With racist attacks in Greece rapidly rising, police said they arrested two men and charged them with assaulting three Bangladeshi migrants in separate incidents.
Police said the two 22-year-olds were riding in a car in Athens’ southern suburbs and accosted the migrants on Christmas morning, threatening violence and demanding money.
The two migrants who claimed they did not have money were punched and hit with a collapsible baton and were in a hospital with non-threatening injuries. The third was stripped of 250 euros ($330) the Associated Press reported.
Police said that, so far, the youths appear to have no connection to extreme-right, anti-immigrant groups, such as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party accused by critics of leading beatings on immigrants and attacks on their places of business.
The party has denied any involvement despite its stated agenda of wanting to force all foreigners out of Greece to keep the country racially pure. Golden Dawn, which got only 0.29 percent of the vote in the 2009 elections, won 6.7 percent in this year’s ballot gain 18 seats in the Parliament and has hit as high as 14 percent in more recent surveys.
Critics have also accused the police of silently supporting Golden Dawn amid reports that as many as half the force voted for the party. There also have been reports of police looking the other way while immigrants were being assaulted and as Golden Dawn members have allegedly conducted other attacks.
Human rights groups have cited a big increase in attacks on immigrants and the country’s anti-immigrant atmosphere, with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras also saying he wants to deport illegal immigrants and as police continue a sweep looking for foreigners without residency papers, putting them in detention centers.