Posts Tagged ‘pushbacks’
Posted by clandestina on 23 January 2010
Posted in Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Short Reports, Undeclared War news | Tagged: border war, Fortress European Union, FRONTEX, legislation & control, legislation & policies, pushbacks | Leave a Comment »
Posted by clandestina on 14 January 2010
This short post is long due, but still usefull for anyone to understand why Turkey is not Libya, in other words, why the externalisation of Fortress Europe borders to Turkey is a stake in a complex and hard bargaining between the EU and the regional megapower (in which money is not everything for the latter).
According to the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, the European Union is ready to offer political advantages to Turkey in exchange for signing a readmission agreement. We found out what readmission means for Turkey, when Oktay Durukan, member of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly of Turkey, analytically presented (in Greek) Turkey’s policies during the conference “Suspended people”, that took place in Thessaloniki on October 30th, 2009. It is worth pointing out a little known fact that was mentioned in the conference: Turkey can only offer asylum to European Union member state nationals!
Turkey was one of the countries that negotiated about the Refugee Status in the 1951 Refugee Convention, and was one of the first countries to sign it. However, Turkey has retained one of the Convention’s paragraphs, the so-called “geographical limitation”, thus still offering protection only to migrants involuntarily displaced “as a result of events in Europe”. Therefore and according to the aforementioned paragraph, Turkey welcomes only EU member states’ nationals as refuge applicants.
Third country nationals, also referred to as “non-Europeans”, claiming refugee status in Turkey have to apply in a Turkish police station for a “temporary asylum status” regardless of their application to UNHCR, which has to pre-exist. If they are arrested before managing to apply for refugee status, then they reach a dead end: the police will not accept an application for the temporary refugee status and consequently deny them access to any refugee status application at all.
The ”lucky” ones who are recognized as asylum seekers by the UNHCR are then dispersed across the country, hosted in 30 so-called “satellite towns”. There they live in average for two to three years while the final decisions on their requests for asylum and resettlement are pending. They are obliged to find shelter on their own and receive little assistance with regards to daily expenses or health-care. The chances for declared work are minimal thus many of them are forced into illegal work, mainly as sex workers. Last but not least, they are obliged to pay a resident fee in order to obtain a residence permit.
EU to grant visa flexibility in return for readmission agreement
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
BRUSSELS – Hürriyet Daily News
The European Union is reportedly ready to introduce some visa flexibility if Turkey signs a readmission agreement to tackle the flow of illegal immigrants to Europe.
The European Union and Turkey will discuss the readmission agreement again Dec. 4. Visa flexibility will be introduced once Ankara agrees to sign the agreement to deal with illegal immigration to Europe, a high-ranked official from the European Commission in Brussels has revealed.
“We will start the new round of discussions between [the commission] and Turkey on the readmission agreement in Ankara on Dec. 4,” a senior official from the commission said under condition of anonymity during a meeting with Turkish journalists. “This is certainly a critical issue.”
A significant number of people fleeing their poverty-stricken or war-torn countries of origin seek an opportunity to live in Europe. Turkey is the main route for thousands of illegal immigrants coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.
The agreement would be binding for the entire union, as no individual solution is envisioned, the official said, adding that the financial burden would be shared. “The EU will grant support to Turkey to tackle the problem. We have expressed our readiness to look into all means to help,” the official said. “Of course we have budgetary limitations, but we are ready to help you.”
EU officials held the first round of talks Nov. 5 in Ankara to convince their Turkish counterparts to sign a readmission agreement. The EU member states, which apply a common asylum policy in line with the Dublin-2 Convention, have been seeking cooperation from candidate countries. According to Chapter 24 of negotiations between the EU and Turkey, Brussels is increasing pressure on Ankara with a call to adopt more deterrence measures or grant asylum to immigrants.
The readmission bargain may result in visa flexibility for Turkish citizens, the official said, adding, “As soon as the readmission agreement is signed, we will offer a lot of new opportunities in terms of visas.”
Some EU member countries set a pre-condition of readmission in order to facilitate visa-free travel, he said. “We cannot consider any visa facilitation with Turkey if we do not have a readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey,” the official said. “Once we have a readmission agreement, we will be very open to negotiate visa facilitation. Journalists, academics, business people and scientists will be able to travel easily to the EU.”
