clandestina

Migration and Struggle in Greece

Posts Tagged ‘Afghan Refugees’

Violent assaults against immigrants in Athens during August

Posted by clandestina on 29 August 2009

Two new attacks on refugees in the area of Aghios Panteleimonas

In the first case on August 6 an asylum seeker from Afghanistan was prevented from some Greeks to pass through the square and when he asked them the reasonhe was attacked by at least ten of them, who immobilized and beat him, and then left him unconscious on the street.

The local police did not register the event but referred him to a hospital where he remained  the following day until dawn as his injuries were severe.   He returned to the police station where he was deferred twice from filing a complaint.  After this the victim with the legal advice of the Council of Refugees filed a lawsuit in Athens Prosecutor.

The more recent  case is the one of an Afghan of recognized refugee status who has been receiving the last two weeks daily pressures and threats to close down his shop  «so that foreigners stop gathering there».  On August 17 about 10 people started hitting the window of the restaurant and told him to shut down; he refused, called the police for help but the police never came.   He was forced to close his shop, since the threats were repeated, and the police never came on the spot.

source: http://www.enet.gr/?i=news.el.article&id=76200

One more fascist attack in Attiki Square

An Afghan immigrant was produced by ambulance to the emergency wing of Evangelismos hospital, having been heavily injured yesterday at 8.30pm on an attack at Attikis square.  He suffers several injuries throughout his body and has been pierced with a crowbar  beneath the heart!

He was attacked by a gang of fascists who patrol every night in the area.  The standard, daily gathering spot of the fascist gang is just 30 meters from the Police Department of  Aghios Panteleimonas.   It is obvious that the contract between the fascists and the minister of public order involves daily patrols of thugs who stab and beat immigrants. In the summer many immigrants have been produced to hospitals according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

source: http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_id=1072344

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What’s happening in Calais and ways to help

Posted by clandestina on 31 July 2009

If you are coming to Calais to show solidarity and want information call (from UK) 00 33 6 34 81 07 10 from France 06 34 81 07 10

Latest information from activists on the ground in Calais

*Friday 31st July (3.30pm)

PATROLS
We have been continuing with the patrols early morning and at night.
We do not have news yet on the 2 migrants who were attacked
yesterday. Generally everything seems quite calm. Today we saw a CRS
(riot police) van with 6-7 Afghans but the police had not been to
the ‘jungle’ so they must have picked them up elsewhere.
The patrols are essential, but time consuming so we are also trying
to find residents near the jungles who will help us monitor

SCABIES/MEDICS
We have been doing some basic first aid and taking maalox. If anyone
is coming from England alcohol gel which doesn’t require water is
cheaper there so please bring some for us to distribute!
Medecins du monde has called for all NGO’s to work together to take
action on scabies between 17-21 August. The operation will take place
across Calais.
Treatment of scabies, Hygiene kit, Shower, Medical consultation,
Clean clothes, ‘Coverage’
MDM and MSF will provide most of the materials and do lobbying.
People are trying to find out where the NGO’s are meeting to get
more info(we haven’t been invited!) will send more info soon

CONCERNS
-are the migrants being cleaned up ahead of being put on charter
flights and deported?
-need to mobilize to make sure activist’s in the area at this time
even if deportations do not take place the migrants will be very
vulnerable if their homes etc are being ‘cleaned’
-how will it be organized?
-how will it be maintained?
(stopped from coming back if still no water?)

OFFICE SPACE

We really need one! People looking this afternoon at apartments.
Funding is still an issue;
JOBS THAT CAN BE DONE FROM OUTSIDE CALAIS
Please help with these if you can and email to confirm they are
happening
-fundraising
Needed desperately!
-design a window display/flag
We talked about making something really simple (using barbed wire to
birds logo maybe) that local supporters could display in their
windows (and could be given out or even sold at the market)
-leaflets and letters to residents
About Calais that can be given out at events in town and door to door
-improve the business card for migrants
At the moment we have a card in English only with the emergency phone
number on it 0650734104. We have been giving it out, so far not many
people have been using it but trying to improve this. Would be good
to have it in as many languages as possible, small business card
size that just says ‘in case of raids call 0650734104′ and that we
are from no borders/Calais migrant solidarity.
-UK arrivals leaflet
Being distributed in farsi and Arabic needs better translation into
pashtun. Needs a contact number for people who make it to England to
call. Please send a comment to this blog if you can help with any
of this.

