Migration and Struggle in Greece

Posts Tagged ‘asylum seekers’

EUROSTAT Q1 2010 Asylum Statistics for EU27 Countries

Posted by clandestina on 22 July 2010

EUROSTAT released updated data on 15 July for the First Quarter of 2010. The report is entitled: Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications in Q1 2010 (Doc. 32/2010).

Notable statistics include reductions of over 50% in the number of asylum applicants in three countries, Malta, Italy, and Greece, relative to the First Quarter of 2009. Malta had the largest reduction of approximately 95%.

The reductions in Malta and Italy are almost certainly due to Italy’s push-back practice. Though the first migrant arrivals in Malta in 2010 occurred this past weekend, 17 July, when 55 migrants on a sinking vessel were intercepted by Maltese and Libyan patrol boats. The Times of Malta reported that the migrants were “shared out” between the Maltese and Libyan patrol boats. 28 migrants were brought to Malta and 27 were apparently taken to Libya.

Click here for the full EUROSTAT document.

Click here for Times of Malta article.

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Unwelcoming shores

Posted by clandestina on 23 November 2009


Unwelcoming shores

21 NOV 09

Simone Troller of Human Rights Watch describes the plight of migrant and refugee children in Greece and how Greek authorities are doing the dirty work for other members of the European Union – giving them the opportunity to get rid of migrants, including potential refugees.

“We were one group of twelve persons they took out from the detention centre. They drove us in a car, for maybe one and a half hours. We arrived in the forest around 9 PM. They kept us there until midnight, they told us not to move, otherwise the Turkish police would find us. It was next to a small river. This side was Greece, the other side was Turkey… The boat was a metal boat, a long metal boat. Inside the boat there was one policeman. He started the engine and after we arrived to the other side he told us to get out quickly and the boat went straight back. When the Turkish police arrived two of us explained what happened. We were, for twelve days, in Turkish detention. They beat me too much… When the Turkish police beat me they said I should call my family to send me money to return to Afghanistan. I asked them not to send me back to Afghanistan, because I had problems. I asked them to keep me. But they did not care.”

This was how a seventeen-year-old Afghan boy described his secret expulsion from Greece to Turkey and ultimately back to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, his experience is typical of the fate of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who have been expelled from the European Union at the hands of Greek authorities. As a result, many people who need protection are sent back to danger, abuse or inhuman detention conditions.

In 2008 and 2009, Human Rights Watch investigated the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, in Greece and published its findings in three reports. In late 2008, when we first presented our findings to the Greek government about systematic illegal expulsions of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees to Turkey, we were given the cold shoulder – they ignored our findings.

When we presented them to EU policymakers in Brussels and also described the total absence of protection for migrant children who arrive without a parent or caregiver, there was recognisable disbelief and even shock in people’s faces. When I summarised in a meeting with a policymaker in Brussels that an unaccompanied migrant child who enters Greece is either detained or left to survive on the streets, I was told: “I don’t believe this.”

It may be hard to believe that such callous and illegal acts are taking place in the heart of Europe that has long committed itself to respect basic human rights standards. It may also be hard to believe that Greece offers no safety net for unaccompanied children. Those who are not expelled are either detained in filthy and overcrowded conditions or released onto the streets where they face a miserable struggle for survival and exploitation, including as child labourers.

Yet, ignoring the reality on the ground means such acts will continue to take place. Greece’s treatment of migrants and refugees, including these children, violates binding European Union directives for asylum seekers.

Despite the shocked reactions in Brussels when we described what we had found, our call to the European Commission to take Greece to the European Court of Justice for these violations has so far gone unheeded.

We also expected a stronger signal from other EU member states. In late 2008, in a meeting with EU member state delegations, we urged them to stop sending migrants and asylum seekers back to Greece under the so-called Dublin II regulations, because of the ill-treatment, detention and unfair asylum procedures. They told us, in the words of one diplomat: “If we stop doing that, more migrants will arrive to our country.”

There is no doubt that Greece is on the frontline of migration to Europe and that it carries a heavy burden for the rest of the EU under the Dublin II rules. But that reflects a wider failure of Europe’s asylum and migration policy that puts pressure on countries at its borders instead of ensuring equitable burden-sharing across the continent.

Under Dublin II regulations, the country where a person first enters the EU is generally held responsible for examining that person’s asylum claim, though for unaccompanied children the rule applies only if the child has made a claim there. The regulations are premised on the notion that all EU member states have comparable asylum and migration practices. Yet, there are wide disparities, with countries like Greece effectively offering no protection at all.

Greece gives refugee status to 0.05% of asylum seekers after a first interview and recently abolished meaningful appeals. This prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to withdraw from a formal role in Greece’s asylum procedure. Yet, EU member states continue to return migrants, asylum seekers, and even unaccompanied children to Greece, simply pretending that everything is perfectly fine.

It is hard not to get the impression that these EU member states are perfectly happy with Greece doing the dirty work for them – giving them the opportunity to get rid of these migrants, including potential refugees among them. In mid-2009, six months after we brought our findings to both Greek and EU attention, the Greek government began a new crackdown against migrants – arresting hundreds across the country, bulldozing a make-shift camp in Patras, evicting them from run-down dwellings in Athens, and detaining new arrivals on its islands.

Human Rights Watch returned to Greece in September 2009 and collected evidence that Greek authorities have arrested persons all over the country, and summarily expelled some of them across the river to Turkey, though previously it only sent those who had just entered from Turkey back that way. This means that no part of Greece is now safe for anyone in need of protection.

While the EU has largely remained silent on Greece’s abusive record or has focused on blaming Turkey for refusing to take migrants back, there are some encouraging signs from the newly elected Greek government. It announced in mid-October that Greece would no longer be a hell pit for migrants. The government also pledged to release 1,200 migrants from detention, where most are held in inhuman conditions, and to create a special police unit to investigate allegations of abuse.

Fixing the system will be a tall order, though. The new government inherits an asylum system that no longer deserves that name, a police force that commits abuses against migrants both in broad daylight and in secret nighttime operations, and detention facilities that are a hazard for detainees and staff alike. Fixing this will require more than promises and symbolic acts.

Despite the overwhelming agenda, there are obvious priorities. The Greek government can protect the most vulnerable migrants, especially unaccompanied children, and get rid of the stark alternatives in the current system of either detaining them or abandoning them to the streets and to exploitation. Greece should give them decent shelter, food, clothing, health care, and, of course, protection from traffickers.

Not all of the more urgent reforms even require more resources. An unambiguous commitment to stop the illegal expulsion of migrants to Turkey is essentially a matter of political will to operate according to the rule of law. The new police unit should immediately investigate these secret expulsions and levy sanctions against those responsible. Accountability for these acts is paramount for meaningful police reform.

Greece also needs to come to terms with the reality that many undocumented foreigners, adults and children alike, left their countries because their lives were in danger and have a legitimate claim for protection. The government needs to put its broken asylum system back on track, take the asylum procedure away from the police, create a special body that assesses claims fairly and promptly and institute a fair, workable appeals process. Otherwise, the adults and children the Greek government releases from detention now will end up again in a dead-end situation: unable to leave Greece, unable to return to their countries, and unable to be recognised as refugees.

Halting human rights abuses that have gone unchecked for too long should be urgent priorities both for Athens and for Brussels. The European Commission should make clear to Athens that unless the new government takes steps to bring its laws and practice in line with EU and human rights standards, the commission will refer the matter to the European Court of Justice. In addition, the EU needs to ensure that EU member states are held to account when they fail to respect their obligations under EU law, and ultimately to reform the Dublin system. Only then can the EU take meaningful steps toward creating a common European asylum system that offers equal level of protection across the continent and supports the countries on the frontline.♦

Simone Troller is Researcher, Human Rights Watch. For more on migrant and refugee children in Greece, see: Greece: Unsafe and unwelcoming shores and Left to survive: Systematic failure to protect unaccompanied migrant children in Greece, available at

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The situation in Turkey: a text by Oktay Durukan from the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly

Posted by clandestina on 1 November 2009

This is the text Oktay Durukan presented at the Public Event, Open Discussion in Thessaloniki: “People in mid-air: between deportation and asylum”.

Oktay Durukan from the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (HCA) in Istanbul, Turkey.

HCA is an Istanbul-based Turkish human rights organization, working on a diversity of issues. Since 2004, protection of refugees and vulnerable migrants in Turkey became one of our priority areas of activity. We run a relatively extensive, specialised program to provide free legal counselling and assistance to individuals who want to seek asylum protection in Turkey. We litigate to intervene in situations involving prolonged arbitrary detention and risk of refoulement. We also monitor state policies and practices, write reports on protection gaps. We organise trainings for lawyers and other professionals.

Who are asylum seekers present in Turkey

Read the rest of this entry »

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Amnesty International: Further forced evictions leave large numbers homeless

Posted by clandestina on 23 July 2009


Amnesty International

Public Statement

AI Index: EUR 25/008/2009

22 July 2009

Greece: Further forced evictions leave large numbers homeless

Amnesty International is again calling on the Greek authorities to ensure that individuals made homeless following forced evictions are provided with suitable alternative accommodation, in line with the country’s international obligations.

According to reports, the latest incident started early in the morning of 20 July 2009 and was completed on 21 July 2009. The Greek police evicted around 100 individuals who had been living in the Old Appeal Court of Athens. No alternative accommodation was reportedly provided to those living in the disused courthouse either before or after the eviction. There are also reports that the remaining migrants living at the courthouse did not receive appropriate notification of the impending eviction by the police.

Around 600 persons, including irregular migrants and potentially asylum-seekers, had lived for the last three years in the disused courthouse in Sokratous street in squalid conditions with no water, electricity or proper sanitation. Over the past two months the Greek authorities had been making attempts to evict them from the building. The 600 inhabitants had refused to move, claiming they had no alternative accommodation. At the time of their eviction the number of those remaining there had been reduced to around 100 people, following a series of sweep operations by the police in the centre of Athens which led to many of those living in the courthouse being arrested for having no proof of their legal right to remain in Greece.

According to reports the police arrested only a few of those evicted, as most had left the building the night before and dispersed around the centre of Athens. Fears have been expressed by local non-governmental organisations that many of those evicted were subsequently arrested in sweep operations conducted by the police in the centre of Athens on 20 and 21 July and that those with no documents confirming their legal right to stay are likely to be detained and deported.

On 9 May 2009, five migrants were injured after members of a far-right group tried to storm the courthouse. Some human rights activists were also lightly injured during the attack. There were reports that although the police were present, they did not take action to prevent the attacks or protect those under the attack.

These events follow the eviction of around 300 migrants and asylum-seekers from their makeshift homes in Patras on 12 July 2009. At that time Amnesty International expressed concern that around 100 individuals were left homeless as a result, living in fields close to Patras without shelter, or access to water, sanitation and medical assistance. Among those left unprotected were said to be a small number of unaccompanied minors.

International law prohibits forced evictions. No one should be evicted without adequate notice, prior consultation, due process of law including access to legal remedies, and provision of adequate alternative accommodation. Forced evictions violate a range of international and regional human rights treaties and standards, which protect the right to adequate housing, most notably the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Greece is a party.

Evictions may only be carried out as a last resort, once all other feasible alternatives have been explored, and only when all appropriate procedural protections are in place. All persons, irrespective of their legal status, must be guaranteed protection against forced evictions.

For further information about Amnesty International’s concerns about the asylum system and the treatment of asylum seekers and migrants in Greece see:

Greece: Amnesty International condemns forced evictions in Patras,AI Index: EUR 25/007/2009

Through the Demand Dignity campaign, launched in May 2009, Amnesty International is calling on governments globally to take all necessary measures, including the adoption of laws and policies that comply with international human rights law, to prohibit and prevent forced evictions.

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