Migration and Struggle in Greece

Posts Tagged ‘NGOs’

Italy: revolt for life and dignity 2

Posted by clandestina on 13 January 2010

More texts on the situation in Southern Italy.

“We Are Not Animals!” Italy’s Racial Riots and Their Aftermath

MARIA RITA LATTO (January 11, 2010)

Rage and fear. This is what comes out of the images from Rosarno, a small town near the western coast of Calabria, where violent clashes broke out after two African immigrants were wounded by a pellet gun attack by white youths in a car.

“Those guys were firing at us as if it was a fairground,” one of the men told La Repubblica newspaper. “They were laughing, I was screaming, other cars were passing by but nobody stopped them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Money for detention centers until “screening centers” come…

Posted by clandestina on 27 December 2009

source: athens news

THE GOVERNMENT has announced it will pay back all the money spent last year by the country’s border prefectures – including Samos, Lesvos, Chios, Chania and the Dodecanese – to maintain and operate the detention centres for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. The prefectures have accrued some 8.5 million euros in debt.

The decision was announced by Deputy Interior Minister Theodora Tzakri during a meeting with the prefects in Athens on December 7.

“We are very pleased with the minister’s announcement,” Manolis Karlas, prefect of the island of Samos, which lies just off the coast of Turkey, told the Athens News immediately following the meeting. “She promised we would receive all the money owed by the end of the year. A first instalment will be paid next week. This money has been spent to feed and clothe the migrants and to pay for their transportation to Athens.”

Karlas, like the other prefects, is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the detention centres for illegal migrants.

“We have about 80 [migrants] on the island today,” he explained. “But during the summer months the number exceeds 800. And they all need food, clothes and shoes. We feed them three times a day. All this costs money.”

He and the other prefects informed Tzakri that the current situation has forced them to shop on credit and run up huge debts with local merchants.

The number of migrants sneaking into Greece has skyrocketed in the past few years. Official data compiled by Greece’s interior ministry show more than 146,000 migrants were arrested for entering the country illegally in 2008. This is more than double the number recorded three years ago. The government has repeatedly stressed the need for more EU help.

To provide a permanent solution, the Pasok government is planning to transform migrant detention centres into so-called screening centres, where undocumented migrants and asylum seekers will stay for only a few days as their status is being decided. A similar system exists in other European Union countries.

This is a major detour in policy pursued by the former New Democracy government, which had announced the creation of dozens of additional migrant detention centres across the country. It had planned to transform dozens of disused military facilities into detention centres and to detain undocumented migrants for as long as a year or until they were deported.

However, the conditions at many of the country’s existing migrant detention centres have been harshly criticised by representatives of local and international human rights groups, and the current government itself.

During a visit of the overcrowded facility on the island of Lesvos, Spyros Vouyias, the deputy minister for the protection of citizens, condemned the condition of the overcrowded facility on the island of Lesvos and ordered its immediate closure last month.

Using language surprisingly harsh for a cabinet member, he told reporters that conditions there were “appalling, inhuman, a violation of basic human rights”.

Last week, the government announced plans to overhaul existing asylum legislation in order to increase the number of people who may secure refugee status. Greece currently has the lowest rate of refugee recognition in Europe. According to Michalis Chrysohoidis, the citizen protection minister, it is currently 0.03 percent.

Chrysohoidis has also announced that the police will no longer be the sole decision-maker on asylum applications. This will be assigned to a new committee of government officials, legal experts and members of non-governmental organisations. As many as 40,000 asylum applications are currently pending.

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Europe’s murderous borders: report by Migreurop

Posted by clandestina on 26 December 2009


“A report published by Migreurop (a Euro-African network of 40 organisations from 13 countries working on issues of immigration policy, externalisation and their consequences within and beyond the EU’s borders) in October 2009 paints a vivid picture of the effects of the EU’s migration policies by focussing on three regions in which a number of common denominators are identified in spite of the significant difference between them (the Calais region and the north of France, the Greek-Turkish border and the Oujda region in eastern Morocco). These are added to by a case study on events on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where practices have been adopted for the sake of expediency that confirm the suspicion that legal guarantees and human rights conceived as minimum standards for the treatment of all human beings are becoming a luxury that is not meant for migrants who have been criminalised and de-humanised as “illegals”.”\

The themes that run through all the sections from specific areas are those of controls and attempts to stop migrants, their detention in awful conditions that often entails abuses by guards, and a de-humanisation that goes so far as to result in deaths and in the use of legal and illegal dissuasive practices, among which the Dublin II regulation and illegal repatriations are identified as being particularly harmful. Instances of resistance against policies enacted by government by migrants themselves and local populations that express solidarity for them are also examined. A special emphasis is placed on how some French policies are officially justified as seeking to prevent “a draught” that would encourage others to migrate towards Europe, that the authors interpret as people being made to endure dreadful situations not for their own sake, but for the message to reach their home countries and particularly those who might be tempted to follow them in the future.

