Athens, Greece – Racist attacks targeting the homes of migrant workers have surged in Piraeus, a port city near the Greek capital, since Christmas, according to an anti-racist activist group.
More than 30 homes where migrant labourers reside – most of whom are Pakistani nationals – have been targeted since December 25, the anti-racist group Keerfa said on Friday.
Petros Constantinou, Keerfa’s national director, said the sharp uptick in violence comes amid a 40-day period of attacks on migrant homes in the area.
“It’s been happening at least three times per week,” he told Al Jazeera. “They are targeting homes where it is obvious migrants are living.”
The incidents have taken place primarily in Renti and Nikaia, two neighbourhoods in Piraeus with large immigrant populations.
Constantinou said anti-Muslim slogans had also been spray-painted on the entrances and walls of several homes. “These appear to be organised attacks,” he said, explaining that the assailants were swiftly picked up by getaway cars after the incidents concluded.
He added that similar attacks have taken place to a lesser degree in nearby neighbourhoods in recent weeks.
“It seems that the attack squads of Golden Dawn are coming back and teaching new members how to attack migrants,” Constantinou argued, referring to the Greek neo-fascist party that currently has 16 seats in the national parliament.
Javed Aslam, president of the Pakistani Community in Greece organisation, explained that the attackers broke the glass of windows in several homes while shouting xenophobic comments.
“They are saying ‘you’re dirty, leave our country’ while they do it,” he told Al Jazeera.
Noting that no one has been injured yet in the recent spate of attacks, Aslam warned nonetheless: “It looks like the fascists are preparing for more violent attacks [on migrants].”
While Aslam said it is still uncertain who the assailants were, he also suspects that they are members of Golden Dawn.
“Who else could be behind these attacks?”
History of violence
In an ostensibly unrelated statement published on Friday, the Golden Dawn said that “Islam is incapable of coexisting with western culture”.
“If Europe, and even more obviously Greece, does not realise the complete failure of the ‘political integration’ of the illegal Muslim immigration to Europe and Greece which overwhelms us … we will soon be lead into enormous problems, [including] wars in our own cities,” the Greek-language statement proclaimed.
In past years, Golden Dawn members orchestrated attacks on migrants, refugees and political opponents in areas across the country.
In January 2013, a pair of men linked to Golden Dawn killed Shahzad Luqman, a 26-year-old Pakistani who was on his way to work while he was fatally stabbed.
Later that year, in September, a Golden Dawn member stabbed to death Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist rapper, in the Keratsini neighbourhood of Piraeus.
In 2017, Aslam explained, there was a sharp increase in attacks targeting Pakistani labourers in areas near Athens, particularly in the industrial area of Aspropyrgos.
In October, a group of black-clad men attacked a pair of Pakistani workers in Aspropyrgos, beating them with metal bars and stabbing them.
During that attack, the men threatened to burn the migrants alive, Ashfak Mahmoud, one of the victims, told local media at the time.
Between August 2016 and August 2017, the Pakistani Community in Greece recorded between 70 and 80 attacks targeting migrant workers in Aspropyrgos.
During the first six months of 2017, Greek police recorded at least 75 hate crimes, while they documented 84 hate crimes during the entirety of 2016, according to statistics provided to Al Jazeera.
Of that total, police documented 47 hate crimes motivated by race, skin colour or national origin between January and June of last year. Comparatively, 48 such incidents took place throughout all of 2016.
The police statistics for the second half of 2017 are not yet available.
Asked about the political affiliations of the perpetrators, a police spokesperson said police do not quantify hate crimes based on “ideological background” of “any person or groups of people” who execute such attacks.
‘Go back to your village. Leave.’
Yet, rights groups and monitors warn that official statistics can be misleading because victims often do not file reports with the police.
Tina Stavrinaki, a legal officer at the Racist Violence Recording Network, explained that several incidents in 2017 “should alert us of the reappearance of group violence”, referring to a wave of xenophobic violence that gripped the country in 2012 and 2013.
“But it doesn’t mean necessarily that this indicates a return to the same situation as 2012 and 2013,” she told Al Jazeera. “Nonetheless, we have to be vigilant and remain alert.”
In November, a group of masked men attacked the home of an 11-year-old Afghan refugee who had gained national attention a month earlier after being prevented from carrying a Greek flag during a school parade.
The boy was identified only as Emir in the local press.
After smashing windows and throwing rocks and beer bottles at the home, the assailants left behind a letter that read: “Go back to your village. Leave.”
A previously unknown group called Crypteia, a reference to a group of ancient Spartans notorious for attacking slaves, subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack on the boy’s home.
Crypteia is believed to be an offshoot of the Golden Dawn, which has scaled back attacks in recent years due to the ongoing trial of 69 members who are accused of running a criminal organisation.