After the European Court of Human Rights granted two Turkish drivers visa-free travel for business purposes, Turkish diplomats kicked off a campaign to widen visa flexibility in cooperation with business associations. Turkey advocates that the court ruling be applied to students, academics, artists, scientists and businessmen under the Customs Union agreement.
Germany has already introduced new regulations in line with the court verdict, but most of the other EU member states are still reluctant to take any further steps.
Last year, Turkey detained some 68,000 illegal immigrants attempting to make their way into the European Union. According to official statistics, up to 18,000 asylum seekers are waiting in Turkey for acceptance to a third country.
Existing Turkish regulations do not allow the country to grant asylum to people from outside the European Council member states.
PS: in April last year, in a case that received widespread publicity, 18 Syrians and Iranian citizens, including 5 recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, were forced by threat of weapons by Turkish soldiers to cross borders swimming through a non-guarded part of the river that separates Turkey from Iraq.
This is an example of a unilateral, ‘black’ expulsion of people to a third country they have nothing to do with. 4 of them died, including one Iranian of the recognized ones by the UNHCR . The latter condemned the incident in a press release, based on testimonies received by survivors. To date, however, no serious investigation into the incident has taken place.
Posted in Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Group of Immigrants and Refugees / Clandestina Network Texts & Announcements, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research, Undeclared War news | Tagged: border war, Fortress European Union, human rights, Iran, Iraq, legislation & policies, political refugees, pushbacks, readmission agreement, refugee camps, refugees, Turkey, UNHCR | Leave a Comment »
Posted by clandestina on 26 December 2009
Text below by BRISTOL NO BORDERS
“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)
Posted in Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Interviews and Testimonies, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research | Tagged: Aegean, Algeria, border war, Calais, deportations, Greece, immigrant children, immigrant women, Italy, Lampedusa, Libya, Migreurop, NGOs, pushbacks, refugee camps, Turkey | Leave a Comment »
Posted by clandestina on 21 December 2009
Greece violates EU asylum right
Complaint submitted to the European Commission
On November 11, 2009, PRO ASYL, along with fellow refugee organizations Dutch Council for Refugees, Finnish Refugee Advice Center, and British Refugee and Migrant Justice, filed a complaint with the European Commission against Greece. Twenty other European refugee organizations support the complaint.
PRO ASYL demands that the European Commission immediately initiates an infringement procedure in the European Court of Justice based on Greece’s failure to abide by fundamental European asylum policy. Greece provides for asylum protection within its laws, however it falls short of its legal obligations in practice.
COMPLAINT & REPORT available at NGO complaint against Greece. The report includes many testimonies.
Posted in Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research | Tagged: asylum, deportations, detention, Dublin Regulation, immigrant abuse, legislation & policies, NGO, pushbacks, refoulements, system of (in)justice, unaccompanied minors | Leave a Comment »
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.”
Posted in Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases | Tagged: asylum, European Union Commision, Fortress European Union, Greece, legislation & policies, NGOs, pushbacks, sans papiers, Turkey, UK | Leave a Comment »
UK: Refugee and Migrant Justice Lawyers call on the UK Government to stop removing asylum-seekers to Greece
Posted by clandestina on 10 November 2009
>>> SOURCE/READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AT http://refugee-migrant-justice.org.uk <<<
10 November 2009
RMJ asks UK to stop removing asylum-seekers to Greece, following international complaint to European Commission against Greece
Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) today calls on the UK Government to stop removing asylum-seekers to Greece until conditions there improve.
Fifteen European refugee NGOs, led by Refugee and Migrant Justice and the Dutch Refugee Council, are calling for the Greek Government’s treatment of asylum-seekers to be referred to the European Court of Justice. The complaint will be presented to the European Commission today, 10 November, and will be heard at the end of November 2009.
Many asylum-seekers travel by sea to Greece. The Greek authorities often try to prevent them from entering Greek territory by turning boats back at sea or sometimes puncturing inflatable rafts. Life threatening situations have occurred in the process. When asylum-seekers do make it to Greek territory, many of them are detained upon arrival. Conditions in some of the detention centres are appalling – most of them are warehouses that are severely overcrowded and lack adequate sanitation and cooking facilities.
There is a severe shortage of reception facilities and no specialist social care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Many migrants end up sleeping rough where they often experience ill-health.
The Greek authorities make it very difficult for asylum seekers to gain access to the Greek asylum procedures, a clear violation of EC law, as well as international human rights instruments. In 2008 22,100 asylum applications were lodged in Greece, yet less than one per cent of asylum applicants were granted refugee status or other forms of protection, compared with 31 per cent in the UK.
The Greek authorities regularly deport asylum-seekers back to Turkey from where they may be removed to their countries of origin.
Caroline Slocock, Chief Executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice, says
“The inhumane conditions facing asylum-seekers in Greece are a scandal. Greece’s system is not just unfair to asylum seekers, it places unreasonable burdens on other European countries, like the UK, that have more respect for European and international obligations to identify and protect those who fear persecution.. . Many asylum-seekers end up travelling across Europe to France and the UK because they cannot get a fair hearing in Greece. We are appealing to the European Commission to put this right but in the meantime the UK Government should stop returning asylum-seekers to Greece under EU laws, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.”
RMJ has collated witness statements of asylum-seekers who have come to the UK via Greece…
>>> SOURCE/READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AT http://refugee-migrant-justice.org.uk <<<
Posted in Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Interviews and Testimonies, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research | Tagged: asylum, Greece, NGO, pushbacks, Refugee and Migrant Justice, refugees, sans papiers, system of (in)justice, Turkey, UK, unaccompanied minors | 1 Comment »
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
Posted in Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research | Tagged: Afghan Refugees, asylum seekers, detention, pushbacks, refoulments, Turkey | Leave a Comment »
Posted by clandestina on 23 October 2009
Report by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) and Aitima.
The report is available here.
Out the Back Door: Dublin II Regulation and illegal deportations from Greece
Based on evidence gathered during investigations in Greece, Turkey and Iraq between April and September 2009, and corroborated by reports and fi ndings of international human rights monitoring bodies and NGOs, we argue that the principle of non-refoulement is severely threatened by the Greek practice of illegal deportations, and consequently by transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin II Regulation.
In this report we present specifi c instances of illegal deportations by the Greek authorities of persons with pending asylum cases, as well as of other groups. Such deportations take place in such an arbitrary manner that there is no basis for claiming that Dublin returnees enjoy a higher degree of protection than others.
Posted in Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research | Tagged: deportations, Dublin Regulation, Evros, Greece, human rights, pushbacks, sans papiers, Tirkey | Leave a Comment »
Posted by clandestina on 14 October 2009
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Greece: Unsafe and Unwelcoming Shores
October 12, 2009
Between August and September 2009, Human Rights Watch interviewed 16 migrants who had been arrested on Samos, Symi, and Chios Islands, and the port towns of Patras and Igoumenitsa. The Greek authorities transferred them to detention centers close to the land border with Turkey and held them in the border police stations of Soufli, Tichero, and Feres, as well as in the Venna and Fylakio-Kyprinou (Fylakio) detention facilities. Two detained migrants described to us how Greek police forcibly pushed them across the river into Turkey from where Turkish authorities sent them back to Afghanistan.
One of them is a 17-year-old unaccompanied Afghan boy who told us over the phone that he was arrested on Symi Island, transferred to Fylakio detention center, and expelled with 11 other persons to Turkey:
We were one group of 12 persons they took out [from the detention center]. They drove us in a car…. for maybe one and a half hours. We arrived in the forest around 9 p.m.; 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. The Turkish police came back to that place with us and said we should sit and that more persons might be coming. But the Greek police didn’t send more people.
We were for 12 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 didn’t care.
Near our house are Taliban; they are close…. I’m scared all the time. I’m a tenth grade student but I can’t go to school.
The other person pushed back told us he was arrested on Samos Island, transferred to Fylakio detention center, expelled in a group of 45 or 50 persons, arrested by Turkish police, and taken to a detention center in Edirne: “I stayed for one week in Edirne. There were a lot of persons who had been deported from Greece. There were Afghans, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans.” Human Rights Watch visited that detention center in 2008 and found conditions there to be inhuman and degrading.
Another eight people said they witnessed Greek police taking migrants out of detention centers at nightfall in trucks or vans. Four of them told us that those taken from the detention centers later got in touch with detainees who stayed behind and told them that the Greek police had expelled them. One Afghan boy who was arrested on Symi Island described the scene he witnessed from his cell at Fylakio detention center:
Forty three persons were taken away from my group [of 91 persons]. One Iraqi had a friend among those [taken away]. He called Iraq from the detention center, and that friend said he had been deported. That Iraqi was part of our group. We were all in the same cell.
