Racist Violence Recording Network expresses serious concern over escalating targeting of refugees and migrants
Athens, 25.08.2023 – The Racist Violence Recording Network categorically condemns recent incidents involving civilian self-proclaimed ‘militia’ groups engaging in unlawful acts of violence against refugees and migrants. The Network also expresses profound concern about the intensifying targeting against migrants and refugees in general, amidst the fires raging in Evros.
An alarming incident unfolded in the Evros region, where citizens appeared to threaten and illegally detain a group of migrants and refugees inside a trailer, while using racist and derogatory language and inciting similar acts of violence. The incident came to light through a relevant video and subsequent articles, which triggered numerous racist comments. These events coincide with the tragic news of discovering dead people, reportedly refugees and migrants, in the Evros region due to the fires.
After the arrests that followed the publication of the above incident, the Network is pleased to note that the authorities have included the investigation of racist motive under article 82A of the Penal Code. The timely and effective investigation of the racist motive is a key factor in sending the message that no illegal act motivated by intolerant views should go unpunished. Furthermore, the Network underscores that based on the relevant national institutional framework (Law 4478/2017) and the corresponding European framework, victims of racist violence are particularly vulnerable and it is incumbent upon the authorities to provide them with the necessary support, in order to prevent secondary victimization or re-victimization , and to ensure a framework of protection and that they have access to support services throughout the legal proceedings.
In line with the internationally recognized methodology for investigating racist crimes and other bias-motivated crimes, which national authorities must follow, the perpetrator’s comments and the level of violence inflicted on the victim are important indicators for probing the underlying racist motive. It is important to recall that the Network has previously recorded incidents in the broader Evros region involving attacks against asylum-seekers by groups of civilians armed with hunting rifles. Such testimonies reveal that the standard practice of organized violence by certain groups of vigilante militias, justified under the distorted guise of defending national sovereignty, has persisted in the region.
In light of the above, the Network is concerned that this incident is not isolated but rather part of a broader climate characterized by targeting and racist attitudes against refugees and migrants in the country, which has escalated in recent days.
As the Network pointed out in its 2022 Annual Report, incidents of organized racist violence against refugees and migrants continue to exist and be recorded, albeit to a lesser degree than in previous years. The need for constant vigilance is underscored by the recent murder of a young man from Pakistan on 12 August 2023 and the subsequent arrest of four young Greeks as suspects in the case. It is imperative that the circumstances of this tragedy be thoroughly investigated, with due consideration of the racist motive, as urged by those close to the victim and migrant communities. It is recalled that in cases of racist crimes, which are crimes that send a message of intimidation to the victim’s wider community, the level of violence and brutality tends to be severe, as it serves as an expression of superiority and rejection towards the victim and the targeted community. This context has been documented in previous years, most notably in the case of the murder of Shehzad Luqman.
Lastly, the Network expresses serious concern regarding the deteriorating climate against refugees and migrants in the political and public discourse, which is even expressed by representatives of parties in the Greek Parliament, in light of the aforementioned incidents. As underscored by the Network’s previous findings, such phenomena normalize, encourage, and ultimately escalate racist reactions, firstly in the media and social media, that sometimes result in attacks on the street, with the clear risk of irreparably disrupting social cohesion. An illustrative example is the strong racist discourse from part of society, on the occasion of these recent events. It is of utmost importance that representatives of the State, local authorities, media outlets, institutional bodies, and every individual citizen isolate and condemn any intolerant rhetoric and racist actions. At the same time, the Network calls on competent authorities to coordinate and adopt policies to address and prevent such phenomena that lead to the dehumanization and targeting of ‘others’, of refugees and migrants, including on the basis of their origin, nationality, or religion.
About the Racist Violence Recording Network
The Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) is coordinated by the Greek National Commission for Human Rights and UNHCR in Greece and is comprised of 55 Non-Governmental Organizations and civil society bodies, as well as the Greek Ombudsman and the Migrant Integration Council of the Municipality of Athens, as observers. Members: Aitima, Solidarity Now, Antigone -Information and Documentation Centre, University of Aegean Anti-Racist Observatory, Arsis, Doctors of the World (MdM), Amnesty International, Network for Children’s Rights, Network for Social Support of Refugees and Immigrants, “Pleiades – Hellenic Action for Human Rights”, Hellenic League for Human Rights, Hellenic Red Cross, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Migrants, Greek Forum of Refugees, Human Rights Commission of the Bar Association of Rhodes, Positive Voice, Medical Intervention, Caritas Athens, Caritas Hellas, Centre for Research on Women’s Issues “Diotima”, Center for Life, “Babel” Day Centre, SYNYPARXIS (Coexistence) – ECUMENICAL REFUGEE PROGRAM, Network for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Patras), World Without War and Violence, LATHRA? – Solidarity Committee for Chios refugees, METAdrasi, Rainbow Families, Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants, Group of Lawyers for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Thessaloniki), Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, Association of Afghans United In Greece, Association of Social Workers of Greece, Greek Transgender Support Association, Faros tou Kosmou, Refugee Support Aegean, Act Up Hellas, ASANTE, Colour Youth – LGBTQ Youth Community of Athens, Generation 2.0 RED, HIAS in Greece, HumanRights360, Melissa Network, PRAKSIS, A21, Simeio for studying and fighting the far-right, Lesvos Solidarity, Steps, Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity | Christian Peacemaker Teams, ELLAN PASSE, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Centre for the Study of Social and Humanitarian Crisis-KEKAK, Thessaloniki Pride, I Have Rights.