Migration and Struggle in Greece

Unaccompanied minors abandoned between Greece and Turkey

Posted by clandestina on 2 August 2009


MIGRATION: Abandoned Between Two States

By Apostolis Fotiadis

IZMIR, Turkey, Jul 29 (IPS) – Isabelle Caillol, an activist with the Turkish branch of the human rights advocacy group Helsinki Citizens Assembly, sent a mass email to pro-migrant activists in Greece in May seeking help to find the family of Abbas Khavari, a 14-year-old Afghan refugee born in Iran.

“He and his family left Iran a few months ago and transited through Turkey to go to Greece,” she wrote in her email. “In December 2008, he and his family arrived in Athens. After ten days spent in Athens, when he was out of the house without his family, he was arrested by Greek authorities and deported to Turkey.”

Khavari was kept at a centre for unaccompanied minors in Istanbul, where Caillol found him. He had no phone number for his family in Athens, and no way of knowing if they were still there. And he had no contacts within the Afghan community in Istanbul that might help him search for them.

Khavari’s deportation and detention is yet more evidence of the anti- immigrant policies and a denial of international protection for refugees. It is evidence also of increased confrontation between Greece and Turkey over migrants.

Over the last two months Greece has stepped up blame on Turkey for insufficient action to stem the outflow of migrants from its territory and to renew a refoulement protocol signed between the two countries in 2001 under which Greece could immediately send back undocumented migrants coming from Turkey.

Greece has launched a campaign for greater cooperation among EU countries, and for the EU to make the Turkish position a factor in its accession move. “There is a need to strengthen cooperation at the European level and to boost our common means and efforts in order to deal with this issue effectively,” Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on a visit to Stockholm last week. Sweden has EU presidency for the second half of this year.

Two weeks back Karamanlis visited Spain and Italy. Mediterranean countries are demanding reversal of the Dublin II agreement, and increased policing of European borders.

Under Dublin II, asylum applicants must register in the first country where they come in contact with authorities. An asylum seeker moving to another country would have to be sent back to the country where he or she was initially registered.

The agreement has been widely criticised by human rights activists as a device to raise the walls of ‘Fortress Europe’, and for many EU states to reduce their responsibilities at the expense of border states.

Leaders from the Mediterranean countries plan to press hard on these issues ahead of the Stockholm Programme to be initiated later this year, that will largely determine Europe’s political and security agenda from 2010 to 2014.

Turkey, aware of the anti-immigration push in Europe, is preparing the necessary infrastructure in anticipation of new pressure.

“There are seven new reception centres able to accommodate 750 people each along the Turkish territory,” Prof. Taner Zorba from the Turkish Amnesty International told Greek and Turkish activists and lawyers at a meeting in Izmir city, 329 km south of Istanbul on the Turkish Aegean coast. “Another six detention centres are under planning.” Pro-migrant groups expect that this move will be accompanied by stepped up policing of irregular migration.

“We have decided to join efforts and organise an independent network that will help individual activists, members of NGOs, and lawyers exchange information on refoulements and detentions on both sides,” Marianna Tzeferakou, a lawyer from Athens told IPS.

“The plan is to raise public awareness and organise pressure on authorities. The message we want to send is that the illegal refoulements and the lives wasted in the Aegean are not accidents but the result of specific policies that ought to be stopped.”

The activists have symbolically named their campaign Kayiki, a common word in Turkish and Greek for the little boats fishermen use along the Aegean Sea. The first initiative will be to publicise stories of refugees and migrants in both countries in order to spotlight the inter-relation of their policies. (END/2009)

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