Surprising parallels are drawn, such as those between the “tranquillos” in northern Morocco and the so-called “jungles” in France, which are both make-shift shelters self-managed by those attempting to escape the attention of the police, immigration authorities, in short, to become invisible while they try to plan the next stage in their journey after hitting a dead end. In Morocco, they face the choice between trying to cross a heavily guarded stretch of the sea in which thousands have died en route to Spain, trying to climb the six-metre-high fencing erected around the Spanish north African enclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla, or to reach them by swimming around the border, again, risking death. In France, they have the Channel blocking their way into the UK, the Dublin II regulation stopping refugees among them from claiming asylum in case they are sent back to the countries they first entered the EU from (most often Greece, where the level of successful applications is well below 1%), resulting in a likelihood of them never being able to obtain asylum regardless of whether they fulfil the requirements for it.

Everywhere, the police are on their tracks, and capture involves the risk of detention, sometimes entailing violence as well as terrible living conditions, and expulsion, except for those who come from countries to where some European states will not expel them (unlike the UK, France does not usually repatriate Afghans), although this is not an issue if they are captured in Morocco or in Greece, where night-time returns to Turkey in perilous conditions across the river Evros are commonplace. The Italian practice of directly returning intercepted boats to Libya without identifying the people on board or their nationalities since May 2009 is a classic example of how the wish for expediency is trampling even the limited guarantees provided by increasingly harsh national immigration laws- expulsion without a judicial authority issuing a formal order; the presence of likely refugees disregarded; returns to presumed transit countries where they are likely to experience further abuses.

There are many excerpts of first-hand accounts from migrants’ experiences, ranging from a complete lack of understanding of the situation in which they are forced, for instance an Afghan youth in Calais who wonders how it is possible that he is not allowed to stay, nor allowed to leave and is thus condemned to roaming aimlessly, feeling as if he were “in a cage”, to harrowing descriptions of spiteful and mocking treatment at the hands of border guards that went so far as to lead people to perish, both on the Moroccan-Spanish border and the Greek-Turkish one.

The lasting impression caused by the report is that thousands of people are facing incredible ordeals as a result of policies, that awful living conditions from poorer countries are entering the EU as a result of exclusion and the creation of categories that are permanently forced to live in a condition of invisibility. On the other hand, to help them “regulate” immigration flows, the EU and its member states are funding a vast expansion of the internal security apparatus in bordering countries and of tough laws that are often implemented on the basis of skin colour.

This often means that visits by authorities from European countries and EU institutions for negotiations with third-country governments in this field result in indiscriminate round-ups in neighbourhoods in which large numbers of migrants live and in the spread of racism, both by security and police forces as well as by members of public, for example in north African countries against sub-Saharan migrants suspected of seeking to emigrate to Europe.The report is available on the Migreurop website:

Les frontières assassines de l’Europe (French, original)

Europe’s murderous borders (English)

Fronteras asesinas de Europa (Spanish)


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Greek asylum procedures are violating EU law, say organisations from across Europe

Posted by clandestina on 13 November 2009


Greek asylum procedures are violating EU law, say organisations from across Europe

13 November 2009

Refugee groups from across the EU, including the Refugee Council, have today filed a complaint with the European Commission stating that the Greek asylum system is failing and, as it currently stands, violates EU legislation on the treatment of asylum seekers.

The complaint states that asylum seekers in Greece are detained in overcrowded, dirty prisons or forced to live on the streets where many of them face harassment and violence. Asylum application can only be made on Saturdays at the police station in Athens. Every week thousands of asylum seekers queue up outside the station, yet only a small number are able to make a claim. There is a severe lack of information available about the asylum process, no interpreters and little access to legal aid. A serious shortage of accommodation means men, women and children are being left street homeless. And there is a serious risk that many refugees will end up being sent back either over the border to Turkey or to their home country to face the persecution from which they were fleeing, violating the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Because of its geographical position, Greece receives a high number of asylum seekers. Each year tens of thousands of asylum seekers arrive in Greece. On top of this, the UK returns refugees who arrive in the UK to Greece without considering their asylum application if it can be shown that they have passed through the country.

