Oct 23, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
ATHENS, Greece, CNBC – Ali Rahimi was enjoying a warm Greek evening, chatting away with two friends, when a mob of 15 people approached and asked where they were from.
“I told them that I am from Afghanistan and they said that it is time for me to go back to my country,” the 28-year-old asylum-seeker told NBC News.
Rahimi attempted to run away but was cornered, beaten, hit over the head with a bottle and stabbed in the chest and back by three assailants in the entryway of his Athens apartment building.
“When police arrived they called an ambulance, but then told me that they could not help me any further and left,” Rahimi recalled, explaining how he only realized how serious his injuries were after spotting blood running out from under his T-shirt during the brutal attack on Sept. 17, 2011.
Rahimi’s case does not appear to be unique. As the euro zone debt crisis leaves Greece grappling with a 25 percent overall unemployment rate, activists say they have noted an increase in the number of hate crimes reported.
‘It is virtually impossible to find a job’
Far-right populism has also found fertile ground in the near-bankrupt country, where the economy is forecast to contract by 7 percent this year and every second youth is out of work.
The Golden Dawn party – no more than an extremist fringe group when it was established in the late 1980s and which has been branded “neo-Nazi” by its opponents – has been gaining support amid the country’s deteriorating economic situation.
Citing a poll by VPRC which appeared in the “Ellada Avrio” newspaper on Friday, Reuters reported:
Backing for the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn, which has been linked to a rise in attacks against migrants in recent months, stood at 14 percent, double their take in June elections that gave the party a foothold in parliament. That would make the group the country’s third largest party.
The party’s rabidly anti-immigrant message has stuck a chord with many voters as EU/IMF imposed austerity propels unemployment levels to a record 25 percent.
Golden Dawn denies it is neo-Nazi but bears a Swastika-like emblem and its supporters have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes. The party’s leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, has denied the Holocaust occurred while one lawmaker, Eleni Zaroulia, called immigrants “sub-humans” in parliament on Thursday.
Reuters added that the opinion poll showed that “Greeks’ frustration with their political leaders has grown as the coalition prepares to push through the new round of austerity measures to appease [foreign] lenders and secure more bailout aid and keep the country afloat.”
Over the past decade, Greece has become the major gateway into the European Union for illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers from Asia and Africa.
Experts estimate that between 800,000 and 1 million undocumented migrants now live in Greece, a country with a population of nearly 11 million.