1 August 2014
2010-2014: FOUR YEARS OF IMPLEMENTATION OF CO-FUNDED EUROPEAN REFUGEE FUND PROJECTS
At the end of June our organization completed a four-year period of implementation of European Refugee Fund projects co-funded by the Greek Ministries of Health and Labor.
The projects were delivered mostly in Athens. There were also actions in Lesvos, Patras, Korinth and Igoumenitsa.
The projects mainly offered legal, social and material support to asylum seekers and refugees. There were also awareness raising activities.
The intense effort made by the projects’ staff as well as by volunteers resulted in supporting about 8.000 asylum seekers and refugees.
There was prioritization of the most vulnerable people, such as unaccompanied minors, families, torture victims, women and ill.
There were numerous visits in detention places in Attica and Korinth for the suppost of detained asylum seekers
There were a lot of appeals to the competent authorities and also letters to the Ombudsman aiming at the improvement of the situation of asylum seekers and refugees in Greece.
Taking advantage of this precious experience we will continue our effort of supporting asylum seekers and refugees!
“Letters for the prolongation of detention”- 7 May 2014
Yesterday, the European Council for Refugees and Exiles together with AITIMA and the Greek Council for Refugees send letters to EU Commissioner Malmstrom and the Greek Minister of Public Order Dendias regarding the prolongation of the detention of migrants beyond the 18 month limit provided by the EU Return Directive.
More specifically in these letters the three organizations write that the Ministerial Decision providing for the prolongation of detention in Greece has started to be applied, which constitutes a violation of EU Law.
The three organizations call:
-Minister Dendias to withdraw the Ministerial Decision and the decisions for the prolongation of detention as well as fully comply with EU law.
-Commissioner Malmstrom to raise the issue with the Greek authorities, ask for the withdrawal of the Ministerial Decision and the decisions for the prolongation of detention and launch infringement procedure if the Greek authorities continue to violate EU law.
You can read the letter to the Greek Minister of Public Order here
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You can read the letter to Commissioner Malmstrom here.
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“I waited for ten years to get the final decision on my case”
INTERVIEW: ISMAEL RAHMANI, RECOGNIZED REFUGEE FROM AFGHANISTAN, MEMBER OF NGO “AITIMA”
When did you leave Afghanistan and why?
I left in 2002 because I was persecuted for political reasons.
When did you arrive in Greece and how did the Greek authorities treat you?
It was 2003 when I arrived in Lesvos island. Then I came to Peiraias by ship. When I went out of the port I was arrested by the Police and I was taken to a detention center in Drapetsona. I stayed there for 92 days. During this period I was confined in the detention center. I didn’t see the sunlight at all.
When did you apply for asylum?
When I was released I applied for asylum in Athens Alien Police. However I wasn’t given the special document for asylum seekers until 2006, so I didn’t have the right to work and medical care. After 2006 the situation improved.
What happened with your asylum application?
In 2007 I got a first-instance rejection, so I appealed. My appeal was examined in 2013 and I got refugee status. It took ten years for my case to be finally examined.
How did you feel during all these years you had been waiting for the decision?
I felt as if I was a prisoner in Greece. I didn’t know what my future would be.
How do you feel now that you got recognized as a refugee?
On one hand I feel satisfied that I was recognized. On the other hand, however, the state doesn’t offer any kind of support and this makes me feel insecure.
What is the situation in other European countries as you know?
Decisions on asylum applications are issued within one year and in the meantime asylum seekers are offered accommodation and an allowance for their expenses. Those who get refugee status are offered support from the state.
Do you feel integrated into the Greek society?
I have a good relationship with most people and actually many of my friends are Greek. I have also my own business. In this respect I feel integrated. There are times however that I feel that the Greek society is hostile.
Ten years after your arrival in Greece, there are still many Afghan refugees coming. What do you do to help them?
As I speak Greek I help them with translation in many cases. I am also in contact with many Ngos that help refugees and I refer refugees to them.
During all these years I have had contact with several organizations such as Amnesty International, the Ecumenical Refugee Program and One Child One World.
In 2008 AITIMA was established and since I am an active member of the organization, I refer most refuges to AITIMA.
I also participated in the creation of the Greek Refugee Forum and I am a member of its Board.
What do you think about the support offered to refugees by civil society organizations?
The organizations try to help as much as possible. However there are systemic problems that organizations cannot solve as hard as they may try to. The long delay in the examination of asylum cases is a typical example.
What is your opinion about Greece?
