Created on: January 23, 2013 Last Updated: January 24, 2013
About 5,000 protestors (including immigrants and human rights advocates) gathered on January 19, 2013, in Athens to protest the increasing violence against immigrants and the rise of Neo-Nazism, according to the wire service Reuters. The protest was spawned by the recent murder of 27-year-old Shehzad Luqman, a Pakistani immigrant who was killed while riding his bicycle to work in an Athens suburb. Two men on a motorcycle stabbed Luqman; after the men were captured, it was discovered that one of them had ultra-nationalistic material in his home.
The murder, which is thought to have been racially motivated, is just one of a string of recent killings as anti-immigrant attitudes are appearing to come to the fore in the face of increasing economic pressures in Greece. One of the two killers was a member of the Golden Dawn Party, which garnered 7 percent of the popular vote in the last Parliamentary elections, whose platform is to rid Greece of illegal immigrants.
Greece as gateway to Europe
Increasingly Greece has become a gateway for illegal immigrants escaping their own economic and political hardships. Most recently, Syrians and Afghanis have been smuggled (often by boat) across the permeable borders of Greece, where they seek work and asylum. According to the “Malaysian Insider,” newspaper, “Greece is a gateway for mostly Asian and African migrants trying to enter the European Union [EU] through its porous sea and land borders each year.”
Increasing pressure on already economically challenged nation
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says attacks have risen to alarming levels during the decades of economic stress. One in four Greeks are now unemployed, and living standards have declined significantly, applying pressure to an already tense situation.
Just over a month ago, the UNHRC called the situation in Greece “a humanitarian crisis,” calling on Greece and the EU to develop a “functioning asylum system.” Amnesty International reported that Greece was becoming a place of unsafe and inhumane treatment, with refugees often being forced back out to sea upon their arrival. The recent death of this Pakistani immigrant is seen as just one more brutal act in which Greek authorities have failed “to take decisive action against racially motivated violence.”
Deputy Program Director of Amnesty International Marek Marczynski noted, “This attack is not an isolated case. We have seen a dramatic escalation of racially motivated attacks over the past year.” Less than a month earlier, there were four other attacks on Egyptian nationals reported in areas such as Piraeus and Moschato.
Speaking at the Athens rally, one of the Afghani protestors noted, “Greek people have fought against fascism. It is our duty to continue our struggle. Democracy was born in this country. It must not die here.”
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