Migration and Struggle in Greece

Archive for March, 2012

The first immigrant detention camp will be built in Attiki

Posted by clandestina on 31 March 2012

The first of 30 detention centers for undocumented immigrants that the government is planning to open over the next two years is to be located in the administrative region of Attica (the area around Athens). According to government officials it will be located in the deserted Air Force camp in Katsimidi, near Mount Parnitha, north of Athens.
The ministry of national defense had sent the “ministry of citizen’s protection” a list of six inactive military camps that could be converted into immigrant detention centers, out of which Katisimidi was chosen.

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2 more dead immigrants in Evros

Posted by clandestina on 31 March 2012

One more immigrant corpse was found on Thursday afternoon in the region of Evros. The immigrant was found dead in the fields of the village Tychero, near Alexandroupolis. He was 20 to 30 years old.

Two days ago another immigrant, 25 to 30 years old, was found dead near the village of Nea Vissa, close to the town of Orestiada.

The last 2 years more than 80 immigrants have died in Evros.

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30 new detention camps announced, for 30.000 immigrants!

Posted by clandestina on 26 March 2012

M. Chrysohoidis, minister “of Citizen Protection”, announced today the creation of thirty detention lagers for immigrants in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense.

The minister had a meeting with the governors of 10 Greek prefectures to ask them if they agree to build detention centers in their areas and if they have specific facilities to offer for this purpose.

He also assured that the EU funding for these centers will be 250 million euros for the three following years.
For each detention lager a new independent police department will be created with personnel of 150 new police officers and also 70 private security men for every 250 immigrants detained.

According to the plan, each new detention center will be divided into four sector will capacity of 250 detained immigrants, i.e. 1,000 immigrants in each of the 30 lagers announced, a total of 30,000!

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Dozens queue every week in Athens to apply for asylum

Posted by clandestina on 23 March 2012

UNHCR and other humanitarian groups urge Greece to give foreigners unhindered access to the asylum procedure.

ATHENS, Greece, March 23 (UNHCR) – Every week more than 100 people, including a few women and children, wait for hours overnight outside a police building in Athens, hoping to apply for asylum.

The moment they have been waiting for comes at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, when staff at the Aliens Police Directorate in the Greek capital’s Petrou Ralli Street allow just 20 people into the building, where they can register their asylum application. Sometimes there are fights to get to the front, but the whole process is over in minutes.

The chosen 20 are given an interview date and issued with a pink card that identifies them as asylum-seekers with the right to remain in the country, seek employment and receive minimal assistance while their application is processed and considered.

The unlucky ones are dispersed, though many return the following week. Some have been trying for months, despite the risks of being deported if they are caught without a pink card. Earlier this month, Greece’s Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrissohoides warned that some 1,000 undocumented foreigners would be moved from Athens to a facility run by the police in Kozani, northern Greece.

The ritual on Petrou Ralli Street has been taking place every week for several years, but UNHCR and other humanitarian groups have been raising their concerns about the treatment of the asylum-seekers, believing they should all have unhindered access to the asylum procedure.

They also worry about the conditions that the asylum-seekers must endure, including having to wait in line for many hours without access to toilets and other basic facilities. Many sleep surrounded by piles of litter.

When UNHCR visited Petrou Ralli Street one recent Saturday morning, people from several sub-Saharan countries, including Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda and Senegal as well as nationals of Iraq and Syria, were waiting in line, hoping that this would be their week.

In Rome, Laurens Jolles, UNHCR’s regional representative, expressed concern at the situation. He urged the Greek authorities to address “this long-standing issue and ensure that access to the asylum procedure is guaranteed.”

UNHCR is helping Greece to reform its asylum system. Unhindered access to the asylum procedure through proper registration of claims and efficient processing constitute is an integral part of the needed improvements.

A newly established Asylum Service envisages such improvements once it becomes fully operational. But there is an urgent need for immediate measures to improve conditions for those waiting each week outside the Aliens Police Directorate.

Nge from Cameroon told UNHCR she had tried five weeks in a row to get an interview at the aliens directorate since arriving in Greece in December. This time, after the police had selected the 20 to be allowed in, she desperately called out “I beg you.” It made no difference and she left in tears.