First [Greek police] asked them to sign something. … it was around the evening time, around 6 p.m. maybe. Then they searched them… the police took away everything they had: toothpaste, papers written in Greek, they took it from their pockets… After that they were taken into a truck without windows. It was completely closed, an army-colored truck. People entered from the back. I saw the truck with my own eyes and I saw how people entered.
Each time a new group [of detainees] arrived the truck came…. 67 persons arrived in one group and they took away 57 persons from that group…. Six or seven times new groups arrived…. For a small group the white van came, for a big group the truck came.
Another person told us he had been arrested in Patras ahead of the authorities’ destruction of a large makeshift camp and then transferred with a group of 120 persons to Fylakio detention center. He told us that four of his friends had been deported from there: “They asked us, ‘Do you have relatives or friends?’ I said I had an uncle. Four friends of mine said they didn’t have family and they were deported. One of them called my friend and told him he was in Afghanistan…. They deported them after about two weeks. They were taken away in a small white car.”
Greece’s Dysfunctional Asylum System
Greece effectively has no asylum system. It recognizes as few as 0.05 percent of asylum seekers as refugees at their first interview. A law adopted in July abolished ameaningful appeals procedure. The effect of the new law is that a person who is in need of international protection as a refugee in Greece is almost certain to be refused asylum at the first instance, and having been refused has little chance of obtaining it on appeal. The new law leaves asylum seekers with no 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. As a result of this legislative change, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) withdrew from any formal role in Greece’s asylum procedure.
Many of those we interviewed said they did not want to apply for asylum in Greece because they had heard that Greece rejects everyone. Some believed mistakenly that they could apply for asylum in other European countries. Access to legal counsel or interpreters is virtually impossible in detention centers in the north and those in need of protection may be unable to access asylum procedures. An Afghan detainee held in Soufli border police station, for example, was informed about her rights in English, a language she does not understand.
Apart from sporadic visits by a lawyer from the Greek Council for Refugees operating under a government agreement, no lawyers or organizations offer pro-bono legal aid in Greece’s northern region. Athens-based lawyers who offer pro-bono legal aid told us they are not able to access and speak to detainees in the north unless they present to authorities the names of persons detained. Even when they have the names of detainees, police in the Evros border region might ask them to obtain an additional permit from central police authorities to see persons detained; or police may not respond to their query whether a certain detainee is still held there. Conversations between lawyers and detainees furthermore are rarely confidential and lawyers said that police interrupted their talks and asked them to finish their conversations with detainees.
Even those with access to legal aid and wanting to apply for asylum are not necessarily able to access the minimal procedures that do exist. According to the Greek Council for Refugees, on July 30, Greek police handed over 40 Turkish citizens, among them 18 asylum seekers, including four unaccompanied children, to their Turkish counterparts under a bilateral readmission agreement. Police on Crete, where the group initially arrived, refused to receive their asylum applications despite interventions by local lawyers. The asylum seekers were deported even though the Greek Council for Refugees intervened with the responsible Ministry. In addition, on July 17, Human Rights Watch saw more than 1,000 asylum seekers lined up all night at Athens’ main police station trying to file asylum claims, largely in vain.
Greece is bound by the international legal principle of non-refoulement not to expel or return a person to a place where he or she would face persecution, torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment. This obligation applies not only to direct returns into the hands of persecutors or torturers, but also to indirect returns to countries from which persons are subsequently sent to a state where they face such threats. The circumstances of what constitutes inhuman or degrading treatment for an unaccompanied child may differ significantly from that of adults and Greece is obliged to take “measures and precautions” against such treatment when returning a child.
Inhuman and Degrading Detention Conditions
Greece is also bound under European and international law to protect migrants from inhuman and degrading treatment while in Greece. Persons held in detention centers in the north described to us conditions that would violate these obligations. Furthermore, unaccompanied children were detained jointly with adults across detention centers in the north, itself a violation of binding international standards.