Greece is a beautiful country with sea, islands, warm weather, so it is nice to live here.
However the economic situation is very bad and I don’t know what the future will be.
Do you miss your country?
I certainly miss my country. I have left behind a big family, my mother and my seven brothers and sisters. My father died and I couldn’t see him before he passed away nor could I be present at his funeral.
Do you think that you will manage to go back some time?
The situation is still very dangerous. I don’t know if there will be peace and democracy, so that I will be able to go back.
Material support to refugees
Our organization offers material support to refugees giving priority to the most vulnerable cases such as families, unaccompanied minors and ill people. This support includes food, clothing, blankets, school material, items of personal hygiene, glasses, hearing and orthopedic aids.
The program of material support is based on the support of companies, foundations and individual citizens.
30th of July 2013
Death of detained irregular migrants
Up to one year the Ministry of Public Order applies the practice of prolonged detention (up to 18 months) for irregular migrants and asylum seekers. This prolonged detention is often carried out in the facilities of Police Stations which are suitable only for a few days’ detention as well as in other detention facilities which do not comply with the standards of international law. In these facilities the detainees’ nutrition and medical care are often inadequate. We note that it is for these conditions of detention –and for shorter periods- that Greece has been convicted by many decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and has been severely reprimanded by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe.
As it is written in the relevant decisions of the police authorities, this prolonged detention aims at the removal (deportation) of the detainees. However the police authorities apply it even in the case of people who cannot be deported, either because this would violate the principle of non-refoulement (people who come from countries of origin where there are massive violations of human rights such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea etc) or because the deportation is practically impossible. This happens although the law provides that in these cases the removal is postponed for 6 months and the detainees are released (article 24 of law 3907/2011).
Moreover the prolonged detention is routinely applied to detainees who ask for asylum, although the law provides that the detention of the asylum seekers should be only exceptional (article 13 of presidential decree 114/2010)
Thus this prolonged detention is carried out routinely in facilities which are inadequate for lengthy stay and as far as a big part of the detainees is concerned (those who are not deportable and the majority of asylum seekers) it is entirely illegitimate since it is contrary to the articles 24 of law 3907/2011 and 13 of presidential decree 114/2010.
From the above it is evident that this practice puts a big number of detainees in inhuman and degrading treatment. In the cases that the detainees are not deportable or the majority of asylum seekers this illegitimate and illegal detention gives the impression that it is some kind of punishment the authorities impose to the migrants who had the misfortune of coming to Greece.
This new situation of the prolonged detention of thousands of irregular migrants and asylum seekers in conditions that are often unacceptable, has led to extreme and very dangerous situations such as rebellions of the detainees and loss of human life. According to recent publications two detainees committed suicide (one in Grevena Police Station and another in Kozani) while a few days ago an Afghan detainee lost his life. According to the allegations of the Afghan Community the detainee in Korinth detention center didn’t get medical treatment on time and when he was taken to hospital his situation was not reversible.
We note that these inadequate conditions and the fact that this situation is dangerous have been pointed out from the Panhellenic Union of Policemen in a recent document (28 June 2013). The Union writes that the situation is very dangerous for the mental health of the detainees and that many detainees have tendency for suicide.
We would like to emphatically stress that according to international and national law:
Administrative detention should not be carried out in facilities which do not comply to international standards, since this violates international law.
Administrative detention should never be applied to people who are not deportable and should be applied to asylum seekers only exceptionally.
We call the competent authorities:
To review the illegal, inhuman and dangerous for the detainees life and well -being practice of prolonged detention in inadequate conditions
To ease the pressure from detention facilities by using the option of the postponement of removal for 6 months for those who are not deportable and by applying the detention of asylum seekers only exceptionally, as it is provided by the law.
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20th of June 2013
JOINT NGO STATEMENT ON THE OCCASION OF THE WORLD REFUGEE DAY
On the occasion of the World Refugee Day we would like to welcome some developments but also express our concern for certain issues related to refugee protection in Greece.
This year the World Refugee Day coincides with the opening of the New Asylum Service. We welcome this development with great satisfaction, since this has been a demand of the civil society for many years. This civil service brings hope that asylum seekers and refugees will be treated according to international law standards.
However we are deeply concerned by the fact that tens of thousands of pending asylum cases will remain in the responsibility of the Police and also by the fact that at present only one Regional Office of the New Asylum Service has opened in Athens while we don’t know when the Regional Offices at the border and the rest of Greece are going to open. These gaps make us very concerned about access to the asylum procedure in the rest of the country and in detention facilities.