Another lady, Sara from Ethiopia, has been living in Greece for 18 months. She asked for UNHCR’s help, while complaining that she could neither return to her country nor go to another country in Europe. Three teenagers from Syria, who said they were in Greece without family members, each managed to get a precious pink card after failing the week before.


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Immigrants detention camp to be created in Kozani

Posted by clandestina on 20 March 2012

Yesterday, Monday March 19, the Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrisochoidis announced in the Greek Cabinet that a new immigrants’ detention camp will be created in Kozani.
The camp will be under the authority of Greek police and will be located in a former military base. The camp’s capacity will be 1,000 inmates.
This will be the first official detention camp in Greece. The responsibility for guarding the perimeter of the detention camp will be given to the Greek police, but according to unofficial info, a private security company will be contracted for the interior.

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African Migrants in Citrus Industry

Posted by clandestina on 8 March 2012

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Doctors without borders: extreme weather conditions cause suffering for migrants in Border Police Stations

Posted by clandestina on 8 March 2012


Greece 2011 © MSF – A small Afghan child, one of the many newly arrived migrants in the Evros region, is detained in a border police station.


The constant arrival of migrants in Greece’s Evros region, coupled with the extreme weather conditions of the past few weeks, has put pressure on the already fragile system for receiving migrants in the border police stations of Soufli, Tychero, and Feres, and in the detention center of Filakio.

“The newly arrived migrants were spending up to a day in waiting areas in freezing temperatures,” says Antonio Virgilio, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operations in Greece.

“Migrants have already suffered harsh conditions on their journeys to cross the border,” he added. “Once in Greece, they had to wait for hours, without warm clothes to protect them from the extreme cold, and sometimes without receiving a medical check-up from Ministry of Health doctors.”

There is no heating in the waiting areas of the three Evros border police stations, and migrants are not provided with extra clothes, sleeping bags, survival blankets, or other means of keeping warm. “The reception conditions are unacceptable,” says Virgilio.

An emergency team from MSF has been responding to the migrants’ immediate needs in the three border police stations and in Filakio detention center. The team is on call 24 hours a day, conducting medical triage and providing migrants with warm clothes, sleeping bags, survival blankets, and hygiene kits. During the first four days of intervention, the MSF team assisted 125 migrants, including women and children, who arrived shivering, exhausted, and complaining of pain in their legs.

The team plans to make improvements to the waiting areas so that migrants receive at least some protection from the sometimes extreme cold.

The Greek authorities are building a new facility, the Poros transit center, which should be operational by mid-March. All newly arrived migrants will be registered in the new center, while MSF will carry out medical triage.

In 2011, 54,974 undocumented migrants and asylum seekers were apprehended for illegally crossing the border into Greece’s Evros region.

During 2011, MSF doctors provided medical treatment to 2,689 migrants at the border police stations and detention facilities of Filakio, Soufli, Tychero, Feres, and Venna. The majority were suffering from respiratory infections, gastrointestinal problems, and skin infections due to the poor living conditions and overcrowding.

Sixteen migrants were suffering from frostbite and were given first aid; a number of them were in severe condition and were referred to a hospital.

MSF logisticians distributed over 12,300 sleeping bags, 18,900 socks, 5,900 gloves and hats and 18,400 hygiene kits.

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‘Greek problem’ at heart of debates on migration

Posted by clandestina on 8 March 2012

Source: “EUROPOLITICS -the European affairs daily”

The member states’ home affairs ministers will meet, on 8 March in Brussels, to debate governance of the border-free Schengen area and in particular the problems they are experiencing with Greece, the main gateway to Europe for 80% of “illegal migrants” (more than 60,000 caught at the border between Greece and Turkey in 2011). Read the rest of this entry »

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The crossing point

Posted by clandestina on 8 March 2012


Would-be immigrants to Europe can go almost anywhere—for a price

IT TAKES a few minutes to cross the Evros river, now the main entry point for illegal immigrants from Asia into Europe, but it can be frightening. On the Turkish side people-smugglers can be armed. In winter the river is fast-flowing and very cold. Groups who pay €300 ($400) a head to cross are packed into rubber dinghies at night. Some migrants get panicky—especially because few know how to swim.