Jonathan Ellis, Director of Policy and Development said:

“The situation is untenable. We can no longer stand by while the Greek authorities continue to violate EU law and treat asylum seekers in this way. Until the asylum process is accessible and fair we should halt all returns to Greece immediately. It is unacceptable that anyone should be sent back to Greece while we have such serious concerns for their safety and how they might be treated.

“This is yet another example of why we need a pan-European approach towards those who seek refuge in Europe. European countries need to work together to ensure that each country does its fair share to relieve the pressure on countries close to the borders and ensure that all asylum seekers to the EU are treated fairly and humanely.”

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Human Rights Watch: Don’t Return Calais Migrants to Greece

Posted by clandestina on 26 September 2009

source: human rights watch website

EU Asylum Disparities Put Those Sent Back at Risk of Mistreatment

SEPTEMBER 25, 2009

(Paris) – Many of the hundreds of migrants arrested by French authorities following the destruction of their makeshift camp in Calais are at risk of being sent back to Greece, Human Rights Watch said today.

The French police reportedly arrested 276 migrants, including 125 children, on September 22, 2009, and destroyed their makeshift camp. The French immigration minister said several months ago that many asylum seekers entered through Greece and should be returned there. The New York Times, reporting on the situation, cited remarks by French officials that those who had entered the European Union through Greece would be returned there. The UK’s home secretary is quoted in The Guardian expressing his “delight” at the Calais operation and saying that the migrants there could seek asylum in the first country they entered, meaning that many are likely to be returned to Greece.

“France, the UK, and the rest of Europe act as if everything is perfectly fine in Greece,” said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch. “But Greece denies 99.5 percent of all asylum claims, has recently eliminated its appeals procedure, and detains migrants in deplorable conditions.”

Human Rights Watch said that France and the UK should ensure that any children among those removed who have family members in the UK, including siblings and other close relatives, are able to join them on humanitarian grounds.

Under the European Union’s Dublin II regulations, the country where a person first entered the EU is generally held responsible for examining that person’s asylum claim, whether or not the person applied there. European governments enter the fingerprints of all migrants they apprehend into an EU-wide database that allows other governments to trace where a person first entered the EU and to send that person back.

While the Dublin II regulations are premised on the notion that all EU member states have comparable asylum and migration practices, there are wide disparities, with some countries like Greece effectively offering no protection at all. This disparity underscores the importance of reforming the Dublin system and ensuring that EU member states are held to account for their failure to respect their obligations under EU law to provide access to asylum.

Human Rights Watch has called on European governments, in two reports released in 2008, to stop sending migrants and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, back to Greece under the Dublin II regulations. The reports said that Greece fails to guarantee a fair assessment of asylum claims, continues to detain migrants and asylum seekers in conditions that can be inhuman and degrading, and has not provided adequate reception conditions for migrants, or special protection for vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied migrant children. Greece also adopted a law in July abolishing ameaningful appeals procedure. The new law leaves asylum seekers with no right to an appeal or remedy against risk of removal to inhuman or degrading treatment, as required by article 39 of the EU’s procedures directive and articles 13 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Asylum seekers whose claim has been rejected are at risk of being immediately deported.

Concerns are further heightened, Human Rights Watch said, due to Greece’s recent arrests of large numbers of asylum seekers and their transfer to detention centers in the north, close to the Turkish border, where some are reported to have been pushed across the border back to Turkey. Greece has a record of systematically pushing migrants back to Turkey, including those seeking protection.

On August 5, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Greek interior minister asking him to take immediate steps to stop this practice and to treat migrants apprehended in Greek territory in a humane and dignified manner.

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 international law. These “pushbacks” typically occur at night from the northern detention facilities, and they involve considerable logistical preparation. At that time, Human Rights Watch conducted private, confidential interviews in various locations in both Greece and Turkey with 41 asylum seekers and refugees, who gave consistent accounts of Greek authorities taking them to the Evros river at night and then forcing them across.

France and other EU member states are bound under the European Convention on Human Rights not to return a person to a country where he or she is at risk of inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3) and bound by the international legal principle of nonrefoulement. The Dublin Convention allows parties to exercise their discretion under article 3 (2) (the sovereignty clause) not to return an asylum seeker and to examine the asylum claim themselves.

