UN expert calls on Greek Government to ‘urgently implement’ anti-racism measures

Asylum-seekers in a holding centre on Greece’s Samos Island.
UNHCR/A. d'Amato
Asylum-seekers in a holding centre on Greece’s Samos Island.

UN expert calls on Greek Government to ‘urgently implement’ anti-racism measures

The Government of Greece must implement stronger measures in order to effectively address hate speech and verbal abuse against vulnerable groups including irregular migrants and minorities such as the Roma people, according to a United Nations human rights expert.

“Combating hate and prejudice is not just about financial resources, and in times of economic crisis, scapegoating the most vulnerable members of society only contributes to reinforcing a climate of hostility and violence towards such groups and individuals,” the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, said in a news release issued earlier today and coming on the heels of his five-day visit to the Mediterranean country.

As Greece continues to reel from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, it also remains on the frontline of the European Union’s ongoing irregular migration crisis.

According to UN data, 2015 alone has already seen some 40,000 people make crossings to Italy and Greece – the first and second largest countries of arrival respectively. The numbers have also been recently picking up as weather conditions in the Mediterranean improve.

In the press release, Mr. Ruteere nevertheless praised the Greeks’ “continuous and committed hospitality” and noted that citizens had been “displaying efforts to save migrants from drowning and providing them with basic necessities despite strained resources due to the long lasting economic crisis.”

Against that backdrop, the Special Rapporteur also welcomed efforts and initiatives made by the Government of Greece to address the scourge of racist violence affecting minority groups across the country – including reforming the legal framework and establishing strong and credible human rights institutions. But, he warned, much still remained to be done.

“The Romas of Greece, while being, for the vast majority Greek citizens, continue to face rampant discrimination and remain economically and socially disadvantaged,” he continued. “I call upon the Government to take into account and urgently implement the numerous recommendations made by UN and European mechanisms.”

Along with those mechanisms, he urged Athens to establish more efficient outlets for victims to seek remedies and ensure their access to justice while also creating an independent body to guarantee transparency and credibility of investigations into police violence.

The Special Rapporteur will present a final report on his visit to the UN Human Rights Council in 2016.