ATHENS – Sitting in Parliament for only a couple of weeks, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has expanded its anti-immigrant campaign to begin a drive to get Greeks to donate blood only for Greeks, outraging doctors and health care officials who said it was racist and would not be allowed. Reminiscent of Nazi Germany practices to keep “pure” blood lines, Golden Dawn has put up posters around the city calling for volunteers to donate blood “only for Greeks who need our help.”
The recruitment call added, “All the bottles of blood we collect will be handed over to patients we choose and to no one else. This right to choose belongs not just to Golden Dawn members, but to all volunteer blood donors.” The party, which denies it is neo-Nazi, said it had managed to get such a blood bank up and running at the Sotiria Hospital, in Athens which health officials said was unlawful. The hospital’s manager, Yiannis Stefanou, said there would be no discrimination as the rules required all blood donations to be made available to all patients who need them.
One of the biggest doctors’ unions in Athens said the Golden Dawn initiative was an “insane, unscientific, illegal and racist action” and promised to do everything necessary to protect the “sacred procedure of blood donation.” A health ministry official told Reuters that there cannot be limitations on who receives blood. “This would be inhuman. If someone needs blood, he or she should have every right to get it no matter who they are.”
Golden Dawn got 18 seats in the Parliament based on a virulent campaign to rid Greece of all immigrants, and some of its members have been tied to vicious gang assaults on immigrants, a favorite tactic. The group is capitalizing on the country’s economic crisis, pitting Greeks who are being pushed into poverty by austerity measures against immigrants. The New York Times reported that Golden Dawn members are also threatening immigrant shop owners.
The paper said some 50 members on motorbikes, brandishing big wooden poles, swirled around a western Athens neighborhood with a large immigrant population and told them to get out of town. “They said: ‘You’re the cause of Greece’s problems. You have seven days to close or we’ll burn your shop — and we’ll burn you,’ ” said Mohammed Irfan, a legal Pakistani immigrant who owns a hair salon and two other stores. When he called the police for help, he said, the officer who answered said they did not have time to come to the aid of immigrants like him. Greek media reports said that half of Greek police officers voted for Golden Dawn in the critical June 17 elections and the Times said that the neo-Nazis are being emboldened by implicit support from the government.
The new coalition government led by New Democracy Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has joined parts of the Golden Dawn platform and is further pushing detention centers to house unlawful immigrants as Samaras has similarly promised to empty Greece of them. The National Association of Hospital Doctors (EINAP) also issued a statement stressing that the “sacred character of the donation process and disposal of blood” must be safeguarded according to universal and international standards. The advocacy groups Human Rights Watch and the Athens office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have issued recent reports accusing Greece of tolerating racism.