“It is hard not to have the impression that European governments are perfectly happy with Greece doing the dirty work for them and giving them the opportunity to get rid of these migrants, including potential refugees,” Frelick said. “Instead of sending them back to Greece, French authorities should ensure these migrants have the chance to apply for asylum in France.”

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Greece: They could not understand why they and their children were being detained

Posted by clandestina on 24 September 2009


Greece 2009 © MSF

In the detention facility for migrants in Lesvos, MSF arranges for detained children to see their fathers.

Ioanna Kotsioni works as the Deputy Head of Mission for the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) project providing assistance to migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees in Greece since December 2008. She has visited the project in the detention center of Pagani in Lesvos, an island in the eastern Aegean Sea, and she shares with us her experience inside the detention center.

Between August 20 and 28, I visited the detention center of Pagani to support the MSF team that since July has been providing psychosocial support to the undocumented migrants inside the center. The situation I faced when I first arrived was shocking.

In the center, there were more than 900 people detained in extremely overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The facility is actually an old warehouse that is not suitable to accommodate people. According to local authorities, its capacity is for up to 300 people, but when I visited I saw three times that many people—men, women, adolescents, and children—living in overcrowded cells, most of them sleeping on mattresses on the floor with no bed sheets. In each of the seven cells, including the cell with women and children, there were only two toilets and showers to be used by the 100 to 250 people detained there. People eat their meals inside the cell and are not regularly allowed in the yard.

To move around, you had to walk over dirty mattresses lying on the floor . . . most of the women were complaining that their children were sick and that they had not seen a doctor for days.

The situation was extremely tense in the detention center, as many people had been held for days without knowing when they would be released. Some of the unaccompanied minors had already been in detention for 50 days or more. The day I arrived, more than 100 unaccompanied minors were on the third day of a hunger strike, protesting over the living conditions in the center and demanding to be released. In total, more than 220 unaccompanied minors were kept in two cells. Fortunately, that hunger strike ended the following day, as some of them were released and transferred to the hospitality center for unaccompanied minors in Agiassos.

Families Divided

What was very alarming for MSF was that there were many women with small children inside the center. In one cell of about 200 square meters we found more than 200 women with children. Out of the 68 children, 36 where under the age of five. Among the women there were five pregnant women in the final months of pregnancy. Two of them gave birth in the local hospital in the second half of August. Conditions in that cell were extremely overcrowded. To move around, you had to walk over dirty mattresses lying on the floor. Because of the overcrowding and the poor sanitary conditions, most of the women were complaining that their children were sick and that they had not seen a doctor for days.

Greece 2009 © MSF

A group of migrants from Lesvos arrive in Athens.

Many of the women who talked to our psychologist and me were in a very bad psychological condition, especially those who had been detained in the center for a long period of time, often for over three weeks. They could not understand why they and their children were being detained there in such bad living conditions. They were in distress and had given up hope, as they were expecting every day to be released from the detention center. They were uncertain about their future and all of them were asking to be released. One Eritrean woman, held there for more than 45 days, threatened she would hurt herself if she was not released. Another Afghan woman told me that she was shocked when she arrived in Greece and was brought to this detention center, because she thought that she had finally reached Europe—the Europe that had taught the world about human rights. So she was asking me why she and her elder mother were locked in there.

Children greet their fathers through bars

Our team was faced with a general situation of distress. Priority was given to the most vulnerable groups: children, unaccompanied minors, and women. When we arrived, women had not been allowed out of their cell into the yard for a few days. One of the first things we did was arrange for the children to leave the cell, and we accompanied them to visit their fathers in the rooms at the front part of the building. That was a very touching moment for us to see the fathers hugging their small children through the bars of the cell, many of them crying. We also asked the police to allow the children to go out in the yard, where we organized some group activities, so that children could make drawings and play. The psychologist was also able to conduct some individual sessions with patients, who needed special attention.

He was worried that his wife and his newborn baby would be brought back to the detention center. He was also afraid that he and his family would die in there.

One father kept asking us about his wife and his newborn child that had been born a few days ago in the local hospital. His wife and the baby were still in the hospital and he was not allowed to visit them there. He was worried that his wife and his newborn baby would be brought back to the detention center. He was also afraid that he and his family would die in there.

