Migration and Struggle in Greece

Posts Tagged ‘trafficking’

BBC journalist on Samos, immigrants in Greece and the UK

Posted by clandestina on 15 October 2009

original article at

Greece’s immigrants in limbo

by Gavin Hewitt

Thursday, 15 October 2009

at BBC

photo appeared on the original article

photo appeared on the original article

On a hill above the town of Samos in eastern Greece are a series of long buildings with grey walls and red roofs. They could be a barracks but this is a detention centre for immigrants. It was built to hold 300 people. Today, 473 are held there. Fifty-three are women and 10 are under the age of 18. They live behind barbed wire and wait. They stay for between one and three months, their frustration gnawing away at them. These are people who have made long, often dangerous journeys to reach the shores of Europe.

Within minutes of us starting to film through the wire a young man in a red football shirt detached himself from a group and shouted out to us. Clinging to the wire fence he said he was from Somalia but looked as if he had come from West Africa. He demands to know why he is being locked up. “Why?” he pleads with me. In a refugee centre in town someone has written on a wall: “They don’t let us come. They don’t let us stay. They don’t let us go.”

A few claim asylum but that is no longer a popular option. It can tie up a migrant for months. In Greece only 0.1% of asylum seekers are successful compared to 76% in Finland.

The common story is that after a month or so they are transferred to a detention centre elsewhere in Greece. They are eventually freed and told they must leave the country within a month. The vast majority head west to other European destinations.

The UK remains the favourite country. In London they can find their own community which will provide them with work often in the underground economy. It is an abiding belief that the British will eventually allow them to stay. There is another factor that drives them west: Money. Those from Afghanistan are often in the hands of powerful and dangerous traffickers. Some in the camp here in Samos say that it costs the equivalent of £16,000 to get from Afghanistan to Britain.

Often their families back home have sold houses to pay the people smugglers. Some will have to pay the networks from whatever they earn in London or other European cities. Without work they and their families are at risk from the traffickers. They owe a debt and will not be deterred by officials or laws. One lawyer looked at this camp and said there could be £4m of business right there.

The Greeks know that they are, in effect, just passing on the problem but, in their view, they are overwhelmed. They want the rest of Europe to start taking a share of those who arrive on Greek shores. That is unlikely to happen soon. It is difficult for any country to take a quota of immigrants determined by others. In any event some fear that a quota system would only encourage others to head to Europe.

Immigration is a major issue for the European Union. The current plan is called the Stockholm programme and the aim is to have it approved by the end of the year. The

intention is to beef up border patrols by giving more money to Frontex, the relatively new body that operates planes and ships.

Certainly here in Greece there is little evidence that Frontex patrols have a deterrent effect. The traffickers tell the migrants that if a Frontex boat appears to jump in the water and they’ll have to rescue you.

Measures are being considered to make it harder to grant mass amnesties for illegal migrants but that leaves open the question of what should be done with them. The EU is also working on what it calls a “Return Directive”. It is expected to become law by December 2010 and is supposed to make it easier to send home illegal immigrants but the law only applies once a decision has been taken to deport an immigrant.

The UK has opted out of this. If it is intended to deter migrants it is unlikely to be successful. Detainees will have the right to appeal against deportation, to see legal advisers, family members and get medical attention.

It is a directive that will provide a lot of work for lawyers. It is the view of the UK that it could make returning illegal immigrants more difficult because detainees will have more power to challenge deportation.

When economies were growing fast and there were gaps in the labour markets some countries were relatively relaxed about these arrivals but with 22 million people out of work across the EU the mood is changing. There were 238,000 asylum applications last year and just over a third were approved. As to the number of illegal immigrants no one knows. There may be a decline in those trying to get to Malta or Italy from Africa. This is partly because of an agreement with Libya to restrict the crossings. But the numbers have edged up in Greece and Southern Spain.

The reality is that in the midst of a severe recession the migrants have not been deterred. Many fear for their lives if they return home owning money. Currently there is no common European approach to this problem. There are moves and initiatives but, for the time being, Europe is like a trip wire. It makes live difficult for the migrants but it does not seriously put them off coming and neither does it help them settle.

Posted in Publications, Long Reports, Analyses, Reviews & Research, Undeclared War news | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

One more immigration aversion business-plan by Italy and partners…

Posted by clandestina on 6 May 2009



This is what is going on in the Mediterranen daily: states and police forces try to sell on the highest price possible their capacity for rendering migration a life – threatening venture.  The pretext of “rescuing” the refugees is only miserable.  Here is where the original post appeared. 


Italy, Malta spar on rescues again

Maltese premier ‘disgust’, Italian boat called in

(ANSA) – Rome, ay 6 – Italy and Malta were involved in a fresh spat on immigrant rescues on Wednesday after two boats carrying 136 migrants appeared near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

Italy says it has carried out 670 rescues in Maltese waters since the start of 2007.

Mifsud Bonnici has said 3,800 immigrants landed in Malta last year, adding that ”3,800 on a tiny island like Malta is the equivalent of 400,000 arriving in Italy”.

The boats contacted the Coast Guard on satellite phone and the alert was relayed to Maltese authorities who called in an Italian tanker, the closest vessel to the migrants.

The Italian Coast Guard said the boats were in waters where Malta should step in but Maltese Premier Lawrence Gonzi appeared to dispute this, voicing ”disgust” at what he called ”Italy’s intransigence where human lives are at stake”.

Italian Foreign Undersecretary Stefania Craxi said she was ”stunned” by Gonzi’s claim.

”The Italian Coast Guard is the only one that picks up stranded migrants in non-territorial waters and it does so with great humanity and spirit of service, carrying out work that other countries in the Mediterranean don’t do”.

Last month saw a four-day stand-off between Italy and Malta on rescuing a Turkish freighter, the Pinar, carrying 140 migrants and the dead body of a pregnant woman.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi eventually ordered the migrants to be rescued on humanitarian grounds, but Interior Minister Roberto Maroni took the case to Brussels.

At a meeting with European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot on April 24, Maroni and his Maltese counterpart Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici received assurances that the rest of the European Union would give them more help in dealing with illegal immigration.

Barrot said the EC was ready to offer financial help to the two countries, which bear the brunt of immigrants leaving the North African coast for Europe, and would also propose measures that would mean other member states would share the burden of illegal immigration.

He said that sooner or later other EU countries would have to cope with immigrants who arrive on the Italian and Maltese coasts arriving on their territory.

Maroni meanwhile called on the EU to reinforce the role of its border agency Frontex, suggesting that it should be made responsible for the creation and management of ”EU repatriation centres”.

If Europe shared the burden of arrivals in this way, ”the problem would resolve itself” and cases like that of the 140 stranded migrants ”would never happen”, he said.

Italy presented a dossier to the EC that Maroni said ”clearly” showed it had been Malta’s responsibility to receive the migrants, since they were rescued in Maltese waters by the freighter, the Pinar.

Malta admitted the Pinar was in Maltese waters but said international law dictated the freighter should head for the nearest port, which was allegedly Lampedusa.

Following the meeting with Mifsud Bonnici and Barrot, Maroni said the ”Pinar case was closed” but the wider issue of rescue competence remained ”because there are various interpretations”.

Three days later, on April 24, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini urged the European Commission to draw up new measures before its five-year mandate expires this year.

He said other EU countries bordering the Mediterranean – Malta, Greece, Spain, Portugal and France – support a seven-point plan outlined by Italy.

If adopted, these measures must become binding for other EU members because southern European countries can no longer be left alone to bear the brunt of the immigration emergency, he added.

The plan would outline clear-cut rules to help immigrants stranded at sea, avoiding disputes between countries over whose responsibility it is to assist them.

It would also propose shared responsibility among the 27-member states for providing hospitality for the migrants; set up a pan-European network of holding centres; provide concrete incentives to non-EU countries promoting legal immigration; agree to joint sea and coast patrols with non-EU countries in a bid to stem illegal immigration; and work with Libya to organise radar and satellite systems to monitor its southern frontiers.

With almost 800 kilometres of coastline, Libya has become a key stepping-stone for African migrants seeking to enter Europe, most of them through Malta, Sicily and Lampedusa.

Italy is ready to finance 50% of the cost of these monitoring systems but believes the EU should do its bit in covering the rest, Frattini said.

According to the Italian interior ministry, around 37,000 people landed on Italian coasts in 2008 – a 75% increase on 2007.

Posted in Content Reproductions/ Adaptations/ Translations, Undeclared War news | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »