Under the continuing burden of recession and austerity measures imposed by the EU to manage Greek debt, many Greeks have been impoverished by unemployment, wage limits, reduced welfare benefits and rising household costs. At the same time, Greece has also experienced a large influx of migrants and refugees due to its geographic proximity to areas of conflict and displacement in the Middle East. The Greek coastguard detained over 17,000 undocumented migrants, over half from Syria, in the first eight months of 2014 alone. Inadequacies in the Greek asylum system over the last decade have resulted in thousands of migrants trapped in detention centres, suspended in a legal limbo without the necessary documentation. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted in its December 2014 ECRI Report on Greece that in the centre of Athens many migrants rent and live in sub-standard accommodation, often deprived of access to public social welfare services, with an increasing number who are homeless. According to the report, NGOs are barred by law from providing housing to undocumented migrants, adding to the destitution.

As the large-scale influx has coincided with one of Greece's worst economic and social crises for decades, attitudes towards the migrant and refugee population in Greece appear to be among the most negative in Europe. A Pew Research Center survey of seven EU countries (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom) in spring 2014 found that anti-immigrant sentiment was highest among respondents in Greece (86 per cent).

At its extreme, hostility towards migrants and refugees has extended to racist violence which has blighted some urban areas. According to the Greek Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) annual report for 2014, well over half of the incidents of hate crime recorded by the network in 2014 were committed against immigrants or refugees. The majority of attacks occurred in public places or on public transport, often in the centre of Athens in neighbourhoods with concentrations of immigrant and refugee residents. In the great majority of cases the victims believed they were targeted because of their ethnic identity and other characteristics marking them out as 'foreigners', such as skin colour and religion. Half of the attacks were reportedly carried out by groups of offenders, apparently including extremist groups. A number of the incidents were allegedly perpetrated by police officers; some occured in police stations and detention centres. While providing a picture of the racist and xenophobic violence occurring in urban areas in Greece, these incidents are likely to represent only a fraction of racist crimes committed given that many (especially undocumented) victims are reluctant to report them.

In addition to hostility against migrants and refugees, negative attitudes prevail about other minorities in Greece. Public attitudes towards Jews in Greece appear to be among the most negative in Europe. Almost half (47 per cent) of the respondents in Greece in the 2014 Pew Research Center survey were unfavourable towards Jews. Another survey, the Anti-Defamation League's ADL Global 100, also suggested that anti-Semitic attitudes were more prevalent in Greece than other European nations: 69 per cent of the survey's respondents in Greece were judged to be harbouring anti-Semitic attitudes on the basis of their agreement with anti-Semitic tropes presented in survey questions. However, despite the apparently high level of anti-Jewish sentiment in Greece suggested by these surveys, incidents of violence against Jews appear to be infrequent. This may be due to the small size of Greece's Jewish minority – numbering a little over 5,000 people, residing mostly in the cities of Athens, Larissa and Thessaloniki. However, cemeteries, Holocaust memorials and other sites have been targeted, with the number of incidents in 2014 reportedly exceeding the total for 2012 and 2013 together, according to the Antisemitism Worldwide 2014 report. This included, in December, the vandalization of a Jewish cemetery in Larissa with swastikas and abusive graffiti. Notably, however, there were no personal physical attacks against Jews reported.

Conditions for Greece's Roma community, estimated to be in the region of 265,000 persons, or approximately 2.5 per cent of the population, are characterized by social exclusion and deprivation. Many Roma live in sub-standard housing with inadequate water supply and sewage facilities on the periphery of urban areas and on the edge of small towns and villages. Roma have also been subject to racist abuse and violence. In November 2014, three men were convicted of a violent racist attack on a Roma woman Paraskevi Kokoni and her nephew in the town of Etoliko, western Greece, in the previous year. The victim believed that she was targeted because she is a relative of a leader of the local Roma community. This attack did not occur in isolation, but in the context of a series of threats and attacks attributed to members and supporters of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party.

Despite the strain on the Greek state in managing Greece's financial and social crisis there have been some positive developments. In September 2014 a new anti-racism law was adopted by the Greek parliament which strengthened the response to racist violence and incitement. An extensive investigation of Golden Dawn was pursued across 2014. The parliamentary immunity of all Golden Dawn MPs was removed and they were charged with membership of a criminal organization, along with other criminal charges. Incremental gains are being made in improving living conditions and attacking the social exclusion of Roma through the National Strategy for the Social Integration of Roma 2012-20. Legislation in 2011 promised an overhaul of Greece's asylum system. This was delayed, in part by government austerity measures, but the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has recently noted some improvements, including reduced waiting times and better quality of interviews. Nevertheless, in January 2015, UNHCR maintained that other EU countries should not return asylum seekers to have their applications processed in Greece – a clear sign that more still needs to be done. The new government, elected in January 2015, has released many detainees from immigration detention centres and promised further reform. However, tensions persist in the areas in which undocumented migrants and refugees are concentrated. Municipal authorities, especially in Athens, have struggled to provide adequate support and housing. Some local business people and residents blame migrants for the ghettoization and deterioration of their neighbourhoods; however, this does not acknowledge the constraints faced by migrants without the necessary legal documentation.

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