Greece: Activists report 300 race attacks since April, call on government to …

Activists have linked the surge in attacks against immigrants to the political rise of the far-right Golden Dawn party, which uses aggressive rhetoric against immigrants and has been described by political opponents as neo-Nazi. Golden Dawn members are accused of being behind several of the attacks, though the party denies any role.

The anti-racism campaigners said five Indian and Pakistani immigrants were injured Tuesday when they were attacked by some 20 masked men in their homes in Menidi, 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Athens. One alleged victim, Indian immigrant Vije Kumar, had extensive cuts and bruises and said he was beaten with clubs and metal bars.

“It was 10 o’clock at night and I was sitting outside eating because it was really hot … Suddenly about 20 men appeared, maybe more. They were all wearing hoods. They started hitting us,” Kumar, a 40-year-old frame maker who has lived in Greece for 12 years, told the Associated Press.

“We didn’t realize what was happening in the beginning. They really beat us badly. It was like they were trying to kill us.”

Javied Aslam, who heads a Pakistani immigrant group in Greece, said the attackers forced their way into seven homes, assaulting occupants and smashing property.

“These are fascist gangs and someone has to stop them,” Aslam said. “They smashed everything — TV sets, refrigerators, doors and windows. Four of the homes were inhabited by Pakistanis and the other three by Indians.”

In a report issued last week, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said it had documented recent gang attacks on dozens of immigrants living in Greece, including children and pregnant women, and also warned of a surge in xenophobic violence.

Greek police do not keep statistics on racially-motivated crimes, arguing that the motive for violent offenses is often unclear.

Aslam, whose organization is part of the Athens-based Campaign Against Racism, said anti-immigrant violence had surged before general elections were held on May 6 and June 17. The votes eventually led to the election of 18 members of parliament from Golden Dawn.

Since early April, and during the time the election campaigns were in full swing, Aslam said his and other groups had received 300 reports of assaults on immigrants.

“The number is probably higher,” he said, alleging that attackers often said they were from Golden Dawn.

While denying any role in such attacks, the party has argued that the violence is far less significant than a surge in crime caused by illegal immigrants.

The Campaign Against Racism’s Petros Constantinou said the new government should give priority to stopping violent street gangs who pick their targets by skin color. He also accused the police of often turning a blind eye to crimes against immigrants — an accusation the police have denied in the past.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


With global instability, who wants to be a tourist?


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A terror attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on Wednesday called attention to the country's tourism industry. A terror attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on Wednesday called attention to the country’s tourism industry.

While Bulgaria is not a top tourist destination, the country attracted more than 8 million visitors in 2010, the last year for which U.N. World Tourism Organization figures are available. While Bulgaria is not a top tourist destination, the country attracted more than 8 million visitors in 2010, the last year for which U.N. World Tourism Organization figures are available.

Egypt's 2011 revolution has taken a heavy toll on the nation's tourism industry.Egypt’s 2011 revolution has taken a heavy toll on the nation’s tourism industry.

London faces a security challenge as athletes and spectators gather for the 2012 Olympic Games. Military personnel have been called in to cover an officer shortage after a contractor failed to provide adequate staffing.London faces a security challenge as athletes and spectators gather for the 2012 Olympic Games. Military personnel have been called in to cover an officer shortage after a contractor failed to provide adequate staffing.

Greece has been at the forefront of the eurozone's economic crisis. Protests have sometimes turned violent.Greece has been at the forefront of the eurozone’s economic crisis. Protests have sometimes turned violent.


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(CNN) — A terrorist explosion in Bulgaria. Tourist kidnappings in Egypt. Sometimes violent demonstrations in Greece. A coup in Mali. Deadly drug wars in Mexico. Olympic security failures in England.

Who wants to be a tourist these days? The deadly bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists Wednesday in Bulgaria is the latest bit of bad news in a summer plagued by global instability.

Traveling hardly sounds relaxing. The U.S. State Department’s latest worldwide safety caution issued Wednesday warns that terrorist groups “continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”

Targets might include public transportation systems and “sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and other tourist destinations” where large numbers of U.S. citizens gather, according to the State Department.

Despite ongoing advisories and worldwide economic uncertainty, the numbers suggest travelers are nevertheless determined to see the world. International tourist arrivals grew 5% in the first four months of 2012, according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization. The agency estimates that 415 million tourists will travel worldwide during this year’s May-August peak travel season, and international tourism is expected to increase by 3% to 4% for the full year.

“In the case of acts of violence or any other risk/crisis situation such as natural disasters, it is important that countries are prepared and have built crisis management structures and preparedness plans to deal with such unforeseen events in order to minimize their impact on tourism,” wrote Sandra Carvao, a WTO spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “Yet in many cases, these are isolated events that if well-managed will have a limited impact on tourism demand.”

The number of U.S. travelers going abroad last year dropped 3% from 2010 to nearly 59 million, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, but 2012 is looking strong for U.S. travel abroad.

“So far, in 2012, we are seeing increases in U.S. outbound air traffic to all world regions. It is too early to tell if any of the events that have just occurred will impact travel,” a Commerce Department official said via e-mail. This year’s outbound air traffic is up 5% through April 2012, according to department figures.

While most of their travelers aren’t heading into political hot spots, U.S. travel agents say their clients understand terrorist threats and political unrest are part of what they have to consider in a post-9/11 world, along with the price of a plane ticket.

“We’ve had little to no cause for concern from our travelers, many of whom are on extensive European vacations traveling with family for up to three weeks in Europe,” wrote Pattie Fanta, owner of Travel Leaders in Bay Village, Ohio, in an e-mail. “I advise my clients to remain vigilant and alert while on the road (even in the U.S.), know they have good trip insurance and call us should any problems arise.”

Perspective is key, says veteran travel writer Zora O’Neill, who was boarding a Thursday red-eye flight to Greece.

“Sure, I’m going to Greece, and even Athens — but I know where the demonstrations usually are in Athens and the scale of them — so I know just to avoid that part of the city,” says O’Neill, author of more than a dozen travel guides, plus an upcoming book on Arabic language and the Middle East.

“The key to perspective is a map! ‘Demonstrations in Greece’ typically boils down to one major square in Athens. ‘Drug war violence in Mexico’ affects only a tiny portion of the country. And for terrorist attacks, it’s stone-cold to say it, but the safest time to go somewhere is after an attack, when the security is the most vigilant.”

CNN’s Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.






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