Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2013 - Greece

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 24 September 2013
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2013 - Greece, 24 September 2013, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Violent attacks and racist and xenophobic political activities intensified in the country after the neo-Nazi extremist party Golden Dawn won 6.9 per cent of the votes for the Hellenic Parliament in June. In December the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe urged the Greek authorities to take firm and effective action to ensure that the activities of Golden Dawn do not violate the free and democratic political order or the rights of any individuals.

At the same time, illegal immigration remained a real political issue for the country, which is already struggling with the impact of the eurozone crisis. According to the European Commission, 40 per cent of the Middle East and South Asia migrants who entered the EU without the required documents in 2012 came through Greece. The country, which is due to complete a 12.5 km long anti-migrant wall along its Turkish border, deployed 1,881 additional guards on its border to prevent a surge of Syrian refugees from Turkey.

The poor treatment of refugees and asylum seekers is an ongoing concern. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, urged the country to protect migrants but at the same time underlined the responsibility of the EU to fund and support measures to establish a civilian asylum and first reception centre that would effectively screen migrants with vulnerabilities. He had himself witnessed many unaccompanied minors without documentation living under highway underpasses and without any government support.

Meanwhile, in August, authorities carried out one of the country's biggest crackdowns on suspected undocumented migrants in Athens, deploying 4,500 police officers in the capital and detaining more than 7,000 migrants in less than 72 hours. Most were released, but about 2,000, mostly from Africa and Asia, were arrested and sent to holding centres pending deportation. The first detention centre for undocumented migrants opened in April. The centre, north-west of Athens, which is composed of box homes and is surrounded by high wire fences, is meant to house some 1,200 people. A further 50 centres are planned to be built by mid-2013. Previously, plans were announced by the government to hold illegal immigrants in detention for compulsory health checks and treatment for HIV/AIDS and other contagious ailments, and hold them indefinitely if they are considered a risk to public health. In its 2012 overview of the conditions of persons excluded from health care systems in the EU, MdM stated that over 70 per cent of the violence suffered by migrant patients occurred after their arrival in the country.

Throughout 2012 brutal assaults against migrants by people affiliated to Golden Dawn and by other perpetrators were steadily increasing. In Crete, a 25-year-old homeless Egyptian man was beaten with metal bars. He had to have life-saving surgery, which ended with the removal of a kidney. Just a day before, a group of four men attacked two Algerian migrants with iron and wooden bars and knives. The two men in their mid-20s were treated for extensive head injuries and stab wounds. Police arrested 25 men in connection with an attack on a Pakistani man at the Attiki metro station and confirmed that many were members of the Golden Dawn party. The party has several initiatives related to health (such as blood supplies) that are open for Greek citizens only if they can prove they have a Greek father and show a Greek identity card. Civil society and private initiatives, however, have launched programmes that help all people, including minorities. The Boroume non-profit organization for example organizes the distribution of surplus food for charity throughout the country.

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