From The National, Jun 25, 2012
ATHENS // As he does every night, Mohammad Zaffari, a neat and sprightly 65-year-old from Afghanistan, was picking through rubbish in a skip in central Athens when the fascists attacked him.
“They asked me where I was from, but before I could answer they were beating me until I was almost unconscious,” he said through an interpreter. “There were around 10 or 15 in the group – most of them teenagers, the oldest around 25.”
He claims one of the gang proudly stated their allegiance to Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party that won 18 seats in last Sunday’s election.
The police came and the gang dispersed. There were no arrests. The first thing the police said to Mr Zaffari as he lay groaning on the ground was: “Show us your papers.”
Greece has seen a sudden surge in immigration. It now handles more than 80 per cent of the illegal migration into Europe – up from 25 per cent only four years ago – as tighter security has closed off alternative routes and the landmines that once dotted the border with Turkey have been removed.
There are an estimated half a million illegal immigrants in Greece, and between 150 and 200 more arrive every day, escaping poverty, conflict and political persecution in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
And this is happening in the middle of the worst economic crisis in recent Greek history – a deadly coincidence that has fostered an outpouring of racial hatred. Anti-immigrant parties across Europe are exploiting the economic downturn to increase support, but in Greece the situation is extreme: dozens of nightly attacks on minorities, growing networks of fascists in schools and impoverished areas, a foothold for Golden Dawn in parliament, and a political elite either unwilling or unable to confront it.