So it is a relief to find friendly faces on the Greek side. Many migrants are briefly arrested, detained or surrender to the police. In most cases they are given a document letting them stay for 30 days. Those who cross near Alexandroupolis go to the railway station, where they may visit the Café Paris and meet a young Moroccan who matches migrants with onward transport. The price for being smuggled from Athens to France in a secret lorry compartment is €4,000. Getting out by aeroplane is “very difficult”. An increasingly popular option is to go via the western Balkans. The rate from Alexandroupolis to Austria, along a route managed by Greeks, Albanians, Serbs and Moroccans, is €2,800.

Most illegal immigrants in Greece have crossed the Evros. In 2009 local police registered 8,800 migrants here; in 2010, 47,000; and in 2011, 55,000. In January this year 2,800 are known to have crossed. The most numerous are Pakistanis, followed by Afghans, Bangladeshis, Algerians and Congolese. By some estimates Greece has half a million illegal migrants. The euro crisis makes it hard for them to find work.

Illegal migrants are like water, says Despina Syrri, a researcher: when one channel is blocked they find another. In the past many immigrants who did not want to stay for long in Greece could find work, at least temporarily. Some procured fake passports with visas for Europe’s Schengen zone. Many smuggled themselves on to lorries heading by ferry to Italy. But these options are all getting harder. That is why thousands now move north through Macedonia and Serbia towards Hungary. Smaller numbers trek through Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Croatia.

It is hard to stanch the flow. Polish, German and other policemen from Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, armed with the latest technology, peer over the border into Turkey and help their Greek colleagues to spot columns of would-be migrants, sometimes 100-strong. The Greek police inform the Turks. But on the Turkish side the army is in charge, not the police, and it often arrives too late. Short of a change in Turkish policy, the use of force or a wall, the flow will continue.

The border is some 206km (128 miles) long. All of it is river, except for a 12.5km stretch of land. In 2010 at least 26,000 crossed here, but last year that number had fallen to 900. And early last month the Greeks started building a fence to stop people walking across. The reason for the decline since 2010, says Giorgios Salamangas, the local police chief, is that Frontex’s early warnings have had an effect. More pertinently, Turkish troops seem to have decided to change their policy of “pretending they could not see them at all”.

In Istanbul Murat Celikkan, a civil-rights activist who has worked with refugees, says that Turkey, itself overwhelmed with migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and now Syria, wants to get rid of them. However, given the poor state of their relations with the EU, the Turks also see this flow as leverage in talks with Brussels. And they do not see why Turkey should take on the burden of hosting immigrants just to help out the EU.

In a snowbound Banja Koviljaca, on the Serbian border with Bosnia, Anosh, a forlorn young Afghan, has ended up in Serbia’s centre for asylum-seekers. In 2008 51 people applied for asylum in Serbia. Last year the number was 3,134. The true figure crossing into Serbia must be several times higher. Anosh crossed the Evros last year and bought a fake Romanian passport in Athens for €400. He boarded a ferry to Italy, but was rumbled on the Italian side when the police got their Romanian translator to quiz him. Sent back to Greece, he and a group of Afghans paid a guide €500 each to help them walk into Macedonia. There they stayed in a safe house for two days and, after a taxi ride to the border, were shepherded across the hills into Serbia for another €200.

Rados Djurovic, who runs Serbia’s Asylum Protection Centre, says that few of the asylum-seekers want to stay in Serbia. They apply because it gives them a chance to rest, to get medical care, and to move around legally until they work out how to leave and where to go. Most important, they get an identity card that allows them to receive money, via a wire-transfer agency, to continue their journey.

From Bangladesh to Subotica on the Serbian border with Hungary, where groups of Afghans and others live in huts on frozen scrubland, countries play pass-the-buck with these immigrants. In Kosovo, off the main route, police sources estimate that over 1,000 pass through every year. Some say that, when they are caught in Macedonia or Serbia, policemen sometimes take the migrants to the border and tell them to walk across to Switzerland, Hungary or a “Muslim country”.

Most migrants aim to get to Hungary because they can then cross easily into Austria and, thanks to Schengen, get as far as Calais without border controls. “So long as you have got the money,” says Mr Djurovic, “you can get anywhere.”

Read more:Balkan visitors

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