ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The attack came seemingly out of nowhere. As the 28-year-old Bangladeshi man dug around trash bins one recent afternoon for scrap metal, two women and a man set upon him with a knife. He screamed as he fell. Rushed to the hospital, he was treated for a gash to the back of his thigh.
Police are investigating the assault as yet another in a rising wave of extreme-right rage against foreigners as Greece sinks further into economic misery. The details vary, but the cold brutality of each attack is the same: Dark-skinned migrants confronted by thugs, attacked with knives and broken bottles, wooden bats and iron rods.
Rights groups warn of an explosion in racist violence over the past year, with a notable surge since national elections in May and June that saw dramatic gains by the far-right Golden Dawn party. The severity of the attacks has increased too, they say. What started as simple fist beatings has now escalated to assaults with metal bars, bats and knives. Another new element: ferocious dogs used to terrorize the victims.
“Violence is getting wilder and wilder and we still have the same pattern of attacks … committed by groups of people in quite an organized way,” said Kostis Papaioannou, former head of the Greek National Commission for Human Rights.
As Greece’s financial crisis drags on for a third year, living standards for the average Greek have plummeted. A quarter of the labor force is out of work, with more than 50 percent of young people unemployed. An increasing number of Greeks can’t afford basic necessities and healthcare. Robberies and burglaries are never out of the news for long.
With Greece a major entry point for hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants seeking a better life in the European Union, foreigners have become a convenient scapegoat.
Some victims turn up at clinics run by charities, recounting experiences of near lynching. Others are afraid to give doctors the details of what happened — and even more afraid of going to the police. The more seriously hurt end up in hospitals, white bandages around their heads or plaster casts around broken limbs.