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Greece’s refugee problem – article by Human Rights Watch director

Posted by clandestina on 31 July 2009

source of the Article: New York Times website

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

By BILL FRELICK

July 29, 2009WASHINGTON — The Greek government has come up with a novel solution to a growing backlog of asylum appeals: Abolish appeals.

Greece’s Refugee Problem

No backlog. No Problem.

But the problem can’t be dismissed so easily. Greece has a backlog of about 30,000 cases. A part-time asylum appeals board hears about 60 cases a week. At this rate, it would take about 10 years to clear the current backlog alone.

But wait. Greece, with its long coastal borders, is at the front line of migration to the European Union, with nearly 20,000 new asylum applications lodged there last year. Part of the reason is E.U. law, and the so-called “Dublin rules,” under which other Union member states can send asylum seekers who entered the E.U. through Greek borders back to Greece.

Last year, the Greek asylum approval rate was 0.05 percent. Since essentially everyone is initially denied, the appeals have been growing faster than the system’s capacity to keep up.

Anyone with a pocket calculator can see that the system doesn’t work. But it is not just a question of numbers. Each number represents a person. One of them is “Hamed,” who fled Afghanistan alone at age 13 when a local warlord threatened to kill him if he did not submit “for dancing and more.”

His asylum interview took place in 2008 in a noisy, crowded room in the Petrou Ralli police station:

“The policeman in civilian clothes asked something and the Iranian woman [the interpreter] told me I should say I came for a better life.

“I don’t know whether the police officer said that or not because I didn’t understand him. I told the Iranian woman that I wanted to explain my other problems. At that point the police officer shouted at me and I got scared. …”

The interview took five minutes.

The obvious solution is to have specially trained officials, including specialists in interviewing children, conduct careful, private interviews, and grant asylum to people who need it. Then, an independent body should work full-time to consider appeals in a fair and timely way.

Instead the government has introduced Presidential Decree 81/2009, which makes a bad system worse.

First, instead of creating a corps of specialized asylum interviewers capable of identifying people needing protection, the decree spreads the job of interviewing asylum seekers to police directorates throughout the country.

Police officers have a host of other duties and lack training in asylum law or in conducting interviews with fearful and traumatized asylum seekers.

Competent interpreters and asylum lawyers, in short supply even in Athens, are almost absent in the islands and border regions.

Second, the decree abolishes the right to lodge an appeal and eliminates the asylum appeals board (after it finishes the cases currently before it), retaining only strictly limited judicial review. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has declined to participate in the new asylum procedure, saying that it does “not sufficiently guarantee efficiency and fairness.”

Greek asylum procedures are just the tip of the iceberg of a system that fails at every stage to protect refugees and unaccompanied children.

These failures include illegal push-backs of migrants at the Turkish border, the puncturing of boats in the Aegean Sea, deplorable conditions of detention, police brutality, and various legal and administrative tricks to keep asylum seekers from lodging a claim, all of which Human Rights Watch exhaustively documented in two reports published late last year.

In June, the European Council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture issued a report, saying that its repeated recommendations since 1997 to improve the conditions of migrant detention have been “largely ignored by the Greek authorities.”

Greece responded with legislative changes that extend the period of administrative detention to up to one year, and possibly 18 months. And, on July 12, the Greek authorities burned and bulldozed a long-standing campsite at Patras occupied by migrants, including many unaccompanied children, thus swelling the numbers being held in unacceptable conditions of detention.

If Greece does not put its own house in order, the European Union must hold it accountable. Other E.U. member states should suspend all returns of asylum seekers to Greece under the terms of the Dublin Convention and all E.U. institutions should demand that Greece immediately comply not only with Union asylum standards, but also with human rights norms that should long since have been considered inviolable among European states.

Bill Frelick is the refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch and the author of “Stuck in a Revolving Door: Iraqis and Other Asylum Seekers and Migrants at the Greece/Turkey Entrance to the European Union.”

And a critique of it from black cat – red cat

Greece’s Refugee Problem: that’s the wrong way to look at it

Through the internets and the twitters, I came across Bill Frelick’s op-ed at the New York Times, titled “Greece’s Refugee Problem“. The article is strikingly to the point, and I recommend to anyone reading it. As a Greek, I should add that under pressure from the rise of the far-right, the current conservative Greek government has been transforming Greece’s non-policy policy, which it inherited from the previous centrist (“socialist”) government, into an active anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policy.