It became apparent that the situation in the detention center was dangerous and that an immediate solution had to be found so that the 200 unaccompanied minors and 200 women with children would be moved to another facility. In an urgent meeting with local authorities, the UNHCR, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the center, we tried to emphasize the humanitarian needs of women and young children and to pressure local authorities to find a shelter for them in another facility with better living conditions, where children would not be locked up in cells.

A better solution needed

Local authorities came up with a temporary measure to host unaccompanied minors, women, and children in an open holiday camp site in Lesvos. There, women and children could wait for their fathers to be released. Indeed over the next four days many women, children, and unaccompanied minors were transferred from Pagani to the camp site, where living conditions were much better. However, they could stay there for only a few days, until they could obtain a boat ticket to Athens. Leaving for Athens, they held in their hands their release note, which stated that their refoulement—the return of a refugee to their home country—was not possible. They were asked to leave Greece by their own means in the next 30 days.

Two days later, a boat with approximately 300 people, mostly families and unaccompanied minors who had been released from Pagani, arrived in the port of Piraeus in Athens. Among them were two Palestinian families with small children, the mothers of whom were in their eighth month of pregnancy. There was also an Afghan family with a newborn child and two more young children. The aunt of the newborn told me they decided to name the baby Daria, which means “sea”, and kept telling me that she is a Greek baby now, as she was born in Greece.

These families and others, in total 40 people, were stranded at the port having nowhere to go and looking hopeless. After a couple of hours, the municipality of Piraeus took the initiative to host them temporarily in a shelter. While welcomed, this is however an ad hoc temporary solution. Indeed for all these undocumented migrants there is no provision for shelter, food, and—very importantly—access to health care.

Their condition remains extremely critical in a country like Greece that does not ensure a minimum of access to health care for migrant families with young children, unaccompanied minors, and people with health problems, and does not cover their enormous humanitarian needs. MSF is extremely worried about the fate of all these vulnerable people who face a future of destitution and uncertainty.

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A sum-up of August so far

Posted by clandestina on 26 August 2009


According to an “Eleftherotypia” newspaper article, 3.000 refugees are detained in police detentions spaces (in the prison cells of police departments) and 3.000 more in dtetention centers. The detention center conditions, which are even more unbearable due to seasonal heat, could only be described as hellish during August due to the the inhumane overcrowding, which is now the situation at Greece’s mainland detention spaces as well. This has been described as unprecedented, with the facilities with no exception now being 50% over their capacity. Detainees are constantly being transferred from one detention space to the next, but constant “sweep operations” have gradually filled all premises. According to leaks, there are also some “informal” detentions spaces running. The only strategy of the pertinent ministry of interior is actually summary expulsions of refugees to Turkey.

The minister and deputy minister of interior are said to be in political rivalry, and their urge to meet with the “message of the euroelections”, the cleansing of Athens and urban centers of immigrants, has clashed with coordination problems and the lack of any realistic plan for “reception centers”, at the expense of refugees’ treatment of course, as described above. The minister is said to follow a plan of constucting four camps until the end of the year, the deputy minister two camps as early as mid September.

The situation is believed to worsen by the end of August when the new law which denies refugees to lodge an appeal for rejected asylum applications will be put in effect, opening thus the way for the deportation thus thousands of refugees whose applications are now pending.

“Now you will die!”: Coast Guard attempt to drown asylum-seekers in Lesbos


Coast guard of Lesbos tied 12 Somali immigrants in an inflatable boat and then pierced its sides with knives in order to drown the helpless asylum seekers who were saved by passing cruise boat

The Coast Guard of Lesbos Island has been accused of attempting to mass murder 12 Somali asylum seekers, amongst which one woman. According to the case, on the 5th of July an Austrian European border Frontex Helicopter spotted an inflatable boat containing the 12 immigrants off Korakas Cape in Lesbos.

Upon the arrival of the Greek Coast Guard, the helicopter left, leaving the Greek cops to arrest the 12. The Coast Guard took the 12 out of their boat, tied their hands to their necks, beat them, and put them back in the inflatable boat before piercing its sides with knives. Then they let the boat go to the open sea telling the asylum seekers in English: “Now you will die!”.

Immediately the boat started getting water in, and sinking. The asylum seekers were saved from certain drowning when a British cruise boat passed by, saw them and saved them. The asylum seekers were then taken to Pagani detention camp on Lesbos from where they contacted the UN through a sympathetic lawyer. The Coast Guard adding insult to harm has called the UN law suit against them an act of provocation.