People detained at the Soufli border police station, for example, told us that two detainees have to share one dirty mattress and that they are never allowed to go outside. One detainee, a 16-year-old girl in the company of her husband, told us that she felt constantly intimidated in a cell with more than 20 adult men. People detained at Tichero border police station told us they slept on dirty mattresses or on the floor without blankets, and that the bathroom was filthy, with an unbearable smell. Those held in the Venna detention facility said the place was infested with cockroaches and mice, and they complained about a lack of enough warm clothing. Those detained included a disabled man who had lost one arm and could not fully use his other arm but was subjected to the same regime. With the exception of Fylakio detention center, the conditions were compounded by a lack of access to medical care. Except for those held at Venna, those interviewed said they received only two meals per day, which they said was insufficient.
Detainees held at Fylakio detention facility spoke of comparatively better, albeit overcrowded, detention conditions. All persons who had been held there, however, said they experienced or witnessed violence and ill-treatment by guards. Two described an incident in which guards allegedly beat up an Arabic-speaking detainee after he tried to escape.
I saw an Arab who tried to escape. Police caught him and beat him up badly. They took him to the telephone room and covered the window with black plastic. Afterward I went to make a phone call and saw that guy with blood on his head and in handcuffs.
Police also allegedly used violence when intervening in fights among detainees or to punish those who did not stay quiet at night:
I saw once with my own eyes that three policemen beat one person. They beat him in the corridor because he quarreled [with others]. They beat him for a short time with batons, with their hands, and they also kicked him.
We received additional allegations of police violence from persons detained at Tichero and Feres border police stations, and from a person held at an unknown location near Komotini.
Several persons interviewed said it was forbidden to make phone calls from Soufli and Tichero border police stations. One detainee at Soufli told us: “One detainee said if you have a lawyer you might get released but we don’t have a telephone so how can we contact our family to get us a lawyer?” Another person said that although detainees held at Fylakio detention centers were permitted to make phone calls on Mondays and Thursdays, no calls were allowed during the first ten days.
Asked whether they tried to file a complaint, one detainee told us: “I never complained to anybody. We didn’t complain. It wouldn’t have helped if we’d said anything. The captain would have told us to stay quiet.” Although the police chief in charge of the Fylakio detention facility assured us he would investigate any allegation of ill-treatment brought forward by detainees, he added that he has never received any complaints.
The EU’s Failure to Hold Greece Accountable
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on the European Union to hold Greece accountable for its violation of European asylum standards, including while recent arrests and transfers were still ongoing. Yet, despite having a mandate and a duty to enforce member states’ implementation of EU legislation, the European Commission has not spoken out against Greece’s effective abolition of the right to seek asylum or to appeal rejected asylum claims, or its abusive detention and expulsions of migrants, including children. In fact, Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for justice, freedom, and security, was on an official visit to Greece when the new presidential decree was published that effectively eliminated the appeals procedure in violation of binding EU standards.
The European Commission’s failure to call publicly for Greece to remedy these serious violations of EU standards and European and international human rights and refugee law sends a worrying signal that abuses may go unchecked. It is vitally important for the Commission to take the opportunity of a new administration in Athens to press in the strongest terms for immediate and fundamental reform of Greece’s asylum system, meaningful access to protection, and an end to abuse.
The Commission should without delay issue a reasoned opinion on Greece’s current breaches of EU standards on asylum and migration, identifying the steps needed to bring Greece back into conformity with EU and human rights law. It should also make clear to Athens that unless the new government takes those steps, the Commission will refer its failure to uphold EU standards to the European Court of Justice.
In two reports published in 2008, Human Rights Watch further called on European governments to stop sending migrants and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, back to Greece under the Dublin II regulations. We concluded that Greece violated both EU standards and international human rights law by holding migrants in unacceptable detention conditions, by preventing persons in need of protection from seeking asylum, and by failing to protect unaccompanied migrant children.
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. 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 while at the same time ensuring that EU member states are held to account for their failure to respect their obligations under EU law. Only then can the EU take meaningful steps toward creating a common European asylum system.
New Greek Government Should Take Urgent Action to Stop Abuses
Human Rights Watch calls on the new government in Greece to take urgent steps to end abuses against refugees and migrants, including children. We reiterate the recommendations we made to the-then Minister of Interior in August:
Issue a public statement committing the government to treating migrants apprehended in Greek territory in a humane and dignified manner. Guarantee all migrants unhindered access to the asylum procedure and protection from refoulement.
