The world was alarmed by scenes of violent clashes between protesters and police in the central Syntagma Square earlier this year. Protests and strikes in Greece are generally peaceful and frequent. But lawlessness and crime are on the rise in Greece’s capital, Athens. The debt crisis means that revenues for the city are down 20 percent, though Athens is actually in better shape than the rest of the country.†According to a Guardian article; Athens’ mayor Giorgos Kaminis says that a “mass influx of often desperate refugees” has only exacerbated the rise in crimes including robberies in the city:
…. a little further up the road [from Athens' city hall] Somalian prostitutes proposition pedestrians at all hours; a little further down, … beggars … cry “I’m hungry”, young men crouch in doorways doubled over with needles in hand.
“Where to begin?” asks Kaminis, sitting back in a low leather chair in his sparse sixth-floor office. “There is a flagrant lack of respect for the law, be it prostitution, human trafficking, drug dealing or organised crime. Some 7,000 addicts are on waiting lists for hospital care. Around Patission [a central avenue] there are areas that are so lawless you cannot even go after 6pm.”
Positioned on the edge of Europe and sharing a land border with Turkey, Greece is, like it or not, a gateway for migrants. 90 percent of the 128,000 people who entered the European Union illegally in 2010 came via Greece. People come from Asia, Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan; immigrants currently comprise 15 percent of Greece’s 11 million people (and half of Greece’s population lives in Athens). But with $413.6 billion (Ä300 billion) worth of debt — 150 percent of Greece’s GDP — and a government propped up by international bailouts and about to make drastic cuts to jobs and pensions for state workers, Greece is ill-equipped to assist undocumented immigrants.
In March,†300 migrant workers went on a hunger strike to protest the Greek governmentís denying them legal status. After six weeks, the Greek government offered them temporary residence permits that will be automatically renewed every six months; individual cases will also be investigated, says the BBC.
The New York Times‘s magazine has some photos of an Athens the tour buses don’t take you to, of a police drug raid and a right-wing anti-immigrant group called the Golden Dawn. Where this photo of “one of the most affected neighborhoods in the center of Athens” was taken is not noted, †but I think it might be Omonia, an area that tour guides informed my students (I’ve taken students from my college to Greece for the past three years) to avoid.
Photo of migrant strawberry pickers in Ilia by noborder network
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