4 Iraqis on hunger strike in Arta


In Arta, a town in north-western Greece of 25.000, four Iraqis went on hunger strike on the 9th of July, while another four Albanians are expecting for their asylum requests to be examined. The immigrants are not being accused of any crime, yet they have been locked up in a dirty and crowded cell at the police station for over two weeks, depending only on the good will of the police officers to leave the cell. The Iraqis, considerably weakened by the hunger strike and the conditions of detention, have even abstained from requesting political asylum and are hoping their hunger strike will help accelerate the process leading to their release and administrative deportation.

THE IMMEDIATE LEGACY OF THE PATRAS EVICTION: 23 immigrants on hunger strike in Agrinion

source: athens indymedia

On the 11 July 2009, the Patras TV channel “superb” broadcasted a live interview of the president of the police officers’ Union of Agrinion, a town of 100.000 inhabitants in Western Greece. The officer stated that 23 of 26 immigrants who had been arrested after the complete demolition of the 15-year-old refugee settlement in Patras by the authorities, and had then been transferred to the police headquarters in Agrinion, have now started a hunger strike. (The remaining three immigrants had been released.)

All 23 of the detainees (Somalis and Afghanis) were reported to be suffering contageous diseases, (mainly tuberculosis and scabs) yet were still being kept in jail instead of being taken to a hospital for proper care. The guards refused to go near them for fear of becoming infected and had therefore arranged for the immigrants to have direct access to the toilets. The police officers’ union president added that the immigrants had been offered to be returned to their countries on the expense of the Greek State but they had all declined.

A month later, on the 12th of August, four of the immigrants were transferred to the hospital, where they joined another four immigrants-hunger strikers who had been transferred there the previous day. All eight of them are in a critical condition. The original 23 immigrants were still refusing food until the 20th of August, when six of them were transferred to an unknown destination. 17 immigrants are now being detained in Agrinio, accepting water and food and awaiting the State’s decision about their fate.

Hunger Strike in Pagani, Lesvos

source and much material and updates at

Published on 20. August 2009,

On 18th of August 2009, 160 unaccompanied minors detained in Pagani detention centre went on hunger strike to demand their immediate freedom. All of them are detained in just one room, where they share one toilet, many need to sleep on the floor due to lack of beds. Some of the minors are only eight or nine years old. 50 of them have been detained for over 2 months, the others have been in Pagani for several weeks already. The detention of minors is illegal under greek law.

Today, 150 people from a local solidarity movement and antiracist groups here to prepare the noborder camp took to the detention centre to show solidarity and support for their demand for immediate freedom. On arrival, the detained persons started shouting “freedom, freedom”, which was answered by the demonstaration. Messages in English and Farsi were read out as the migrants inside passed letters with their demands and concerning their situation to the outside.

All participants of the demonstration were severly shocked in the light of the unbearable conditions in Pagani. We learnt of a 13-year-old boy inside Pagani who was extremely sick and in urgent need of medical attention for two days already. However, none of the authorities responsible acted. It was only when we called an ambulance it was possible to transport the sick boy to the hospital. We also learnt of a heavily pregnant woman in a very bad health state. She however refused to be brought to the hospital since she didn’t want to leave her other two little children alone in Pagani.

We left with the promise to come back soon and to spread the information about these obvious human rights abuses worldwide and went to the city to confront the attorney responsible with his neglect in taking care of the minors he is in charge of.

One letter we received reads:

We are having hardship times in this worst jail, more than three months in a bad situation, without any supporters except you. The police refuses or rejects to explain our bad situation in this bad jail. We are more than 1.000 prisoners, ladies, guys as well as lots of children. So as a conclusion, please do whatever you can. We are waiting a lot from you, we need our freedom as well as our rights.

Best regards, prisoners

Samos Hunger Strike: almost 600 Samos immigrants go on hunger strike over transfers, expulsions


The recent government policy of moving illegal immigrants to reception centers in northern Greece before expelling them from the country ran into more trouble yesterday, as 580 migrants being held on Samos went on hunger strike to protest the measure.

The migrants’ complaints were prompted by an attempt by authorities to remove 26 illegal immigrants from the island on Tuesday so that they could be transferred to another center in northern Greece.

Authorities have recently attempted to crack down on illegal immigration by stepping up the number of expulsions, while also taking into custody migrants squatting or renting accommodation in run-down buildings in Athens.

