Sunday

28th May 2017

Amnesty: migrant abuse in Greece is 'humanitarian crisis'

  • Migrants at the Filakio detention centre say they have no heating. (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

The poor treatment of migrants and asylum seekers in Greece is a humanitarian disaster, says a report released on Wednesday (19 December) by Amnesty International.

“Greece’s failure to respect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers is taking on the proportions of a humanitarian crisis,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia programme director at Amnesty International, in a statement.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The pro-rights NGO has documented cases where migrants attempting to cross the Evros river land border with Turkey have been forced back by Greek border police.

In one incident over the summer, Greek border police knifed a small rubber boat carrying seven Syrians in the middle of the Evros.

On another occasion Greek police allegedly escorted some 40 people to the middle of the river. Two armed officers then allegedly pushed them into the river without life jackets. One of the witnesses said only 25 made it across.

Greece, which is facing a profound economic crisis and a rise in xenophobia, has not demonstrated sufficient improvements on processing asylum seekers, says the report.

A new asylum agency was set up in 2011 but has yet to deliver any asylum claims due to a lack of staff.

Instead, asylum claimants, some returned to Greece by other member states (under EU rules the point-of-entry country has responsibility for the migrant), queue for days at the Attika Aliens Police Directorate in Athens in the off-chance they will be interviewed.

Member states stopped returning asylum seekers to Greece in 2011 but a massive backlog means Greek authorities are unable to process claimants quickly enough.

Those in limbo risk arrest and deportation since Athens launched its operation Xenius Zeus in August.

Police spokesman Christos Manouras in August said the aim of Xenius Zeus is to push back undocumented migrants to the Evros region on the Turkish border and, ultimately, to send them back to their countries of origin.

Police sweeps across the country have already arrested and detained thousands.

The campaign's first week in August detained in Athens some 6,030 people suspected of having entered the country illegally. Greek police then arrested 1,525 of them.

Among them are unaccompanied children who are placed in detention facilities with substandard conditions.

One 15-year old, arrested during a police sweep operation and separated from his family, was detained with people facing criminal charges.

“The Greek authorities continue to systematically detain asylum-seekers and irregular migrants including unaccompanied children in breach of international standards and seem to use detention – often in appalling conditions - as a deterrent,” said Dalhuisen.

Some 500, swept up in operation Xenius Zeus, rioted and set fire to the Komotini police academy in north-eastern Greece in November where they had been detained for the past three months.

Meanwhile, racially motivated attacks against asylum seekers, irregular migrants, as well as unofficial mosques and community shops are on the rise.

The NGO says there have been 87 documented incidents between January and September 2012 but most go unreported.

Migrants set fire to Greek detention centre

Over 500 undocumented migrants detained for the past three months at the Komotini police academy in eastern Greece rioted and set fire to the premises.

EU asylum applications on the rise

The number of people seeking asylum in Europe is on the rise, as conflicts and poverty force families to leave their home countries.

Children among dead in UK bomb attack

Children are among the victims after a suspected suicide bomber detonated at the Manchester Arena on Monday, the latest in a string of terror attacks to hit Europe.

EU and US discuss in-flight laptop ban

A meeting between US and EU officials in Brussels on possibly imposing a laptop ban on commercial flights was described by one senior Trump administration official as "robust".

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms