Refugees and migrants living in Greece attend an anti-racism rally in central Athens, Greece | Photo: EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS
Refugees and migrants living in Greece attend an anti-racism rally in central Athens, Greece | Photo: EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

Violent, racist attacks on migrants and refugees in Greece have skyrocketed in the last year, according to the findings of a new report released by the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) organization.

The report shows a worrying and dangerous trend in Greece. From January to December 2018, there were at least 117 incidents of racist violence, with more than 130 victims, according to the RVRN. In 63 percent of those incidents, the violence was directed at migrants, refugees or those that support them. The total number of anti-migrant incidents rose by 117 percent from 2017 to 2018. 

The incidents counted by the RVRN do not just include violent attacks against refugees, migrants or human rights activists, but also violent vandalism against a memorial for the victims of shipwrecks. 

"The RVRN has documented that support for racist violence has increased, as attacks are carried out by groups which proudly profess their extreme xenophobic ideologies," RVRN's assistant coordinator, Tina Stavrinaki, told reporters. 

Overwhelmed by the number of migrants, refugees

Greece has seen a massive influx of migrants since 2015, with thousands of people from war-torn countries like Syria seeking safety there. They either cross the Aegean Sea to get to the small southeast European country or its land border with Turkey. 

Overall, it is estimated that Greece's population of asylum seekers will surpass the 90,000 mark by the end of 2019. Greece's Minister for Migration Policy recently conceded that - with its current systems and infrastructure - the country only has the capacity to process 20,000 asylum applications per year. In 2018, there were 67,000 applications.

Many Greek people themselves are struggling to get by, as the country is still reeling from the fallout of a massive economic crisis.

Growing tension

Observers say that while many Greeks have been welcoming to migrants and refugees, some have grown hostile to the foreigners. In migrant and refugee hotspots, on the north east Aegean islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, for example, as well is in Northern Greece and in and around Athens, some local communities have grown frustrated with the consistently overcrowded migrant camps nearby. 

Far-right groups like the extremist Golden Dawn party have reportedly seized on locals who have become disgruntled with the situation. 

Kalliopi Stefanaki, Protection Officer at UNHCR, said: "There is a clear link between the absence of durable solutions for the reception and integration of refugees with racist attacks against them."

School controversy in Samos

An example of racist attacks against refugees in Greece is the recent controversy at a school on Samos - though the incident never became violent. A group of local parents from one of the island's primary schools kept their children from school for "health reasons" to protest against migrant children being allowed to attend classes. The parents ended their protest after three weeks - after the local government and other parents had plead for them to let their children return, and after they had been threatened with legal action. The unsavory affair drew widespread criticism from many Greek citizens.

NOTE: The RVRN'S full report can be found here

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