Immediately ensure that the practice of illegal expulsion across the Evros River be stopped; carry out an investigation leading to identification and levying of appropriate sanctions of officials involved in such illegal acts.
Rescind Presidential Decree 81/2009, create a functioning asylum system in which trained staff assess asylum claims on the basis of confidential and private interviews, and allow for a fair and independent review of appeals.
Refrain from detaining unaccompanied migrant children and from summarily deporting them without prior assessment of the risks they face upon return. Create sufficient number of care places for all unaccompanied migrant children in Greece. Consider the granting of temporary residence for unaccompanied children on humanitarian grounds, as provided for in article 44(c) of Law 3386/2005, to protect them from repeated arrest and detention until a durable solution in their best interests is found.
Close substandard detention centers and open new facilities ensuring adequate space, cleanliness, recreation, access to health care, and legal and family visitation necessary for humane conditions of detention. Migrants should only be detained as a last resort, when actual proceedings for their deportation are ongoing, and when it is the only method necessary to secure persons’ lawful deportation, and when the necessity of detaining them is subject to regular review, including by the judiciary. Asylum seekers should not be detained.
Ensure full access for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Human Rights Watch, and other reputable organizations to all migration detention facilities, Coast Guard vessels and facilities, and to entry and border points and the border region.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (S-15-09), September 28, 2009. (name withheld)
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (S-16-09), September 29, 2009. (name withheld)
 Human Rights Watch, Greece/Turkey: Stuck in a Revolving Door: Iraqis and Other Asylum Seekers and Migrants at the Greece/Turkey Entrance to the European Union, November 2008, ISBN 1-56432-411-7, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/11/26/stuck-revolving-door-0, p.6.
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-3-09), September 8, 2009. (name and place withheld)
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-5-09), September 8, 2009. (name and place withheld)
 Human Rights Watch interview with Marianna Tzeferakou and Danai Angeli, Athens, September 6, 2009.
 Email correspondence from Greek Council of Refugees to Human Rights Watch, August 21, 2008.
 Mubilanzila Mayeka and Kaniki Mitunga v. Belgium, (Application no. 13178/03), October 12, 2006, available at http://www.echr.coe.int/, para. 69.
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-11-09 and S-12-09), September 10, 2009 (names and place withheld). Human Rights Watch interview with (S-13-09), September 11, 2009 (name and place withheld). The European Court of Human Rights held in a recent judgment that detention conditions at Soufli border police station amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. S.D. v. Greece, (Application no. 53541/07), June 11, 2009, available at http://www.echr.coe.int/, paras. 53-54.
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-2-09), September 7, 2009 (name and place withheld). Human Rights Watch interview (S-6-09), September 9, 2009. Human Rights Watch telephone interview (S-14-09), September 28, 2009 (name and place withheld).
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview (S-1-2009), August 20, 2009. Another detainee referred to the same incident (S-4-09).
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-3-09), September 8, 2009 (name and place withheld).
 Human Rights Watch interviews (S-2-09) September 7, 2009 (name and place withheld). Human Rights Watch interviews (S-6-09, S-7-09, S-8-09), September 9, 2009 (names and place withheld). Human Rights Watch interviews (S-11-09, S-12-09), September 10, 2009 (names and place withheld).
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-13-09), September 11, 2009 (name and place withheld).
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-3-09), September 8, 2009 (name and place withheld).
 Human Rights Watch interview (S-5-09), September 8, 2009 (name and place withheld).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Giorgos Salamagas, chief of police Orestiada, Fylakio detention center, September 10, 2009.
© Copyright 2008, Human Rights Watch
Posted in Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research | Tagged: Aegean, Afghan Refugees, deportations, detention, Greece, human rights, Human Rights Watch, immigrant abuse, police, port & coast police, ports, pushbacks, refugee camps, torture, unaccompanied minors | Leave a Comment »
Posted by clandestina on 26 September 2009
source: human rights watch website
EU Asylum Disparities Put Those Sent Back at Risk of MistreatmentSEPTEMBER 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.”
Posted in Calls to Action, Campaigns, Appeals & Petitions, Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Other Groups' and Organisations' Releases, Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research | Tagged: Calais, detention, Dublin Regulation, France, Greece, Human Rights Watch, immigrant abuse, NGOs, pushbacks, Turkey, UK | Leave a Comment »