From the previous non-functional system designed to ignore the problem, the new policies aim to actively block all paths for admission of people as refugees. At the same time, conditions for immigrants and refugees are deteriorating. The matter of the conditions in the “administrative detention centers”, may not even be the big issue here. There are tens if not hundreds of thousands more people that have entered the country illegally, who cram in newly emergent urban ghettos or are exploited viciously as dirt cheap labor in the countryside. These people are offered no means to integrate into society and social tensions build up to explosive levels. During the recent years Greece is becoming an increasingly violent society. And the government’s response is more repression and pressure, with conditions that are utter shame for people claiming to be heirs to a great civilization.

The NYT article correctly points out some of these points, although it focuses just on the asylum seekers. And Bill Frelick is absolutely correct in pointing out that Greece should be held accountable for what it inflicts on refugees. For too long have Greek authorities been abusing immigrants and refugees in preposterous ways, ignoring our own Greek Constitution that demands respect for human rights and human dignity and spitting in the face of anything we claim to be heirs to.

But Bill Frelick makes a grave mistake in singling out Greece. He completely overlooks the reasons why Greece has to face this problem. The Greek response to the refugee issue is definitely worthy of severe criticism, however refugees do not appear out of thin air. Mr Frellick is talking about the response to the symptoms, but fails to even mention the underlying condition. His example of an Afghan boy fleeing a pederast warlord is a very uncharacteristic example. Many more people have fled their countries due to the imperialist wars waged by the US and their allies. And even greater is the number of people fleeing their countries due to economic conditions imposed by the neo-colonial exploitation war waged by the EU, the US, China etc on third world countries. And sure, Greece is not innocent in any of these, too: it’s a well established member of the EU and NATO.

So yes Greece must be severely criticized. But severe criticism should also be directed towards those that uproot people from their countries in the first place. And if one looks beyond sentimentalist compassion into the true reasons of the problem, there can only be one  “j’ accuse”: capitalism. But the NYT wouldn’t publish anything about that, would it?

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Human Rights Watch: Halt Crackdown, Arrests of Migrants

Posted by clandestina on 28 July 2009

source: human rights watch article

GREECE: HALT CRACKDOWN, ARRESTS OF MIGRANTS

Moving Detained Migrants to North Raises Fears of ‘Pushbacks’ to Turkey

July 27, 2009

Greek authorities are arresting large numbers of migrants and asylum seekers in the country’s cities and islands and moving many of them to the north, raising fears of illegal expulsions to Turkey, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch received reports from a credible source that, in mid-July 2009, police transferred a group of Arabic-speaking people from Chios Island to the Evros border region, where they were secretly forced to cross the border into Turkey. On July 23, local human rights activists prevented authorities from transferring 63 migrants from Lesvos Island to the north by blocking access to the ferry. On July 25, the police took most of them to Athens under heavy police escort.

“These operations and transfers are very worrying,” said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch. “We fear that people are being prevented from seeking asylum, that children arriving alone are not being protected, and that migrants are kept in unacceptable detention conditions and possibly even being secretly expelled to Turkey.”

In another recent episode, in a large-scale police operation from July 16 to 18, police in Athens surrounded what appeared to be several hundred migrants and locked them inside an abandoned courthouse. The police arrested anyone who left the building. It is feared that some of them may have needed protection and did not have a chance to file a claim for asylum, the police prevented Human Rights Watch from speaking to the people held inside, and Human Rights Watch does not know the whereabouts of those who were arrested when they tried to leave.

In a November 2008 report, “Stuck in a Revolving Door: Iraqis and Other Asylum Seekers and Migrants at the Greece/Turkey Entrance to the European Union,” Human Rights Watch documented how Greek authorities have systematically expelled migrants illegally across the Greece-Turkey border, in violation of many international legal obligations. These “pushbacks” typically occur at night from detention facilities in the northern part of the country, close to the Turkish border, and they involve considerable logistical preparation. Human Rights Watch at that time interviewed 41 asylum seekers and refugees – all privately and confidentially – in various locations in both Greece and Turkey, who gave consistent accounts of Greek authorities taking them to the Evros River at night and then forcing them across.

Human Rights Watch also documented how Greek authorities miscategorize unaccompanied children as adults and detain them for prolonged periods of time in conditions that could be considered inhumane and degrading. (See the December 2008 report, “Left to Survive: Systematic Failure to Protect Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Greece.”)

Undocumented Afghan migrant children sleep in a forest on the outskirts of Patras, Greece.  © 2009 Moises Saman/Panos Pictures

Undocumented Afghan migrant children sleep in a forest on the outskirts of Patras, Greece. © 2009 Moises Saman/Panos Pictures

In yet another recent incident, on July 12, police destroyed a makeshift migrant camp in Patras, on the Peloponnese peninsula. In the days before the camp was destroyed, the police reportedly arrested large numbers of migrants there, and according to credible sources, transferred an unknown number to the northern part of the country. On July 17, Human Rights Watch met with several Afghans in Patras, including 12 unaccompanied migrant children now homeless as a result of this operation, who were in hiding in abysmal conditions out of fear of being arrested.

A 24-year-old man told Human Rights Watch: “We’re living like animals in the jungle … we can’t take a shower and we don’t have proper food … before I lived in the camp, but all of my things and clothes were burned. Now I have a shirt and a pair of pants, nothing else.”

A 14-year-old Afghan boy who arrived in Greece one year earlier said: “The worst situation during the past year is now, in Patras – now that I’m living in this forest …. There’s not enough food and we only eat bread with water.”

Human Rights Watch also observed on July 17 how more than 1,000 migrants lined up all night, largely in vain, trying to file asylum applications at Athens’ main police station. Greece recognizes as few as 0.05 percent of asylum seekers as refugees at their first interview and passed a law at the end of June that abolishes a meaningful appeals procedure, making it virtually impossible for anyone to obtain refugee status. It also extended the maximum length of administrative detention for migrants to 12 months – and under certain circumstances, up to 18 months – from previously 90 days.

“It appears Greece is doing everything it can to close the door on persons who seek protection in Europe, no matter how vulnerable they are,” said Frelick. “The European Union must hold Greece accountable for acts contrary to international and European human rights and refugee law, and it needs to act fast, as the lives of many are at risk.”

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/27/greece-halt-crackdown-arrests-migrants

© Copyright 2008, Human Rights Watch

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UN criticises Italian, Greek asylum policies

Posted by clandestina on 15 July 2009

UN criticises Italian, Greek asylum policies

By Judith Crosbie
14.07.2009 / 13:29 CET
Refugee agency warns of maltreatment, failure to accept asylum applications and changes to legal system.

The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, today (14 July) criticised Italy’s treatment of would-be asylum-seekers and Greece’s decision to close down a camp housing asylum-seekers and change its laws on asylum.

The UNHCR said it feared that Italy’s new policy of intercepting migrants at sea may has resulted in failures to honour its obligations to asylum-seekers and in maltreatment of migrants. It says that, since May, Italy has picked up 900 people at sea and returned them to the north African coast from which they sailed.

In a statement, the UNHCR said it had “expressed serious concerns about the impact of this new policy which, in the absence of adequate safeguards, can prevent access to asylum and undermines the international principle of non-refoulement”, which is intended to prevent refugees being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened.

The UNHCR cited a case on 1 July when the Italian navy picked up 82 people 30 miles from the southern island of Lampedusa. A “significant number” of the group wanted to claim asylum but were sent back to Libya on a Libyan ship and placed in detention centres, the UNHCR said. It has asked the Italian authorities to provide information on those sent back to Libya.

It added that it had been told “disturbing accounts” of Italian personnel using force to transfer the migrants onto the Libyan ship, resulting in six people needing medical attention. Their belongings, including documents, were taken from them and have not yet been returned. “Those interviewed spoke of the distress they were in after four days at sea and said that the Italian navy did not offer them any food during the 12-hour operation to return them to Libya,” UNHCR said.

Of the group of 82, 76 were from Eritrea, including nine women and at least six children. A recent report by Human Rights Watch said Eritrea was “one of the most closed and repressive states in the world”, and the government stands accused of repression and abuse of its citizens, including detention, torture, forced labour and restrictions of freedom of movement and expression.

Greece was similarly criticised on a number of counts, including its decision to close down a makeshift camp in Patras on 12 July, which left many of its residents, including registered asylum-seekers, without a roof over their heads.

An unknown number of undocumented residents of the camp were arrested and taken to a police station in Patras, where, according to the UNHCR, translation and interpretation services may be inadequate. The organisation also voiced concern about the decision to transfer 44 unaccompanied minors to a special reception centre in Konitsa, northern Greece.

The statement was issued just after Greece adopted a law decentralising asylum decisions to over 50 police directorates and abolishing the existing appeals process in favour of a judicial review that will address only points of law. “These new developments are likely to make protection even more elusive for those who need it in Greece,” it warned in a statement.

Almost 20,000 applications for asylum in Greece were lodged in 2008. During that year, Greece awarded international protection to just 379 people.

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