Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Italy abandons refugees, while attacks on refugees in Greece run parallel to rise of neo-Nazi group

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 10, 2012

Whenever certain countries fall on hard economic times, almost like clockwork far-right groups and populist opinion rear up to blame the problems on scapegoats who have nothing or little to do with the issues. A favorite target time and again is refugees and immigrants, whether it be in the US, Israel, Egypt, Greece or Italy. Currently, the Greek government and police have decided to turn a blind eye while apparently a neo-Nazi group/far-right gangs brutalize refugees and asylum seekers. An article at Dawn Media has the story:

ATHENS: Xenophobic attacks on migrants and refugees are flaring up in Greece where economic hardship and crime have fueled the rise of the far-right and vigilante gangs, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

Xenophobic violence is a pervasive, shocking and well-known fact,” Judith Sunderland, the US-based watchdog’s senior researcher for Western Europe, told a news conference in Athens.

We are not seeing an adequate response from the Greek state … We found arrests are rare and police inaction is the general rule.”

The group said it had interviewed 59 people who experienced or escaped a xenophobic incident between August 2009 and May 2012.

Most involved serious beatings of migrants and asylum seekers and included two pregnant women, HRW said, pointing to an emerging pattern of attacks.

The assailants, operating in gangs that sometimes include women, often wear dark clothing and obscure their faces with motorcycle helmets.

Most use fists, clubs or beer bottles, exhorting the victims to leave Greece and occasionally robbing them as well.

The attacks run parallel to the rise of a neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn, that has promised to rid the country of illegal migrants and last month elected 18 deputies to parliament for the first time in Greek political history.

Although no known police analysis or court ruling has linked the citizens’ groups or Golden Dawn with groups carrying out violent attacks on migrants and asylum seekers, there is some evidence to suggest that the attackers are members of or associated with these groups,” the HRW report said... Read more here

Italy’s government in the meantime has apparently decided to continue its abandonment of legally recognized refugees. An article in The Financial Times explains:

The stench from one toilet and one shower for 250 people permeates sweltering corridors and windowless cubby-holes. Asafaw, young and mentally disturbed from his years in the Eritrean army, gazes vacantly from a camp bed, still wearing military fatigues.

Salaam (peace) Palace, as it is known to its more than 800 inhabitants – all fugitives from war or persecution in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia – resembles those familiar hellholes found near battle zones across the globe. But this derelict, eight-storey, former government building illegally occupied by desperate refugees stands on the edge of Rome, capital of the world’s eighth-biggest economy.

Unknown to almost all Italians, Salaam Palace is nonetheless well-known in the Horn of Africa as the final destination to be reached at the end of a long and treacherous journey across desert and sea.

Last week it received an unusual visitor in the form of Nils Muiznieks, Europe’s top human rights official who expressed strong criticism of Italy under its technocrat government, based on its treatment of refugees, detained immigrants and the Roma, as the gypsy communities prefer to call themselves.

I saw a window of opportunity in this government to push for a more complete break with past practices,” Mr Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, told the Financial Times, voicing shock and disappointment at what he had witnessed.

Italy is relatively generous in giving refugee status but very little after that,” he said of the refugees in Salaam Palace, noting that the municipality had even cut off water supplies to the building for three days last month.

Effectively abandoned by a system that provides no work, money or shelter, the refugees get asylum status but are then “ghosts” trapped in a Kafka-esque nightmare… Read more here

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