In the first case of its kind, an African refugee has been granted asylum by Belgium despite already having asylum status in Greece.
Mamadou Ba, who is from Guinea, was targeted by the far-right group Golden Dawn. He was first physical attacked and that was followed by a campaign of harassment.
He told euronews about his first encounter with Golden Dawn thugs: “When I saw the motorcycle coming, I thought ‘Damn it’. I knew it was them from 200 metres away. The second motorbike arrived and the driver saw that I was African. So he whistled at me. Other motorbikes came along and stopped. They asked me “What are you still doing in Greece?” I replied ‘Me?’ At that point they began to shout, ‘Answer our questions’. They drove into me and I started to run. There was another motorbike down the street and I hadn’t realised it was there. I came face to face with the driver. Immediately he took out an iron bar, and hit me over the head. I called out to my mother. That’s the only thing I remember saying. I yelled, ‘Mum’. People passed me by on the street and nobody stopped to help me, nobody at all. When I regained consciousness 40 minutes later, I stopped a taxi. I was covered in blood and the first question he asked me was “Do you have money?” I said “ Yes, I have money,” said Ba.
The 40-year-old Guinean had arrived in Athens in 2006. He found a job and became involved in the African community. But life became difficult for him after the rise of Golden Dawn in 2010.
Being an active member of the immigrant community, he decided to publicly denounce the attack he had suffered from a so-called ‘battalion squad’ in central Athens. From that day forward he would become a target for the Golden Dawn.
“I don’t know how they got my address but they turned up at my house. They put a ‘Golden Dawn’ sticker over my doorbell that also had a message written on it ‘Mamadou, we’ll come back another day. We missed you today’. When that happened I decided to move house because it was obviously dangerous for me there,” he recalled.
But Mamadou did not go to the police because he felt he would not be protected. He had had some bad experiences in the past, which he had spoken about with the media. The police had arrested and humiliated Mamadou for no particular reason.
“Once during a routine check of my passport the police handcuffed me and took me to a station. I spent four hours there. They stripped me, took pictures of me, filmed me…. After all that had happened they asked me one question. ‘Would I speak to the media again?’.” said Ba.
After the murder of the musician Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn, Ba’s colleagues from the anti-fascist movement in Greece warned him that he could be their next target and advised him to leave the country.
So, they bought him a ticket to Belgium and he arrived in November 2013 where he applied for political asylum. Five months later, his request was granted. As his lawyer Olivier Stein explained, the authorities had to examine both his situation in Guinea and in Greece. There was no reason given publically for granting him asylum.
“The Belgian decision does not explain whether Greece is just unable to protect him from Golden Dawn, or whether Greek authorities should be considered to be as responsible as Golden Dawn,” said Stein.
Last year Greece only granted protection status in less than four percent of cases that were brought while Belgium approved one in five – around 20 percent.