ATHENS - Thousands of immigrants in Greece have taken to the streets to protest anti-Muslim sentiments and racist attacks against foreigners in a country plagued by a huge debt crisis.
This is a first action against the racist pogroms of the police which encourage the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn to come out in neighborhoods and murder and attack people, Tasos Anastasiou of the Expel Racism movement told Euronews.
Thousands of immigrants took to the streets in the capital Athens on Friday, August 25, to protest rising attacks against immigrants.
No to fascist attacks, read a banner carried by protestors in front of parliament in Athens.
"No Islamophobia" and "Neo Nazis out!" read other banners carried by the protestors.
Protestors complain of rising sentiments against immigrants, particularly from Muslim countries.
They cited the death earlier this month of a young Iraqi in a hate attack, and recent blasphemous graffiti on walls in a Muslim area in the poor Athens suburb of Renti.
If they hit us, well, we are used to it, but attacking Islam, that is unacceptable, Zain, a 21-year-old Pakistani artist who gave only his first name, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Greece is a major gateway for mostly Asian and African migrants trying to enter the European Union.
But immigrants have been facing growing hostility as the country is struggling against its worst economic crisis in decades.
Pro-immigrant groups have said that racist attacks against immigrants have sharply grown in Greece since the economic crisis flared in 2009, accusing the police of turning a blind eye.
Last month, Human Rights Watch condemned the Greek police of failure to act to prevent racist attacks against immigrants.
"Migrants and asylum seekers spoke to Human Rights Watch of virtual no-go areas in Athens after dark because of fear of attacks by often black-clad groups of Greeks intent on violence, the group said.
The recession-hit country has about 800,000 legally-registered immigrants, while the number of undocumented immigrants is estimated to be more than 350,000.
Government plans to house illegal immigrants in disuse army camps have added to the anger.
It's a crime against Corinth, Mayor Alexandros Pnevmatikos told Skai TV.
The town council has unanimously voted to escalate the struggle to throw out this camp.
Far-rightists and supporters of the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn party clashed with police at the entrance of the camp on Thursday.
Hundreds of protesters, including small groups of ultra-nationalists, protested on Friday. Some hurled bottles of water at a conservative deputy visiting the camp.
The government argues that the detentions will be temporary until migrants whose applications for refugee status are rejected can be deported.
But the Corinth mayor has threatened to cut off the camp's water supply and rubbish garbage disposal until around 350 migrants brought in on Thursday are pulled out.
"We will do everything possible to prevent such a disaster," mayor Pnevmatikos said."We don't want the camp, which is in the centre of the city, close to densely populated neighborhoods, to become a holding center".