Afghan Refugees: Life in Greece Worse than Taliban

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ATHENS, Greece -- While the Greeks struggle with life amidst a collapsed economy, life for another group in Greece has become dangerous and unbearable: refugees.

Afghan refugees, huddled in their flat in central Athens, told CBN News that coming to Greece was the biggest mistake they ever made.

They called their life in Greece "a nightmare," and claimed they hide in their home as much as possible to avoid being beaten up in the street.

Worse than Afghanistan

If they could, the Afghans said, they would go back to Afghanistan tomorrow.

It appears the only thing worse than being in Greece during the economic crisis is being an immigrant or refugee. The economic collapse has turned many Greeks against outsiders, especially from non-Western nations.

Greece's economic meltdown is causing society to unravel, and some are looking for scapegoats.

Greece is one of the main entry points for illegal immigrants into the European Union. A new report by Human Rights Watch said the number of attacks on foreigners in Greece is surging.

"If I want to meet someone in that area, they usually tell me, 'Come to my doorstep because I'm not going to go further away,'" said Sahar Lankhaar, an Iranian Christian who ministers to refugees in Athens.

"If they look different than Greeks, if they are Pakistani or Afghan or if they look Chinese, they have to be really careful because now they get beaten up for no reason," Lankhaar added.

Golden Dawn: Organized Crime?

Ahmad, from Pakistan, was beaten up by a large group of people.

"They are asking me, 'What's your country?' And then the beating," he told CBN News.

The far-right party Golden Dawn now holds 18 seats in the Greek parliament. The group wants to use minefields to keep refugees out of the country.

Golden Dawn has started replacing government services with its own, like food pantries for those in need.

A spokesman for the party said the food is free, but only for Greeks. Non-Greeks are not welcom to the food, even if they are legal residents.

"This is only for Greeks, of blood and ethnicity. They can come here and we will help them," Golden Dawn official Ilias Panagiotaros said.

"Golden Dawn is the perfect example of a sick government, of a failed state," former government advisor Elena Panaritis said. "A state that is not able to police itself, to control its rules, to enforce its own regulations."

Golden Dawn also wants to start a "Greeks only" blood bank. The party said it will come to residents' homes if there is trouble, when the police don't.

"Golden Dawn has set up the equivalent of a 1-800 number. People call Golden Dawn. These people are nothing more than bouncers," Panaritis added.

"They use these guys to just go in and clean everything up," she said. "They have the place painted, and they don't even ask you for money."

Greek citizen Giorgos Vardzis told CBN News he keeps the phone number for Golden Dawn in his pocket, in case of emergency.

More 'Terrifying' than Taliban

Meanwhile, an Afghan family of legally invited refugees said they are excluded from Greek society. Finding a real job is unthinkable.

They survive only by raiding dumpsters and fixing and reselling old shoes and junk.

Taher, the husband of the family, said he can only send his 5-year-old boy to kindergarten if he and his wife agree to clean the classroom once a week. They only go outside in groups.

Not only is there no protection from the police, the family said Athens police try to destroy their merchandise, sometimes running over it with motorcycles.

The Human Rights Watch report corroborates what immigrants told CBN News. They said the police and courts are doing nothing to stop attacks on migrants.

And the Greek newspaper To Vima has reported that police officers overwhelmingly support Golden Dawn.

"The police are the fascists," Taher said. He helps guard family members who need to go outside.

"You never know when the fascists will attack. But when they see foreigners, they beat them up, especially women with headscarves," he added.

Sara, also an Afghan, called life in Greece "terrifying."

"We ran away from the Taliban, and now we're stuck in something worse than the Taliban," she said. "With the Taliban, we would be dead and it's over. Here, it's torture every day."

The family's home in Afghanistan was destroyed by the Taliban.

The fact that they would rather go back to that violence shows how dangerous Greece has become for outsiders.

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Dale Hurd

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A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.