We hope that the authorities will immediately take all the necessary steps in order to ensure access to the asylum procedure all over Greece and that they will generally ensure protection for all asylum seekers and refugees.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL-GREEK SECTION
GREEK COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES
GREEK REFUGEE FORUM
KPSM-ECUMENICAL REFUGEE PROGRAM
NETWORK FOR SOCIAL SUPPORT OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
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Documentary: "How much further?" (2013)
Detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers
Hundreds of detainees protest for their detention by going on hunger strikes and there is information about suicide attempts that have occurred in detention centers. On the other hand there is information that the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection intends to create new detention centers. Our organization –taking account of these developments- would like to point out the following:
The Greek authorities have been committed to the European authorities since 2010 to create the New Asylum Service and First Reception Centers where qualified staff will deal with the treatment of undocumented people. These new services were issued under law 3907, which came into force in January 2011. However neither the New Asylum Service nor a single First Reception Center have been operational so far under the instructions of this law. On the contrary, police authorities have continued their illegal practice of not allowing full access to asylum procedure as prescribed by the law, a police operation to arrest irregular migrants is being carried out from summer of 2012 and new detention centers have been created.
The situation created because of this practice is particularly worrying. Specifically:
Thousands of undocumented people have been led to detention, among them a significant percentage of:
- people who are in need of international protection, but have been unable to apply for asylum so far due to the illegal practice of police authorities in charge (we note that the authorities worsened the position of those who apply for asylum in detention with the establishment of Presidential Decree 116/2012 which provides for the possibility of extending the detention of asylum seekers for up to 18 months).
people whose deportation is not feasible either because it is forbidden by law for them to be expelled, as this is contrary to the principle of non-refoulement (refugees and generally people who come from countries where there are massive violations of human rights such as Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, etc.) or because their deportation encounters insurmountable practical obstacles.
As the Police authorities do not foresee for individualized treatment of the people who are arrested and detained, based on their characteristics and vulnerability, between them are found
Families with children
People with serious health problems
Victims of torture
The conditions of detention are contrary to both national and international legislation related to human rights (European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Council Directive 85 / 2005 on Asylum Procedures, Presidential Decree 114/2010, Council Directive 9/2003 for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, Presidential Decree 220/2007).
Detainees lack information about their legal status and their rights because:
There are no interpreters
There is no access granted to NGOs in order to inform all detainees of their rights, but only for certain inmates who are requested namely. This practice is contrary to the statutory of law 3907/2011 about access for NGOs in detention centers (article 31).
Access to the asylum procedure is extremely difficult if the detainees have no lawyer support and as difficult is also the filing of an appeal if an adverse decision is given
For those who apply for asylum in detention a new detention order is issued as a rule, by invoking art. 13 of Presidential Decree 114/2010, while this article provides the detention as exceptional measure and if only alternative ones cannot be applied. In addition, after the introduction of Presidential Decree 116/2012 a decision of extending the detention is issued. In cases handled by our organization it has happened that the authorities refrain from any action to examine the asylum applications of the detainees and then issue a decision to extend the detention on the grounds that this would facilitate the faster and effective examination of the asylum applications.
Minors are included in the detainees. Some of them are registered as minors and nevertheless are detained for a period of even more than five months without the authorities having taken the necessary steps to ensure their placement to a special reception center for minors. Others are incorrectly registered as adults (our organization handled the case of a 14-year old detainee at Corinth detention center who was registered as 30-year old), detained together with adults in violation of Presidential Decree 141/1991 and do not receive any special care.
The treatment of prisoners in need of medical assistance is often inadequate.
Living conditions in many detention centers constitute inhuman and degrading treatment as indicated by repeated decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and reports of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment.
There have been many complaints from prisoners about ill-treatment by the police. Especially for the detention center in Corinth we would like to note that apart from the public statement from Amnesty International issued on 14 March 2013 about a Syrian detainee’s complaint of torture, our organization has also received complaints of ill-treatment (complaints reported fractures in the hands and feet, head injury from falling on stairs, team beaten detainee who was admitted to the hospital for one week)
These conditions combined with the practice of police authorities to extend the detention for long periods of time have led to the current explosive situation. We would like to say once more that the detention of a significant percentage of these prisoners is completely unjustified, because their deportation is impossible.
In addition to the above other factors should be as well taken into account such as human resource management of the police departments involved, the economic dimension of these options and the management of European funds in a time of financial crisis.
While the police operation which has been going on for months all over Greece employs a large number of police and is inevitably costly, statistics show that the results of all this mobilization are poor, since only a small percentage of people who are taken in police stations , are eventually arrested due to lack of legal documents.
The unnecessary detention for long periods of time of people whose deportation is prohibited by law or is practically not feasible, is also very expensive.
The small number of annual asylum applications accepted by police authorities in charge (by not allowing full access to the asylum procedure as required by law) and of positive decisions issued on asylum applications has resulted in the European Refugee Fund granting in the country a smaller amount than the one that would normally be entitled to, based on the large number of refugees arriving in our country.
The permanent lack of staff at the Responsible Authority for the management of the European Refugee Fund (Department of Social Solidarity and Social Perception of the Ministry of Labour) does not allow the full use even of these reduced resources and hinder the implementation of ERF projects.
In light of the above it is clear that in order to defuse tension and to manage the issue with rationality and respect for international law the adoption of the following measures is required:
Immediate function of the services set by law 3907/2011, namely the New Asylum Service and First Reception Centers.
Issue of a 6 month stay permit for individuals whose deportation is not feasible, as provided by art. 24 of law 3907/2011.
Eliminate administrative detention of minors.
Eliminate administrative detention of asylum seekers.
Strengthening of the Responsible Authority of the European Refugee Fund and resource utilization of the Fund for providing to asylum seekers the reception conditions which are provided by law.
Prompt investigation of allegations of detainees’ ill-treatment.
Ensuring decent living conditions in detention.
Provision of adequate medical care to detainees.
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18 February 2013
Little to celebrate on Dublin’s 10th anniversary - New research shows that the system continues to violate the rights of refugees
18 February 2013 . Today the Dublin Regulation , that identifies which European State is responsible for deciding on an asylum application, turns 10. On this occasion, Forum Réfugiés-Cosi , ECRE , the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and their national partners are publishing a comparative study on how this Regulation is applied by States entitled The Dublin II Regulation: Lives on Hold that shows that the Dublin system continues to fail both refugees and Member States.
The report reveals the harsh consequences of the Dublin system for asylum seekers whereby families are separated, people are left destitute or detained and despite the objective of the Regulation, access to an asylum procedure is not always guaranteed.
One example of the suffering to families caused by the Dublin system is the case of a Chechen father separated from his new-born child by the Austrian authorities. While the baby had refugee status in Austria, his father was sent to Poland under the Dublin system. The father’s request to apply for family reunification once he was in Poland was refused by the Austrian authorities and so the father remained separated from his wife and child by the mechanical application of this system. The majority of people sent back to another country under Dublin are actually returned to the first State of irregular entry into the EU.
Asylum seekers in the Dublin procedure are frequently treated as a secondary category of persons granted fewer entitlements in terms of reception conditions. Whenever there are shortages in the capacity of housing available for asylum seekers, those in the Dublin procedure are often the first affected by this. Access to accommodation in some Member States is not always ensured with some asylum seekers having to resort to Courts to access housing or even forced to building makeshift settlements themselves in order to find some shelter.
Fewer than half of the agreed Dublin transfers are actually carried out, suggesting a vast amount of wasted bureaucracy. However, no comprehensive data on the financial cost of applying the Dublin Regulation has ever been published.
The soon to be adopted Dublin III Regulation contains some significant areas of improvement, such as the right to a personal interview, but maintains the underlying principles of the Dublin system and will not address all these deficiencies.
Ultimately, the underlying principles of the Dublin Regulation need to be fundamentally revised to design a more humane and equitable system that considers the individual case of asylum seekers and their connections with particular Member States, and therefore favours refugees' integration prospects in Europe.
The research deals with the practice surrounding the Dublin II Regulation with respect to fundamental rights in 11 states: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
The comparative report and national reports are available at: www.dublin-project.eu
For further information
- On the human cost of the Dublin system read the personal accounts of:
- An Iraqi family of asylum seekers whose imminent removal from Bulgaria to Greece under the readmission agreement between these two countries was only prevented through national court challenges and the involvement of the European Court of Human Rights to temporarily stop the removal.
- Kazim, from Afghanistan. Kazim had traveled from Germany to Sweden, where the authorities requested that Germany take him back. Germany accepted to take over responsibility for examining his asylum claim, but his application was rejected by the German authorities as being manifestly unfounded as he missed his asylum interview and was deemed not to have offered a reasonable explanation for his absence. Actually, he was still in Sweden as the Swedish authorities only sent him back two weeks after the scheduled interview.
All the statements have been anonymised to protect identities.
- New report " Dublin II regulation : lives on hold"
- National report on Greece:
Report of the campaign on access to asylum (asylum-campaign.blogspot.gr)
NGO “AITIMA” together with other organizations visited the building of Attica Aliens Directorate at Petrou Ralli street every Friday evening until the dawn from Saturday 17 February 2012 to 7 April 2012, day on which the police authorities have arbitrarily decided to receive asylum applications. Our purpose was to register, document and denounce the unacceptable practice by Greek authorities of refusing to receive and register asylum applications. This practice has continued until this day, while the entry into force of the infamous new Asylum Service, originally due to start operating in January 2012, has been deferred once more until March 2013.
Our findings and conclusions were recorded in the report entitled “Campaign on access to asylum in Attica”,which comprises also all pertinent information about access to asylum in Greece and documents the relevant violations of international, European and domestic law by the Greek authorities and more specifically the violations of:
- The right to seek asylum and make an asylum application;
- The principle of non-refoulement;
- The right of every human being to safety and liberty;
- The right to human dignity and the right of every human being not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment,
while it also deprives these people from their rights as asylum seekers.
Read the report: [ Download ]
15 August 2012
Fatal attack on Iraqi in Athens
Press Release from Racist Violence Recording Network
Athens, 15 August 2012 - Prompted by the fatal attack on a young Iraqi, on Sunday 12 August 2012, in the centre of Athens, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) along with the 19 NGOs and other bodies that constitute the Racist Violence Recording Network* strongly condemn, once again, acts of racist violence and call on the Greek Government and competent authorities to take immediate measures to address the escalation of racist attacks.
Brutal attacks and hate crimes, which are racially motivated, against migrants and refugees on the basis of the colour of their skin, their religion or their country of origin have increased dramatically and have become an almost daily phenomenon in Greece.
The fact that the perpetrators of such attacks operate almost undisturbed, in a systematic and organized manner and in teams often led by extremist elements, is an issue of serious concern. Such criminal acts, perpetrated by groups on motorcycles, have been documented since March 2012 and condemned by the Racist Violence Recording Network. However, the competent authorities have not taken any particular measures to prevent and address such acts which, as a result has contributed to an escalation of violence.
To date, the criminal justice system has not resulted in the conviction of any perpetrator of violent racist attacks. This combined with the fear of the victims, often for lack of legal documents, to file complaints with the competent police authorities, but also the inability or reluctance of the law enforcement authorities to carry out arrests, contribute to maintaining and fuel the vicious cycle of violence.
Τhe Network strongly condemns all acts of violence, whatever their origin. In instances,however, where such violence becomes systematic and organized, targeting foreigners, under the pretext of 'cleansing' of public space, by groups proclaiming that they guarantee public safety, combined with the lack of decisive and immediate response by State and national institutions, we are faced with a situation threatening Greek society as a whole, offending its culture and exposing the country internationally.
Confronted with such a situation, which poses a threat to the rule of law and democratic stability, the Network:
- Urges the authorities to exhaust all means to arrest and bring to justice the perpetrators of the recent murderous attack, as well as all those involved in acts of racially motivated violence.
- Calls on the justice system, including prosecutors, to exercise its legal powers and verify any possible source of information to effectively prosecute those responsible.
- Asks the police to demonstrate zero tolerance towards such behaviour and criminal acts.
- Stresses the need for the creation of a mechanism to record incidents of racist violence, as well as for guarantees to protect the victims and witnesses, to enable them to denounce such acts without the fear of arrest or retaliation.
- Calls on the competent authorities to intervene decisively on websites and social media, whenever racist speech openly instigates acts of violence and criminal acts, a phenomenon that has recently reached alarming proportions.
Finally, the Network is calling on the Greek Government, political parties, media, public figures and all citizens to refrain from statements and actions which aim at all foreigners in a generalized manner without distinction, thus fuelling xenophobia.
