Human rights groups and immigrants stage a protest march in Athens against recent government immigration measures and increasing racist attacks.
ATHENS, GREECE (JULY 9 2009)REUTERS - About three thousand immigrants joined by human rights groups, peace and leftist organizations staged a protest rally in downtown Athens on Thursday (July 9) against government immigration measures and calling for an end to racist attacks against immigrants.
The protesters marched through Athens' central streets chanting anti-racism slogans and carrying banners reading "hands off immigrants" and "no to concentration camps".
The protest came after several recent demonstrations to highlight the problems with illegal immigrants, including continuous harrasment by police, discrimination and low living and working standards.
"We are human beings and they need to respect us. They must grant us political asylum, make housing arrangements and legalize immigrants." said protester Javel Aslam Imme from Pakistan.
"They consider us garbage and they want to get rid of us. Immigrants have contributed a lot to the country's development and now they have forgotten us and deny us our rights." said protester Zaqi Mohhamad from Morroco.
Immigrants have been the victims of racist attacks by right wing groups in the last months.
Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants arrive in Greece each year, many of them flooding to Athens. The government recently announced measures which include moving groups of immigrants outside the city to large reception centres converted from abandoned warehouses, in order to curb overcrowding in the city, and nightly police sweeps in districts where local residents have complained neighbourhoods have been ghettoized and rife with crime. Human rights groups have criticized the measures calling them racist. Protesters are also calling for more immigrants to be granted asylum and legalized instead of being deported, saying the legalization process is too slow and few are granted asylum.