Defending Greece’s roundup of immigrants suspected of being in the country unlawfully, Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, during a trip to New York, told CNN International that, “The Greek society is not xenophobic at all, rather the opposite.”
He spoke to CNN about Greek strikes, social unrest and xenophobia. Asked about the rising numbers of racist attacks, Dendias responded that the ministry has “taken all necessary measures to protect any human being in Greece”, stressing that illegal migratory flows present “a huge problem”.
The minister pointed to the fact that Greece receives 90% of all illegal immigrants in the EU, adding that “if you add that to the existing crisis in the economy, really it creates a very difficult situation for the Greek society.”
Dendias’ statements come just days after 29 Bangladeshi workers were shot in the village of Manolada for demanding back pay. The incident attracted international attention, with the connection being made with the rise of racially-motivated attacks in Greece, some blamed on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which has denied the claims.
Answering a question on how unemployment affects social unrest, Dendias said that youth unemployment is “close to 45% and maybe even more”, when in fact the unemployment rate among under 25s is almost 60%, according to the latest available data, an embarrassing gaffe for a government minister.
Dendias expressed his hope that “there will be no more strikes,” saying that “there is light at the end of the tunnel and I think the Greek society has finally seen that light,” although he didn’t say how that jibed with social unrest over austerity measures.
During a speech at NYU, he said that, “As part of a concerted campaign to enforce the law in the centers of Athens and other major cities since last August, hundreds of drug dealers, thieves, smugglers and traffickers have been arrested and brought to justice.”
He also visited the FBI and NYPD offices, where he was briefed on matters of police training and combating crime. Dendias also met with the head of the bureau’s New York office, George Venizelos.