Migration and Struggle in Greece

Archive for February, 2009

News about Konstantina Kuneva and recent violence and threats against members of the cleaner’s Union

Posted by clandestina on 19 February 2009


poster of solidarity with Konstantina, one of the many - this one from Chania, Crete

poster of solidarity with Konstantina, one of the many - this one from Chania, Crete

We haven’t published news about Konstantinas case in the English section of for some time – here is our last relevant post; what is certain is that the solidarity movement has been growing and that attention has been brought to the sub-letting barbarity… This is extremely important, since the efficiency of supposedly pertinent state agencies in defending workers against the most hideous violations of their rights is almost totally absent (see here an article – in Greek – about the institutionalised racism in Greece within and beyond the sphere of labour ).

We translate below a short announcement of the Aegaleo Anarchists’ Inititative about Konstantina’s health and more… By the way, the Aegaleo comrades did last week a very good job reporting directly and in “real time”   from the Petrou Ralli ave. Asylum Police around which the police has inflicted so much death and violence recently (here is the  post, in Greek, with some photos though) .

Konstantinas health has improved.  She is already able to speak through a machine, she can also stand upright and walk. The damage to her stomach and esophagus is severe though and she will need to have operations abroad.  There is a big problem with her insurance coverage of costs, and Constantinas economic situation is difficult. Financial assistance from the solidarity movement must continue. 
She has refused the proposal made by the parliamentary parties of the regime
s  left to stand in next parliamentary elections. She stated that her wish is not join any party and that she is only interested in her Union. 
Concerning  the Union
s activity and ongoings, there have been recently complaints to the Union about three Albanian women cleaners having been beaten by “unknown persons”, as well as about cleaners organized in the Union being stalked by “strange people”. 
As far as we are concerned we are just in the beginning of the struggle against the subletting of workers, the inhuman conditions in subcontracting companies, the modern forms of slavery, of which Konstantina
s case speaks.  This stake is ours, no matter how much social and political mediators have recently interfered to settle the issue along the line of perpetuating the existing condition.

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Afghan refugee committed suicide while detained in police station in Athens – he was to be deported…

Posted by clandestina on 16 February 2009

A 23 year old Afghan refugee who had been arrested and detained for not having a residence permit hung himself with a piece of cloth he tore from his clothes.  He did this on Sunday, the 15th February,  in the horrible detention space of the Elliniko Police Station in Athens.  The young Afghan was threatened with deportation.  One more state-inflicted murder, that adds to the recent deaths of migrants near the Petrou Ralli Police Department.   We do not know his name yet.

The Ellinikon detention space is a real pigsty, with 100 migrants – in most cases arrested for not having proper documents – squeezed in small cells, 4 or 6 in each one.  The yard is a 10 m x 10 m space where they wash and dry their clothes, and sometimes even urinate for no proper and suffient toilets exists.  

source: Athens Indymedia article and discussion

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Refugees in Athens prepare for hunger strike – They are at risk, while their political asylum cases in Greece are pending …

Posted by clandestina on 15 February 2009

We translate below the “Kathimerini” article (12 Feb. issue) on this.

Refugees prepare for hunger strike

They are at risk, while their political asylum cases in Greece are pending …

The six men are the definition of political refugee. They possess refugee identities issued directly by the head of the UNHCR in Geneva.

They have spent from 3 to 5 years in the Temporary Protection Facility of the U.S. army in Iraq and they have evidence of this. They are Iranian dissidents who sought refuge in Iraq in the mid-1990s and after the American intervention in the country they were kept «protected» (essentially imprisoned) in prisons and refugee centers. When they arrived in Greece they were beaten and threatened with deportation by the police, although they had shown the authority their refugee identity. Their expectations of the «Gate to Europe» proved false. They applied for political asylum seven months ago and have been hitherto eating at the soup-kitchen of the municipality of Athens. During the same peirod they have been sleeping in public places and their lives have been threatened. Their case became widely known when police forces entered the old building of the Appeal Court of Athens on Socratous Street around seven in the morning last Monday to evacuate it from the homeless refugees and immigrants who found shelter there during the cold winter nights.

