Greek government officials have called for calm after three straight days of attacks against immigrants and asylum-seekers in Athens.
The violence was reportedly sparked by the fatal mugging of a 44-year old Greek national in a high-crime area of the capital on Tuesday. Nationalists blamed the murder on immigrants, although no one has been arrested for the crime yet.
According to media reports, members of the local Pakistani community said more than 100 Asian and African migrants were attacked Thursday by rampaging Greek youths. Other reports claimed that hundreds of youths wielding baseball bats chase, punched and kicked immigrants.
Pakistani spokesman Irfan Tamur Mohammad told reporters 17 immigrants have been hospitalized from the violence and dozens of immigrant-owned shops were looted or destroyed.
There were racist attacks before, but Thursday's events were something else, really terrifying, Mohammad said.
It all happened very suddenly, we didn't expect something that extreme. The police were everywhere, but neither did they offer us protection nor did they stop those who were attacking us. I have a wife and three children. Should I leave Greece, or stay and maybe get killed?
Another Pakistani migrant Riaz Ahmad told reporters: Five or six people started shouting: ‘Catch him!’ They hit me with sticks and kicked me before I slipped back into my block of flats. I have lived in Greece for 11 years and everything has been fine. If things have changed now, what fault is it of ours?
A Bangladeshi worker was stabbed to death on Wednesday in another part of Athens.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister George Papandreou condemned the murder and vowed to take measures to improve security.
Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis expressed fear that Athens could turn into the chaos of Beirut in the 1970s.
Given that Greece is under extreme economic pressure from the burdens of an austerity program (including slashes wages, higher taxes, and job losses), some are taking their anger out on foreigners, particularly poor Third World migrants. Greece is a gateway to Europe for thousands of migrants from Africa, South Asia and Middle East.
The public order minister, Christos Papoutsis, warned there was a very high risk of hate crimes in Greece’s current malaise.
We can't do business, a Pakistani shopkeeper told media.
I really don't know what to do.
Human rights activists there are about 500,000 illegal immigrants currently living in Greece.