At­tacks close coun­cil for refugees

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The head of the Athens of­fice of the United Na­tions Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Gior­gos Tsar­bopou­los, yes­ter­day con­demned a se­ries of ap­par­ently racially mo­ti­vated at­tacks on the of­fices of the Greek Coun­cil of Refugees (GCR) that led to the lat­ter’s clo­sure ear­lier this week.

A se­ries of at­tacks on the GCR’s of­fices and staff over the past two weeks obliged its man­age­ment to sus­pend its op­er­a­tion, which will have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the pro­cess­ing of ap­pli­ca­tions for asy­lum by refugees, Tsar­bopou­los said.

More than 40,000 asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tions are pend­ing in Greece, the first point of en­try for a re­lent­less in­flux of im­mi­grants seek­ing a bet­ter life in the Euro­pean Union.

“Clearly such ac­tiv­i­ties end up work­ing against refugees and asy­lum seek­ers and must be stopped,” the Athens UNHCR head said. “One day with­out the GCR’s of­fices op­er­at­ing means dozens of fam­i­lies do not have ac­cess to legal and so­cial sup­port ser­vices,” he added.

Tsar­bopou­los linked the at­tacks on the GCR to a peak in racist vi­o­lence that fol­lowed the fa­tal knif­ing of a 44-year-old Greek man near cen­tral Athens on May 10. The killing, Tsar­bopou­los said, has spurred a wave of racially mo­ti­vated at­tacks and cre­ated a “vi­cious cy­cle of ha­tred and bar­barism.”

A few hours af­ter it emerged that im­mi­grants were be­ing sought in con­nec­tion with that at­tack, sus­pected far-right­ists as­saulted a 21-year- old Bangladeshi na­tional who died of his in­juries a few days later. Po­lice have charged two Afghan na­tion­als with the mur­der of 44-year-old Mano­lis Kan­taris and are seek­ing a third man, a Pak­istani, who the Afghans de­scribe as the key as­sailant.

In an open letter sent by the Greek Coun­cil of Refugees to its staff on Tues­day, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said it was tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend­ing its op­er­a­tions “in protest af­ter an­other in­ci­dent of ground­less vi­o­lence against our of­fices.”

The GCR blamed the at­tacks on “a small mi­nor­ity,” not­ing how­ever that “the ac­tiv­i­ties of these in­di­vid­u­als have cre­ated a se­ri­ous se­cu­rity prob­lem for our staff and for those who seek our ser­vices.”

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