Mrs Giota Masouridou from the Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants described their desperate situation. «Give me a paper and I ll go back, let them kill me», said a one of them to the lawyer last Monday. «Apart from the problems every homeless person faces, they also have run serious safety risks», says Mrs. Masouridou. «They are hunted by secret services from their countries of origin, and they run risks posed by their former comrades. In several cases murder has been attempted. When you are homeless there are specific places you can go and thus you can be easily identified by the mafia ». The refugees themselves informed the Athens Ofiice of the UNHCR about their cases. The Ministry of Health and the Secretary of the Ministry of Public Order have been informed but … nothing has happened. Those who managed to go to other European states have been granted political asylum. Most live in Switzerland and then in the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, few in Britain and Austria. In Greece, the much desired political asylum is still pending …

Hunger strike

The men who spoke to the Kathimerini newspaper, 14 more like-minded, the seven men and women who landed a few days ago in Agathonisi they are all members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran – PMOI. The organization was founded in 1965 in Iran to replace the regime of shah and then the regime of mullahs with a democratic regime. Currently six are preparing to launch a hunger strike and to go until the end, since they have no other choice left…



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Chania Migrants on Hunger Strike – the settling of the Hunger Strikers’ residence permits issue…

Posted by clandestina on 6 February 2009

...we translate below a short announcement of the Crete Forum of Immigrants about the officialisation of the hunger strikers’ permits issue.

More about the course of the hunger strike here.

On 11 November 2008 15 migrants in Chania began a hunger strike, demanding that more documents may be accepted as proofs for the date of entry in Greece. They had been in Greece before the end of 2004, still, their applications for residence permits had been rejected on the basis of insufficient documentation.

After 26 days of harsch struggle, the Minister of Interior Affairs pledged to provide them with permits, by means of a Ministerial Decision.

Until Ferbuary the 3d, 2009, the Ministry kept a reassuring stance about the issue. The Crete Forum of Migrants communicated with the ministry almost daily.

On February the 4th the Forum was informed by the Ministry of Interior Affairs that the Ministerial Decision about the issue of the permits is to be published on the Government Gazette. The relevant article says that the Minister can command the issue of residence permits on the basis of health reasons, or special reasons.

The legal issue of the hunger strikers has been settled. What is even more important is that the precedent of this Decision is one more weapon that we can use when confronted with the same injustice.

In Chania, one of the gateways to Fortress Europe, a handful of people acheived a first crack therein.  A small but significant one.
We continue our fight, in even more organized ways, for the destruction of the Fortress.

Crete Forum of Migrants

Posted in Action & Struggle Reports, Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases | 1 Comment »

Some recent reports by CoE, EU and UN bureaucracies on the refugee rights violations in Greece…and detention centers on the horizon….

Posted by clandestina on 4 February 2009


Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg

Τhe report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg summons Greece for violating refugee human rights and characterizes the system of reception of unaccompanied minor refugees arriving in Greece as“insufficient”. The report, expected to be published on Wednesday, focuses on a minefield in Evros river, and the inhumane conditions in detention centers for illegal immigrants. It also calls on Greece to reconsider its agreement with Turkey to return illegal immigrants to Turkey. The commisioner praises improvements to Greek law, but calls on Greece to comply in practice with European standards, particularly to the protection of unaccompanied minor migrants.

Source: 4 February 09, the whole report is retrievable here .

European Commisioner responsible for justice, freedom and security Jacques Barrot

The Commissioner Jacques Barrot (vice-president of the European commission, responsible for justice, freedom and security) asked from the Greek authorities to take measures for the immediate improvement of living conditions of immigrants in the center of Mitilini ask the Greek authorities, stressing that the construction and renovation of centers of immigration can be co-financed by the EU. Specifically, in response to a question of the SYRRIZA MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis, Barrot sayed that the Comision is aware of the unacceptable conditions prevailing in prisons in Greece and particularly in the immigrant reception center in Mytilini, which is not consistent with the provisions of European law on humane and decent treatment.

In this context, he calls for the immediate improvement of living conditions in the detention center of Mytilini, stressing that according to information available to the Commission, the infrastructure and conditions of the detention center in Mytilini must improve in order to make with the rules of the Directive. Also he notes that construction and renovation of centers of immigration can be co-financed by EU funds and that the Comision considers a request by the Greek authorities to the European Refugee Fund. Papadimoulis requested to know if the Comision is aware of the conditions in the immigrant detention center in Mytilini and if the construction and operation of detention centers are eligible for EU funding.

“Greece has already undergone international ridicule with the refusal of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands to apply international law and return migrants to entry-in-the-EU country Greece, on the basis that’there is no guarantee for respect for the rights of immigrants, and because of the unacceptable conditions in the detention centers, as in Lesvos island. The same dissatisfaction is evident in a recent report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe. The Comision confirms that there is the potential for co-financing from EU funds to improve the situation”Papadimoulis said.

Source: 28 Jan 09.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Greece’s infrastructure struggles to cope with mixed migration flow

MYTILINI, Greece, January 19 (UNHCR)

– The number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers detained last year on Greece’s Lesvos Island after crossing from Turkey more than doubled from 6,147 in 2007 to 13,252, including thousands of children. A rise in the number of arrests – almost 70,000 nationwide in the first seven months of last year compared to 60,000 in the same period for 2007 and 40,000 in all of 2005 – has also been logged in many other islands in the Aegean Sea. It’s a trend that is putting a great strain on infrastructure. “We are the most important gateway [in terms of number of arrivals] for irregular migrants,” Pavlos Voyiatzis, the prefect of Lesvos, told UNHCR during a visit to the island late last year. He was referring to the determined people who make the short but tricky sea crossing from Turkey on rusty boats or fibreglass dinghies. Some set off at night or in rough weather, and last year at least 61 people died or went missing while trying to make the trip. That compared to some 160 in 2007.

While many of those arriving on Greece’s shores are economic migrants, a significant number are people in need of international protection after fleeing conflict or persecution in their home countries. Very few apply for asylum at their point of arrival – only 25 on Lesvos in 2008. “They don’t apply here for many reasons. They either want to go to Athens or to other EU [European Union] countries,” said Panagiotis Samaras, the deputy director of security on Lesvos, adding that many wished to avoid the Greek asylum system because, if later picked up elsewhere in the EU, they could be sent back to Greece for their asylum application to be processed. All those stopped on Lesvos are detained and given a deportation order (regardless of whether or not they are in need of protection), but this is rarely enforced.

Those who apply for asylum on Lesvos spend longer in detention, but everyone is eventually moved to Athens, where 95 percent of asylum applications are lodged. But there is only one detention centre on Lesvos and the increasing number of arrivals is putting an enormous strain on this facility, which is located at Pagani near the Lesvos capital of Mytilini. The centre has a capacity to hold 280 people; when a UNHCR team visited in late November, there were 990. A separate open facility for unaccompanied minors can hold 96 children. Men, women and children are kept in detention on Lesvos for weeks and, in some, cases, months as the bureaucracy struggles to process them.

Aside from severe overcrowding, non-governmental organizations and other critics say the human rights of the detainees in Pagani are being violated because they are not allowed to exercise each day in the courtyard. The authorities say they do not have enough manpower to both supervise an outdoor activity period and guard the inmates. Critics also say there are insufficient hygiene and sanitation facilities, with around 150 people having to share a bath and a lavatory. As a result, they say, the risk of epidemics and disease is very high. Moreover, there is only one doctor on call to deal with emergencies. UNHCR has repeatedly called on the Greek authorities to close Pagani and open new facilities that meet minimum international standards for detention centres.

The authorities acknowledge there is a problem. “Pagani was adequate two years ago, but it is clearly insufficient with the dramatic increase of arrivals,” said Voyiatzis, the Lesvos prefect. “We have obtained the green light for a new holding centre for 1,000 people, but it will not be ready for at least 18 months.” The prefect said he was looking at possible mid-term solutions – including moving people to temporary accommodation – to address the conditions in Pagani, which sparked demonstrations, hunger strikes and suicide threats by detainees last June. Shortly afterwards, the island authorities announced the creation of the special centre for minors in the picturesque village of Agiasos. The establishment of the open facility some 35 kilometres north of Mytilini is a positive development – those 13,252 people detained last year on Lesvos included 3,649 minors, many of whom were unaccompanied. The children are allowed to stay as long as they need – when UNHCR visited late last year, a handful had been there for four months. Many have relatives in resettlement countries such as Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and the UK; a lawyer at the centre is exploring ways to reunite them with their kin.

But the problem of irregular mixed migration flows into Greece is unlikely to ease up in 2009, which means that the government must upgrade its facilities to handle this extra caseload. The situation in Pagani, moreover, is replicated in many other parts of Greece such as nearby Samos Island, where a new detention centre regularly has more than double its 300-person capacity. And in the western port of Patras, thousands of people from Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East live in huts made of garbage, cardboard and plastic. Action is needed to ensure their dignity in better living conditions. By Ketty Kehayioylou in Mytilini, Greece

Source: unhcr, Story date: 19 January 2009

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