In a new report on Greece, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, has urged the Greek government to use the full force of the national and international legislation available to combat racism and hate crime, which continue to represent an urgent and serious concern for the protection of human rights in the country. Legal provisions exist, the report states, to address racism and hate crime, including potentially banning the neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn. According to Muižnieks, a “sustained and concerted effort” is required, especially of the police and the courts, to protect rule of law in the country.

The Commissioner calls on the Greek state to facilitate the process of reporting hate crimes by exempting such complaints from the fees imposed for filing a police complaint and providing adequate legal aid to victims if necessary. According to the Commissioner, the threat of racist violence against foreigners must be tackled through immediately establishing an independent police complaints mechanism, accelerating the implementation of reforms to national anti-racism legislation, and adopting a programme of systematic and comprehensive training in anti-discrimination law and practice for all police officers, border guards and members of the judiciary.

Reforms to the Greek asylum system, including filling the large gap in assuring adequate reception facilities for asylum seekers, in particular to ensure the protection of unaccompanied migrant children, should also be accelerated. The Commissioner calls on the Greek authorities to review their policy of systematic detention of migrant and the construction of more detention facilities and to consider possible alternative measures.

In its response to the report, the Greek government states that it shares concern over the considerable increase in racist attacks, but argues that “racist attitudes remain a marginal phenomenon in the Greek society”. According to the Greek government, support for Golden Dawn does not indicate a rise of racism in society but rather is motivated by opposition to austerity measures and increasing unemployment.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 19 April 2013
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