency and that brutality in a European country ... People face certainly the risk of an attack on a daily basis," Judith Sunderland, the lead researcher and author of the report said. "We spoke with 79 migrants and asylum seekers and out of those 59 had experienced some kind of an attack. And 51 had experienced an attack that caused actual harm. We are convinced this is the tip of the iceberg. Most people don't report the violence ... Undocumented migrants fear they will be arrested and deported."

Greece is the European Union's busiest transit point for illegal immigration and has seen a sharp rise in crime since the financial crisis began in late 2009.

Following six months of research in Athens and other Greek cities, Human Rights Watch published the report titled "Hate on the Streets – Xenophobic Violence in Greece". The report said attacks most frequently occurred in or near Athens and the western city of Patras.

"Xenophobic violence has reached alarming proportions in Greece," the report said. "The Greek authorities must take urgent action to crack down on this alarming phenomenon."

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