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The boiling cauldron in the Athenian ghetto

11 June 2009 / 15:06:27  GRReporter
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“St. Panthaleimon” square in the center of Athens is probably the most cosmopolitan part of the city. There you can see people from at least three continents, several races and all skin colors. Most of them are illegal immigrants - from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, etc. They are formed into two big groups – the immigrants from North Africa and the immigrants from Asia, who fight among themselves for territory, hurt each other, kill each other and fall in love with each other… The same as in “Westside Story,” but this time in Europe and about a century later.


Drug addicts are keeping company to the illegal immigrants, because their rehabilitation center is nearby. They don’t mind the immigrants but both sides need money and sometimes there is a conflict of interests – pickpockets have their own work zones and the competition is big. Lately, the racist organization “Chrisi Avgi” and other organizations have started roaming around “St. Panthaleimon”. If you remember, two weeks ago they were the ones throwing Molotov cocktails at an illegal Muslim church… Racists and immigrant are often standing face to face, offending, swearing, spitting, and fighting with each other… Not long ago, this crazy orchestra was joined by the anti-racists. They, bristle up at the racists, use colorful words and show muscles.


Local people also live around this square and they are scared from everything and everyone. In this part of the city, criminality is big and the danger of being robbed of beaten is far greater than in any other part of the Greek capital. “Up to a year before, I use to say that when I come home at night, people offered me drugs. Now, I do not go out at night at all,” confesses a GRReporter journalist, who lives in the area. The situation is even worse for small store owners in the area. Often they are victims of thefts, stabbing, etc. To be the owner of a kiosk, grocery store or a coffee shop around “St. Panthaleimon” is a far riskier business then working on a petrol platform in Nigeria or swimming near to the coast of Somalia for example. Maybe this is why the business in this part of the city is slowly but surely going to the hands of the foreigners.



Of course, there are policemen on the square. Basically the police are playing the role of Bruce Willis, who used to go around Harlem with a big poster, which said “I hate Negros.” Not that the Greek police hates anyone—quite the opposite, they are the hated ones. Immigrants hate them because they desecrate the Koran and do not respect the Muslim religion. Drug addicts hate them, because they usually hate anyone in uniform. Racists hate them, because they have let all those immigrants in Greece. Anti-racists hate them because they are murderers (of the 16 year old Alexis Grigoropoulos) and criminals, who terrorize people with their strong presence. Only the simple citizens of the neighborhood do not hate them but they do not love them as well. They blame them for being indifferent to the criminality in the region and that they are missing from the streets—in other words, they blame them for not doing their job. Yes, it is not easy being a policeman in Athens, because it is something like being an African American in Alabama in the era of the segregation.


Life at the Athenian “St. Panthaleimon” square goes by in a very interesting way. The tension between its inhabitants is in the far end red specter and only one spark is needed – imprudent police check, which will desecrate the Koran again or a Molotov bomb in an illegal mosque, which will take a life, in order to set the whole tension on fire and the Greek capital will be a top story again in all international media. The truth is that there are many places in Athens like “St. Pantheleimon.” There are places like that in Patra, Thessaloniki, Yoannina, Evros.


Immigrants from Africa and Asia are already in Greece and this is a fact. They are normal people, who want to live, work, learn, fall in love, get married, give birth, and be happy. But unfortunately this is impossible to happen in the Athenian basements.

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