For further information, please contact:
Ketty Kehayioylou, Public Information Officer (UNHCR), firstname.lastname@example.org - 210-6756810
Daphne Kapetanaki, Protection Associate (UNHCR), email@example.com - 210-6726462
Tina Stavrinaki, Legal Officer (NCHR), firstname.lastname@example.org - 2107233216
* The Racist Violence Recording Network was set up at the initiative of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece (UNHCR), with the participation of 19 non-governmental organizations and other bodies, including: Aitima, Antigoni – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Doctors of the World, Amnesty International, Hellenic League for Human Rights, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Migrants, Greek Forum of Refugees, Human Rights Commission of the Bar Association of Rhodes, “Babel” Day Centre, Movement for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Patras), METAdrasi, Integration Centre for Working Migrants - Ecumenical Refugee Program, Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants, Group of Lawyers for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Thessaloniki), Forum of Migrants in Crete, i-RED Institute for Rights, Equality and Diversity and PRAKSIS, as well as the Greek Ombudsman as observer.
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15 March, 2012
ONE MONTH AT PETROU RALLI
THE UNACCEPTABLE SITUATION CONCERNING THE REGISTRATION OF ASYLUM APPLICATIONS CONTINUES
The Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees together with AITIMA, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Ecumenical Refugee Program and the Greek Section of Amnesty International co-signing the present press release, and in co-operation with other entities, groups and NGOs, have been carrying out over the last month repeated protests, by giving their presence every Friday to Saturday morning (on 17 February, 24 February, 2 March and 9 March 2012) outside the building of the Attica Aliens Directorate.
(Attached are the call to protest and the list of organisation that have been responding positively to this call )
The purpose of this protest has been to denounce the situation being faced by persons in need of international protection who try to seek asylum in Attica, as well those who have been referred to Attica from other Greek cities, after the illegal refusal of local authorities to register their asylum applications.
The police authorities - following the usual practice of the past years - refuse to register the asylum claims of those seeking protectionand only agree to register an exceptionally small number of applications and only during the early hours of Saturday mornings.
During our protests in the course of the past weeks, we found that the current practice of registering asylum applications, namely the subjection of humans to the tortuous waiting along the side of the street for 2-3 days and nights in a row, under deplorable circumstances so that they MAYBE have a small chance of registering their claims, renders access to the asylum process almost IMPOSSIBLEin Attica.
In addition, we observed that the responsible authorities not only do nothing to ease the physical and mental exhaustion caused by the inhuman and degrading torment to which asylum seekers are being subjected, but on the contrary they follow specific practices which aim to discourage asylum seekers from submitting their claims and bar access to vulnerable groups, such as women and unaccompanied minors.
In particular, during our presence there as well as from the interviews we conducted with the asylum seekers, we reached following findings:
The majority of asylum seekers who wait in line to submit their application, start gathering at a sidestreet in the proximity of the Attica Aliens Directorate already from Wednesday to Thursday morning, in the hope of securing one of the front places in the line and maybe increasing their luck of having their application registered. The police uses however various techniques to make them go away and discourage them. In particular, as reported to the representatives of demonstrating entities, between Thursday evening and Friday morning the police often chases the asylum seekers away, even with the use of force (globs). Many applicants get discouraged and give up in the meantime their effort to have their application registered. We were also reported that on the evening of Thursday, 1 March 2012, the police resorted to the use of chemicals (teargas) in order to disperse the number of asylum seekers who had already gathered.
Τhe most vulnerable groups, like women and unaccompanied minors, not only do not enjoy the special protection they are entitled to, but are prevented in the most inhuman manner from accessing the asylum process. In particular, the police authorities force women occupying the “first seats” within the line to leave the queue. Out of the approximately 20 women who came in the course of the past 4 weeks to submit an application, only a very small number succeeded. It should be noted that even women are subjected to the tortuous waiting of 2-3 days and nights in a row and are exposed to the same deplorable conditions as the rest. It is of particular concern to us, that they are forced to wait within a crowd of men, while the authorities take no particular measure of care and protection about their situation.
During our repeated presence there, we registered approximately 10 unaccompanied minors, who were obliged to wait at least 2 days and nights consecutively, among adults, exposed to the very bad weather conditions, and without access to water, food or toilet. On one occasion, during the morning hours of 18 February 2012, and following our persistent protests that unaccompanied minors are entitled to unrestricted access to the asylum process, the officer in charge agreed to allow to three minors entry to the building, in order to register their applications. To our surprise however, we were subsequently informed that despite all the hardship they had gone through, they were eventually dismissed by the officer, without having their applications registered, on the pretext that they were adults or because they came from Pakistan!
In addition, we were told that when one of the minors tried to bring food and water to the others, he was stopped by the guard who did not allow him to pass on these provisions and ordered him to either throw away the food and water or return the products to where he had gotten them from. In other words, not only do the Greek authorities subject vulnerable children to all this hardship, but they even actively forbid them to have food and water throughout the time that they have to wait in the line. They thereby inflict on them an inhuman treatment which aggravates their already vulnerable situation.
A similar degrading treatment was also given to three other unaccompanied minors, who after persistent protests of the attending organisations managed to enter the Aliens Directorate on 10 March 2012. According to the witness statements provided by the minors subsequently, the responsible officer made the children wait for many hours before registering their applications, and even subjected them to manipulative questions and threats, such as that he will only issue papers to them if they agree to register as adults. There was thus an obvious intention to discourage them from submitting their claims until the every last minute.
The practice of making asylum seekers “go away” once the police officers have selected 20 applications for registration - either the first 20 ones in line or through random selection with unclear criteria - constitutes by itself an additional form of degrading treatment. The police officers shout in Greek at the exhausted and disappointed asylum seekers, many of whom have been going through this procedure every week for many months or even years, the phrase: “Go away now, next week”, while clapping their hands rhythmically and pushing back those who are left behind, both asylum seekers and us who solidarise with them. No explanation and no response is provided by the authorities to any of those who are present there.
The refusal of the Greek authorities to register asylum applications and the treatment they have in store for asylum seekers, which is an insult to human dignity by all means, do not constitute some new practice, nor are they a result of administrative malfunctions or the economic crisis. On the contrary, they form part of a systematic policy, which has been going on for years, the primary purpose of which is to deliberately discourage asylum seekers from submitting their application in Greece. It forms part of the wider policy of the Greek authorities towards migrants and refugees, which is characterised by deportations of persons who are in danger in their country of origin, overnight conduction of asylum interviews, denial of reception conditions, lengthy detention under inhuman conditions etc, which have been repeatedly denounced by entities and organisation both in Greece and abroad, and have led to the condemnation of Greece by international bodies.
WE HEREBY SHOW OUR SOLIDARITY to all those who were forced to flee from their countries because their life, freedom or dignity were in danger, due to State oppression, war or poverty.
WE HEREBY CONTINUE TO DEMAND
- Unobstructed access to the asylum procedure every day and without mediators
-Refuge and social protection to persons entitled to international protection
- An end to the unacceptable situation imposed by the authorities every day and every Saturday morning at Petrou Ralli.
WE ARE GOING TO BE THERE UNTIL EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS ABLE TO SEEK AND RECEIVE THE PROTECTION THAT HE OR SHE IS ENTITLED TO
WE INVITE ALL THOSE WISH TO SHOW THEIR SOLIDARITY, EVERY SATURDAY FROM 05:00 TO 06:00 AM ON SATURDAY MORNING AT PETROU RALLI !!
Αthens, 15 March 2012
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL- GREEK SECTION
GREEK COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES
ECUMENICAL REFUGEE PROGRAM
GROUP OF LAWYERS FOR THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
January 26, 2012
Article of Eva Cosse (works for the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch) on New York Times:
12 January 2012
Serious Obstacles in accessing the asylum process
Notwithstanding the ambitious declarations about reforming the asylum system, Greece persists in not guaranteeing the basic right to apply for asylum to people who arrive to our country because they are persecuted in their country of origin. Therefore, these people remain undocumented, facing the risk of being arrested and deported.
Our organization receives many complaints by asylum seekers who cannot exercise this fundamental right and who ask for our assistance. We have pointed out the problem to every responsible police authority (Attica Aliens Directorate, Headquarters of Greek Police) and to the competent Minister of Citizen’s Protection and we have called them to ensure the unhindered access to asylum process, as the national and international law provides. Nevertheless, our successive appeals to the responsible authorities were unheard.
Today, we accompanied to the Asylum department at the Attica Aliens Directorate 25 asylum seekers who wanted to submit their applications. However, the asylum Department refused to accept the submission of the asylum applications by the asylum seekers in order for the asylum process to begin. After this illegal refusal on behalf of the Asylum Department, our organization submitted the applications at the Secretariat of the Department.
We ask once again the responsible authorities to ensure the unhindered access to the asylum process, as they are obliged by the relevant legislation.
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12 September 2011
ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
At the end of 2010, the presidential decree 114 introduced the so-called transitional system, which will be valid till the new asylum system is enacted.
According to presidential decree 114:
-The police keep the responsibility for the submission and examination of the asylum applications in first instance. A representative of UNHCR can be present at the first instance interview and express UNHCR’s opinion, which is not binding for the Police.