The practice of transferring migrants to northern Greece has, in recent weeks, met with the opposition of human rights campaigners who have attempted to prevent the operations from taking place.

Yesterday’s protest came as sources revealed to Kathimerini that one in three applications made this year to remain here by the families of migrants living legally in Greece will be rejected.

Sources said that some 9,000 applications had been made but that in some 3,000 cases, the requests would be turned down because the migrant who is the main breadwinner in the family was not earning enough money.

According to Greek law, for a migrant’s family to be allowed to remain in Greece, the head of the family must declare an income that is 20 percent more than that of an unskilled laborer, which amounts to 10,200 euros per year before taxes.

Campaigners for migrants’ rights have expressed concern that since, given the current economic conditions, many immigrants’ incomes do not reach this level, their wives and children will be deemed to be living here illegally.

The Interior Ministry said that migrants can appeal any decision to deport their families and instead of a residence permit will be issued with a document confirming their legal status (“veveosi”) that will then be renewed every six months until their case is heard.

Deaths in Kos and Igoumenitsa

from fortresseurope.blogspot

07/08/09 Greece Body found at Igoumenitsa port. He sneaked onto a truck believing it was about to board a ferry for Italy and he died after he jumped off when it appears that the truck was headed for mainland Greece
13/08/09 Greece Two bodies were recovered from the sea off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Kos while another three people were reported to be missing

Children in prison in Thessaloniki

August 12, 2009


Two little girls from Afghanistan were among the immigrants detained in the Border Guard Station of Kordelio outside Thessaloniki. 8 year old Narges and 2 year old Farzona were arrested with their parents trying to board on forged documents on a plane to Stuttgart. Although the public prosecutor decided that the family should be trialed in October 2010, the police arrested them and detained the father and the rest of the family in different police prison spaces. In the mean time the police decision for their deportation was issued. Fortunately the next day a court decision ordered their release and their transfer to an NGO managed reception center.

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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



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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Médecins Sans Frontières on the destruction of Patras settlement.

Posted by clandestina on 18 July 2009

source: msf website

Patras, Greece: “All these people have lost their homes and safety overnight”

JULY 17, 2009


Micky van Gerven, Head of Mission

A makeshift migrants’ camp in Patras, Greece, was demolished on July 12 during a police operation that ended in fire. Micky van Gerven, Head of Mission for the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) project for migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees in Greece, talks about the situation in the city and expresses MSF’s concern over the medical and mental health conditions of the people who lost all their belongings and were left homeless.

Five days after the demolition of the camp what is the situation of migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees in Patras?

The demolition of the camp has left all the people who were previously living there homeless. Most of them have lost everything, all their belongings, during the clearing of the camp or the fire. Asylum-seekers—those who are registered and have papers—have been offered shelter at a hotel, but it is unclear how long they will be able to stay there. Unaccompanied minors—children under the age of 18 without their parents—have been offered to be brought to a reception center. Some of these children are only 13 or 14 years old and they are afraid to accept this offer, because they think they will be sent to jail.

All undocumented migrants either have been arrested or have fled into Patras, or are somewhere in hiding. The people who are now in the streets do not have access to hygiene and cooking facilities; they have no water or food. All of these people have lost their home and their relative safety overnight. For every human being, this is a traumatic experience.

How is MSF responding to their needs?

The team in Patras is following their patients where have gone. They are giving medical and psychosocial assistance to those who have gathered in different parts of the city and are monitoring the health situation of other groups. Over the last three days, the team has distributed hygiene material, sleeping bags, and food to those who have nothing left.

Do you have any information about the undocumented migrants who were arrested? Where were they taken?

As far as we know, the people who were arrested were taken to police stations in and around Patras, where they are kept with other undocumented migrants who have been arrested by the police before the demolition of the camp. We have witnessed undocumented migrants being kept in police stations for up to 20 days. The team has managed to visit one of these police stations and has seen that the police cells are not suitable; many people are cramped in one cell, having to sleep on very dirty floors, as there are no mattresses. They also lack direct access to showers and toilets. We are concerned that many of these people have medical and mental health needs that are not addressed and we have even seen people in custody who were injured during their arrest.

When they still lived in the camp, many of these people were our patients and we are concerned about their mental and physical health. Many of them come from war-torn countries; many have made a difficult journey under harsh circumstances, so they are in need of support and care and they need a roof over their heads.

What about the minors?

