Migration and Struggle in Greece

Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Turkey sets out Dikili as migrants’ readmission port

Posted by clandestina on 8 July 2010

During last week’s meeting of Greek and Turkish officials on irregular migration in Athens, the Turkish side agreed to set out the port of Dikili, about 15 miles off Lesvos island, to serve the readmission of irregular migrants in Turkey.
Turkish authorities estimate that the port will start operating
within the present month of July.

(Ethnos, 5 July)

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Greece and France ask for more FRONTEX… on “humanitarian reform” background.

Posted by clandestina on 21 January 2010

These are only fragments of the way Greek government tries to divide and control immigrants  through integration carrots for long-residing and zero-tolerance-for-illegals stick.


Franco-Greek immigrant plan

Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis and France’s Minister of Immigration and Integration Eric Besson yesterday sent a joint letter to the Spanish government, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, proposing an upgrade in the powers of the EU’s border-monitoring agency Frontex to crack down on illegal immigration.

The proposals listed in the letter, sent to Spanish authorities ahead of an informal summit of EU interior ministers due to start in Toledo today, include “closer operational cooperation between Frontex and migrants’ countries of origin and transit countries.” The Franco-Greek initiative also proposes “the examination of the possibility of regular chartered return flights at the expense of Frontex.” […].


Premier heralds new asylum agency

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday heralded the creation of a new independent agency for the processing of thousands of immigrants’ asylum claims during talks with visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

Papandreou reassured Guterres that the new agency would offer protection to those who need it but stressed that Greek authorities would intensify their crackdown on migrants entering the country illegally for the good of the country and the European Union. “It is certain that the potential of Europe and Greece to receive and integrate [migrants] is limited,” Papandreou said. The prime minister also stressed the importance of the “cooperation of countries bordering the EU… to ensure that those who are really in need are protected while reducing the burden faced by EU member states.” The two men reportedly discussed the role of Turkey in this regard. In a related development yesterday, Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said that he and his French counterpart Brice Hortefeux would tomorrow unveil a joint initiative aimed at “urging Turkey into respecting the agreements that it has signed.” The premier also briefed Guterres on a government bill, to be submitted in Parliament by next week, that aims to grant citizenship to tens of thousands of migrants living and working legally in Greece and to their children.

Guterres welcomed the news about the bill and the establishment of a new asylum-processing agency, noting that these measures would “secure human rights and social cohesion in Greece.” He added that he understood the need for Greece to conduct tighter border checks but remarked that “migration is a matter of human rights as well as national security protection.”

A working committee – comprising experts from the Citizens’ Protection, Interior and Health ministries, the UNHCR and a string of nongovernmental organizations – yesterday proposed that the separation of migrants meriting refugee status from economic migrants be carried out in special reception centers. These “first stop” centers are to be set up in due course though it is unclear where they will be located.

Apart from the claims for asylum being lodged by new migrants arriving in Greece daily, the new agency has some 44,500 applications that are pending.

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European Union – Turkey: hard negotiations and tough bargaining for immigrants and refugees

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.

+ the article of last November at the Hürriyet newspaper

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.

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Death toll reaches 21 in suspected boat capsizing

Posted by clandestina on 12 January 2010

source: zaman newspaper

The discovery of two more bodies early Sunday brought the death toll of suspected refugees who drowned along the Greek-Turkish border to 21, the Anatolia news agency reported yesterday. The first bodies, believed to be of people who failed in an attempt to cross the Maritsa, or Evros, River into Greece illegally, were discovered last Monday.

It is unclear how large the suspected refugee group was and whether any of them made it across the river safely. Authorities believe the group tried to cross the river in a boat, but died under circumstances that remain unclear.

The area around the Maritsa and the nearby Aegean Sea are popular routes for illegal immigrants trying to access the European Union. Thousands of illegal immigrants from Asia and Africa enter EU-member Greece every year, usually making risky crossings from Turkey in boats that are not seaworthy. Ten people died in October 2009 when a boat carrying Afghan families sank off the eastern Aegean Sea island of Lesvos.

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15 dead in suspected immigrant boat accident in northern Greece

Posted by clandestina on 5 January 2010

UPDATE JAN 8, EVENING: The number of bodies found so far has risen to 15.  The date of the shipwreck is estimated to be the 29th of december.

UPDATE JAN 6, AFTERNOON: Unfortunately, the number of dead bodies washed ashore is rising, 10 bodies have been found so far.

source: associated press

THESSALONIKI, Greece – Police in northern Greece say six bodies have been recovered from the sea or have washed up on the shore following a suspected boat accident involving illegal immigrants.  Their IDs were not found, reports said.

Two bodies were found Monday and four at the weekend near Alexandroupoli, a city in northeastern Greece, near the border with Turkey.

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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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Political refugee from Turkey in risk of deportation

Posted by clandestina on 24 December 2009

source: athens indymedia article

Early today the police put on a plane from Crete to Athens the Turkish political refugee Ridvan Celik (Rido), who has been claiming political asylum since 1991 in Greece.
Rido who was persecuted by the Turkish Military  for refusing to join the army and  fight the Kurdish rebels) fled to Greece in 1991 and since then has filed twice political asylum applications.
Rido was arrested on Dec 6, 2009, when riot police attacked a group of 20 comrades who were on the road for the rally point of the march to commemorate the completion of of one year since the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos and the rebellion that followed.
Until today morning he had been detained at the  Heraklion police headquarters.  The mobilisation for his release and the reinitiation of political asylum processes did not bear fruit.

Apparently this secret transport to Athens and the day the Greek state chose for it (24 Dec) means that they intend to deport without crating fuzz.
UPDATE: according to athens indymedia users, Rido is detained at Petrou Ralli Police dpt.

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Boat carrying immigrants sank off the Greek island of Leros, killing 2

Posted by clandestina on 18 December 2009

source: ZAMAN  website

A boat carrying illegal immigrants sank yesterday off the coast of the
Greek island of Leros, killing two.

Greek media announced yesterday that at approximately 8 a.m. a boat carrying over 25 illegal immigrants capsized due to bad weather, according to the Anatolia news agency. Fishing boats rescued 25 people on a rocky islet in the eastern Aegean Sea, while the bodies of two others, who appear to have drowned, have also been found.

The group was reportedly brought to hospitals on the island for
medical exams. Greece is a busy transit point for illegal immigrants seeking to enter the European Union. Each year, tens of thousands try to sneak across Greece’s borders. Many come from as far as Iraq or Afghanistan.

12 December 2009,  Saturday.

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Hopes wash up on Aegean coast as dead bodies

Posted by clandestina on 23 November 2009


Hopes wash up on Aegean coast as dead bodies



Nothing has changed in the Aegean Sea. The journey of hope(lessness) for those searching for a future at the brink of despair ends in sorrow.

The lifeless bodies of six Palestinian children aged between 2 and 12 wash up on the shore. Over a week ago 19 Palestinians, of which more than half were children, were crammed into a small boat in the town of Turgutreis in Bodrum to head to the Greek Island of Kos. They brought nothing along with them except their dreams. But death interfered in the hopes of six children after the boat overturned 500 meters from the coast. The tragedy was mentioned as a disaster that had occurred between the two Aegean coasts, while the deaths of immigrants, which has come to be perceived as commonplace, were simply just another number for statistics. The invisibility of those who escape the difficult conditions in their homeland with the hope of establishing a normal life, even when they die, leads to the question of whether contemporary human rights are applied to everyone.

Death bells tolling for immigrants in Aegean

The Aegean Sea is the first border between the conflict-prone destitute East and South and wealthy Europe. The two coastlines of the Aegean, which is the scene of frequent journey-to-hope disasters, resemble two completely different worlds. But more often than not dreams end up drowning in the dark Aegean waters before passengers are able to reach the other world. The biggest disaster in this sea was the accident that killed 70 people near Seferihisar on Dec. 10, 2007. The tragedy coincided with World Human Rights Day, and dozens of hopeful passengers were not able to see the sun on that day. Over the past decades, hundreds and thousands of immigrants have been killed in the Aegean, and more death bells will toll for immigrants in the future.

As a result of Greece’s inhuman practices and nationalist chauvinism, the problem stopped being a human rights problem and became seen as a massive influx of immigrants. Turkey’s indifferent attitude and tendency to blame others resulted in turning the incidents in the Aegean into a dirty epic war. The fact that the victims and the people being killed are humans is not even mentioned. As for civil society organizations, the tragedies in the Aegean are trapped in an absolute human rights reference frame. Turkey and Greece are not the only sides to this problem — it is a “mutual” issue that concerns the entire world.

Emigration is a human right

Immigrants comprise the largest groups of people in the world and more people are becoming immigrants. Emigration today is more an escape from conflict and wars than a search for a new life. But it’s worth mentioning that the cause of most wars today is poverty, which creates a ground for conflict and displacement, especially in places where there is a vast difference in standards of living.

Certainly there is no magic spell that can resolve this issue, but if half of the global alliance formed around the disapproval of emigration formed around other matters, this issue would not be such a thorny problem. The global disturbance with immigration propels more countries to come together and reach an agreement than any other issue. Precautionary measures based on global cooperation must be taken until the real factors that cause people to become emigrants and refugees are resolved. Instead of trying to prevent emigration and convincing immigrants to stay home, more investments need to be made in countries that cause emigration.

Lastly, it’s also important to point out that emigration is a very rational choice and a natural human right. It would be a grave injustice to deprive people of this right. In order for people who are forced to emigrate to continue their life in an honorable fashion, we must not withhold this right from them.

Let me conclude with a statement that suits Immanuel Kant’s description of hospitality: Just as emigration is a natural right of every citizen, this right must be respected and these people must be welcomed inside.

*Recep Korkut is a social worker with the Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants (SGDD) and a journalist who has written articles about minorities, migration and refugees.




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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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