-Five new appeals committees are established for the examination of the pending cases. The Committees consist of a representative of the State and two independent experts, one from UNHCR and another from the National Committee of Human Rights.
Τhis new legislation has led to some improvement of the asylum system. More specifically:
The quality of interviews in first instance has improved and there is a slight increase of the recognition rates.
The examination of the pending cases by the second instance committees constitutes a significant improvement in the Greek asylum system. The interviews are thorough and there is a remarkable increase of the recognition rates.
However, there are still severe drawbacks in the asylum system:
The fact that the submission of asylum applications remains the responsibility of the police creates severe problems in accessing the asylum process. It is very characteristic that Attica police headquarters receive only a limited number of applications every week.
As far as the examination of the asylum applications in first instance is concerned, Greek Police, which is the responsible authority for this task is inadequate to do so.
Finally, the progress of the examination of the pending cases by the second instance committees is very slow as there are only five committees for a backlog of 45.000 cases.
It should be noted that the government has announced that the new asylum system will be enacted in the beginning of 2012. Under this system the police will be disengaged from asylum and the asylum cases will be the responsibility of the New Asylum Service.
Moreover the government has announced that there will be screening centers all over the country so that the asylum seekers will be distinguished from immigrants.
However in times of a deep crisis for Greece it is uncertain when these new institutions will be realized.
The situation in the field of social rights still remains problematic.
The situation in accommodation remains the same, since the existing places are very few compared to the needs. More specifically there are about 800 places, while there are thousands asylum seekers on the waiting list. As a result, the vast majority of asylum seekers –including those who belong to vulnerable groups- are either homeless or find poor quality accommodation.
As far as the medical care is concerned, the personnel of the hospitals often ignores the asylum seekers’ right to free medical care. On top of that, most of the hospitals don’t have interpreters.
As for the economic benefits Greece still doesn’t grant any allowance for the daily expenses of asylum seekers.
In the field of employment the situation has deteriorated severely, since there has been an increase in unemployment, mostly due to the economical crisis. The most vulnerable groups are the ones that are affected first by the crisis, among them are asylum seekers. Since asylum seekers are unemployed and at the same time don’t get economic benefits, they get impoverished.
The rise of racism
Since the obligations deriving from international refugee law and especially the ones related to the fast and fair examination of asylum claims and to decent reception conditions, are not adequately met by the government, cities where impoverished asylum seekers gather (Athens and Patras) often face difficult situations mostly because of the social tension.
The Greek inhabitants of the areas where asylum seekers gather are annoyed by this situation. Extreme political groups of the far right which express racist views take advantage of this situation and accuse asylum seekers for the problems the Greek citizens face. Furthermore, they somehow demand the removal of asylum seekers from their neighbourhoods and generally from the country.
From the mid 2010 Greece faces for the first time racist attacks especially in the center of Athens. These attacks have increased during 2011. Although these attacks are reported to the authorities, the perpetrators keep on behaving violently and the victims cannot get protection. Thus asylum seekers live in fear and often have to change their residence in an effort to avoid these attacks and protect their lives.
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Asylum seekers are put in jail!
Our organisation provides legal supp ort to asylum seekers in the area of Igoumenitsa (port to Italy). This support is provided under a special scheme of the European Refugee Fund, in cooperation with the non- governmental organisation “Doctors of the World” and is co-funded by the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity. The aim of the particular program is to inform refugees of their rights and assist them in practice.
Under this framework the employees of the program started informing refugees of their rights and the procedures. In time, some of them have asked our assistance in order to apply for asylum. After the submission of the first application and after we have informed the local police authorities that more applications are going to follow, we were given notice that from that point on, whoever applies for asylum without holding travelling documents will be detained (we put emphasis on the fact that only few asylum seekers have travelling documents).
Despite the fact, that we considered that such an action from the police authorities is beyond belief, we, in our turn, informed a Sudanese national that wanted to apply for asylum and insisted on doing so. In 29 th of April we accompanied him to the Alien’s Department of Igoumenitsa. The asylum application was submitted, however, the applicant- after the indication of the Alien’s Department and the decision of the Police’s Head Officer of Thesprotia- was arrested and is being detained.
The police authorities, punishing with imprisonment everyone who is trying to practice his/her right to apply for asylum, are basically demolishing such entitlement. This practice is a cruel violation of human rights of the refugees. The rights of the refugees are ratified in the international conventions and therefore compel our country.
We invite the Ministry of Citizen Protection, UNHCR, the National Committee for Human Rights and the Civil Society to take action on the matter.
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