Immigrants stage protests in downtown Athens against racist attacks


Thousands of immigrants living in Greece, mainly from Pakistan, rally at Athens' central Syntagma square on August 24, 2012, to protest against recent racist attacks.


Louisa Gouliamaki

ATHENS, Greece - Greece's immigrants have had enough of racist attacks.

On Friday, thousands of immigrants took to the streets of Athens to protest police harassment and racially-motivated attacks that have been on the rise.

The economically ailing country has become the gateway into Europe for migrants from some of the poorest countries on Earth.

Unable to find jobs or a source of income, tens of thousands of migrants live in close quarters in Athens' increasingly dangerous downtown core.

GlobalPost has reported on the spate of violent attacks on migrants, many of whom are undocumented, and are trapped in Greece seeking a way to leave for northern European destinations.

The attacks coincide with the rise of the far-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party that espouses anti-immigrant sentiments and whose members have been linked to attacks on foreigners.

Reuters reported that Friday's protest in Syntagma square drew about 5000 demonstrators who chanted "No Islamophobia" and "Neo Nazis out!"

Most of the demonstrators were from Pakistan, believed to be Greece's largest immigrant population.

Many of the protestors held up signs implicating the Golden Dawn party for attacks on Muslims and mosques.

The party reacted with outrage that the Greek government allowed the rally to take place.

“The constitution protects gatherings of Greeks and not of foreigners,” Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris said in a statement, according to RT.

The protest came at the heels of the Greek police's latest sweep of immigrants in the city of Corinth, where hundreds were detained and put into a nearby military camp.