The minors need special attention. They went through similar hardships, but are obviously more vulnerable. We know that the Ministry of Health is in principle taking care of them by providing care and accommodation for them in special centers, but we also know that these centers are already overcrowded and that many of the minors are being held in detention centers or end up in the streets without any protection.


MSF Calls For Humane Treatment, Medical Assistance to Migrants Displaced in Greece

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UNHCR: Greece’s new immigration policies based on “dangerous generalizations”

Posted by clandestina on 10 July 2009

Q&A: Greece’s new immigration policies based on “dangerous generalizations”

10 Jul 2009 15:47:04 GMT
Source: UNHCR
ATHENS, Greece, July 10 (UNHCR) – Greece has introduced strict policies aimed at combating irregular immigration and passed legislation that could compromise the effective protection of people applying for asylum for the first time or on appeal. Charis Karanikas of the Ta Nea daily newspaper recently met Giorgios Tsarbopoulos, head of UNHCR’s office in Athens, to talk about the implications of this new legislation and a police crackdown on alleged illegal immigrants.
Excerpts from the interview:
What do you think of the latest measures?
The reasoning behind them is based on dangerous generalizations. We cannot speak only about “illegal” immigrants. Amongst them are many people who are in need of protection and whom the state is obligated to protect.
Should police measures be beefed up?
Yes, as regards the smugglers and the traffickers. But the problem cannot be handled only by police measures. Harsher policing at the border must be coupled with the creation of reception facilities.
What can be done in neighbourhoods inundated by immigrants?
Firstly, all those who are entitled to it under the law should be referred to special accommodation facilities. They include asylum-seekers and unaccompanied minors. Today, hundreds of people who have a right to this are homeless. In general, there is a need for shelter planning, regardless of whether people are legal or illegal.Will the violence seen in the central Athens neighbourhood of Agios Panteleimon, home to many homeless Afghan migrants and asylum-seekers, spread to other areas?I hope not.
How can this be avoided?
By isolating the extreme reactions, which simply serve to shift the problem. And through a dialogue between the government and the political parties, initiatives taken by the municipalities as well as talks with organizations of immigrants and refugees.
Do you agree with transforming military camps into reception centres?
Reception facilities and administrative detention centres for immigrants in view of their deportation are two separate things. It’s not enough to turn some installations into detention centres if you pretend to create proper reception conditions.
Can Greece address this problem alone?
What’s your opinion about the European Union’s stand on the matter?
It is steering clear of establishing binding mechanisms and practices for fairer responsibility sharing among the member states.
How many immigrants arrive in Greece each year?
In 2008, 146,337 people were arrested for “illegally entering and residing” in the country. There are, of course, others who have not been arrested. On the other hand, an unknown number of those who have been arrested were already residing in the country. Therefore the official data needs further analysis.
How many of them end up in existing reception centres?
All those who enter the country without papers are detained for up to three months at the administrative detention centres. Those who request asylum are transferred to open reception centres, which are too few to meet demand.
What are conditions like at these centres?
Most of the detention centres do not meet the basic conditions of human rights. The exceptions include the new centres on the island of Samos and in the Evros region [Filakio], however both are faced with problems of overcrowding.
What about reception conditions?
Reception facilities in border areas should include services and specialized staff in order to ensure the identification of people who are entitled to protection, assessment of their needs, information about their rights and obligations, and facilitation for their access to the asylum procedure.
Do you think the number of people who apply for asylum is less than the number who need it?
Those who deserve asylum are fewer than those who request it. And those who request it are not all refugees who genuinely deserve it.
Why don’t those who need asylum apply for it?
It’s because they don’t get the right information or legal advice, especially in the border areas. It’s also because they don’t manage to submit their application . . . or because they don’t trust Greece’s very problematic asylum system.
What are the main problems with Greece’s asylum system?
The initial processing and decision-making is unreliable, and the refugee recognition rate is almost zero. Not all asylum claims are registered swiftly, while many asylum-seekers lose their right to appeal. The procedure for adjudicating the claims is extremely slow.
What are the most common complaints you get from immigrants and refugees?
Delays in the adjudication of their asylum applications; lack of shelter and social care; informal push-backs or returns to Turkey across the Evros River [in north-east Greece], cases of ill-treatment.
And what do you do about them?
It depends. We address formal letters to the authorities; we try to solve the problem in an ad hoc way if possible; and we often refer individual cases to non-governmental organizations which provide legal and social support.

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