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Racist violence surges in Greece, report finds

Attacks against migrants, refugees and LGBT people in Greece surged to their highest level in nearly a decade last year, a report by the Athens-based Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) found on Tuesday, reports Reuters.

The network recorded 158 attacks in 2023, up from 74 in 2022. Of those, 89 targeted migrants, refugees or asylum seekers and 61 targeted LGBT people, it said.

Violence was at its highest reported levels since 2015, when Greece was on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis. The actual number is likely higher, however, as many victims do not report crimes, RVRN said.

Hostility towards migrants remains widespread in Greece, where three ultra-nationalist parties won seats in parliament in last year’s election.

Far-right parties across Europe are expected to prosper in June’s European Parliament elections with pledges to toughen the bloc’s approach to immigration.

RVRN, founded in 2011 by the U.N. refugee agency in Greece and the National Commission for Human Rights, defines racist violence as “criminal or violent acts or behaviour against people because of their ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual preferences or disabilities.”

In its annual report, it said it had identified “intense and continuous” racist violence at Greece’s borders as well as systematic racist violence and behaviour by security officials.

Attacks were carried out both by individuals and organised groups, it said.

“The emergence of incidents of organised racist violence… remains a particularly worrying trend,” it said.

A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The migration ministry said it “fully implements national, European and international law and investigates every complaint.”

It added: “The responsibilities of the ministry… should not be confused with those of other ministries or the country’s security authorities.”

Rights groups have accused Greek authorities of mistreating migrants and refugees and carrying out so-called pushbacks – or forced deportations of asylum seekers – at its borders, accusations the government denies.

The report also found a rise in violence against LGBT people, saying they were victims of “unprovoked violence… usually homophobic and transphobic verbal attacks often resulting in physical violence.”

In February, Greece passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage in a landmark victory for LGBT rights.