Last Saturday, 18 October, 4,000 people took part in an anti-racist rally in support of the legalisation of refugees and immigrants’ rights took place in Athens.
The Greek Social Forum called the rally (the rest of the Greek left took no part in the demo). The overwhelming majority on the protest were immigrants.
The YRE and Xekinima (the Greek Section of the CWI) had an excellent contingent – very colourful and lively. There were up to 500 on this part of the demonstration. It was the only contingent with African, Asian, Greek and other workers and youth marching together.
Xekinima and YRE campaigned heavily for this demo for three weeks, visiting the immigrant neighbourhoods, Sunday churches, and explaining the need for a successful turnout. We produced leaflets and stickers, in three languages: English, Bangla and Greek.
It was a protest against the hypocrisy of the Greek government. Three years ago, the government announced it was starting legalisation concerning the 800,000 to 1 million immigrants who live in Greece. Even though the new legislation addressed many of the rights issues, the racist approach of the Greek state meant that many immigrants have been unable to get a stay and work permit. The last straw was when the permits granted last summer, and which lasted for 1 year, had already expired before they were handed to the immigrants! This meant that immigrants have to begin again following the procedures for their legalisation. This caused uproar in the immigrant communities.
Most of the other contingents on last weekend’s demonstration were from communities. The Albanian and Bangladeshi contingents were the biggest with around 150 and 200 respectively. About 100 Filippinos were also there.
The protest turnout of 4,000 was quite good. The immigrants in Greece have only very recently begun to overcome their fears, demand their rights and demonstrate. It was the first time immigrants have openly defied the police on a demonstration like this. Many went up to the police officers, whistling and proudly showing the YRE stickers they wore. It was like saying to the police: "This is our day!. You stay put!".