Human rights groups have slammed Greece's crackdown on illegal migrants, adding their voice to the Greek Communist party and the far-left SYRIZA. Residents of Athens have in turn accused the Greek left of being blind to the reality of mass immigration.
On Saturday Greek police launched Operation "Xenios Zeus" in a determined effort to crack down on illegal migrants in the Greek capital. Public Order and Citizens' Protection minister Nikos Dendias said undocumented migrants in Athens had led to "entire areas of Athens have been turned into a no-man's land, rife with drug trafficking, prostitution, smuggling, theft, serious injuries, murders, and all other types of delinquent behavior."
Following the crackdown Greece arrested around 2,000 illegals and is now preparing to deport 1,600 Pakistanis.
Amnesty International has called on Greek authorities to cease the round up of suspected illegal immigrants. Ekathimerini reported Amnesty's Jezerca Tigani said “While Greece has the right to control migration, it does not have the right to treat people in the street like criminals purely because of the color of their skin. The scale of the police operation in Athens at the weekend raises serious concerns about discrimination on the basis of perceived ethnicity."
Benjamin Ward of Human Rights Watch also weighed in, saying "Greece has the right to enforce its immigration laws and after a fair process to deport people with no legal basis to stay in the country. But it doesn't have the right to treat people like criminals or to presume irregular immigration status just because of their race or ethnicity."
The Daily Times PK reports that under the European Commission Readmission Agreement Greece does have the legal right to expel Pakistanis who do not fulfil the legal requirements for entry. Pakistan is in the process of providing emergency passports for those about to be deported from Greece.
Both the Greek Communist party and far-left SYRIZA have criticized operation "Xenios Zeus", describing it as a "pogrom". However, residents of central Athens have sent a letter to the two parties accusing them of "projecting a 'so-called leftwing mask of humanitarianism and solidarity'" on the issue.
The letter said "You have to be blind not to see what the city has come to. You have to be deaf not to hear the cries of people who are in danger and are obliged to live like animals, in former urban neighborhoods which have become shanty towns. You have to be stupid not to understand what is really going on."
The letter also accuses the Greek left of allowing the mass settlement of smugglers and their victims.
Ekathimerini reported residents and shopkeepers of Athens have welcomed the crackdown on illegals, noting a major improvement since the round-ups began. Eleni Papadopoulou said "I hope they continue with the raids and illegal immigrants leave the area so we can walk in the park without fear.”
Panagis Karellas, Head of the Athens Traders Association, said he hoped police would continue the operation “boldly and decisively”. He called on the authorities to ignore “those seeking political or other gains through ‘humanitarian interventions and complaints,’ projecting their sensitivity at the cost of others, thus demeaning the sense of security, dignity and hopes of the heavily-taxed Greek citizen.”
There are reports that trafficking gangs are trying to speed up the smuggling of illegals from Greece into other European countries, in the face of the round-ups.