U.N.: Greek detention centers ‘appalling’ November 9, 2010Posted by Yilan in Yunanistan.
Tags: Greece, un
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Greece, entry point into the European Union for many illegal immigrants, holds people without trial for months in “appalling” conditions, a U.N. report says.
Almost 90 percent of arrests of illegal migrants in the EU are taking place in Greece, which acts as a gateway to Europe for people traveling from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, EUobserver reported Thursday.
Conditions in many Greek detention facilities are “inhuman and degrading … appalling … dysfunctional,” a report by the special U.N. investigator on torture and cruel punishment, Manfred Nowak, said.
Lack of access to toilets and showers, lack of access to outside yards for up to two years, lack of blankets and warm clothes amid plunging temperatures and inadequate medical care were repeatedly cited in Nowak’s report from a 10-day fact-finding mission.
“As a result of the poor conditions, many people had respiratory, skin as well as psychological problems,” Nowak’s report said. “Such conditions of detention clearly amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, in violation of Articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Migrants and asylum-seekers face pre-trial detention of up to 18 months, are incarcerated together with hardened criminals and have little access to interpreters and lawyers to file appeals, Nowak said.
Greece’s new crisis: Appalling conditions for detained EU migrants November 9, 2010Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Yunanistan.
Tags: EU migrants, Greece
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EU states must immediately stop sending illegal migrants back to Greece, where they are held in appalling conditions, and share the burden of migration more evenly, a senior UN official said on Wednesday.
Nearly nine out of 10 illegal migrants use Greece as a point of entry to the wealthy European Union, and those caught in other countries of the bloc can be sent back to the Mediterranean state’s detention centres.
“All these detention facilities, with the only exception of the one in Chios (island), were totally overcrowded … filthy, with very, very bad ventilation and lighting, and general conditions were just appalling,” said Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur for torture and other cruel treatment.
Many people had respiratory, skin and psychological problems as a result, Mr. Nowak said after a 10-day visit to the country’s detention centres.
“All EU member states should immediately suspend sending people back to Greece and examine their asylum demands,” Mr. Novak said. “The EU should fundamentally rethink its asylum and migration policy and replace (it) by a fairer system of burden sharing within the Union.”
He urged the European Commission and EU states to help Greece with money and technical assistance to overhaul a “dysfunctional” asylum system in which people are usually locked up for months while waiting for their request to be examined.
He welcomed a Greek government action plan on immigration but said it should urgently be translated into law and implemented to improve treatment of migrants.
“Some of these facilities are so overcrowded, dark, filthy that it was very difficult for us to be there with the detainees, we had to go out because we didn’t have enough air to breathe,” he said, referring to makeshift cells in some Athens police stations.
“Such conditions of detention clealry amount to inhuman and degrading treatment,” he wrote in a statement.
Tags: Detention, Greece
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Conditions in Greek prison and police station detention facilities are often “appalling,” with severe overcrowding and limited access to health care, the United Nations’ top anti-torture envoy said Wednesday.
Manfred Nowak, who spent 10 days touring prisons, police and border guard stations, migrant detention centres and prison hospitals across the country, said Greek detention facilities were “in a situation of crisis,” with some holding three times more people than their capacity.
Nowak said he received numerous and consistent allegations of beatings by police during or after arrests, but that there was little forensic evidence and few cases of ill-treatment that could be defined as torture.
“My main concern is what I would call a veritable detention crisis, a detention emergency, presently in Greece,” Nowak told a news conference, stressing that while the country’s prison system can hold a maximum of 9,100 people, there are more than 12,000 prisoners. Of those, 57 per cent are foreigners.
“In all prisons visited, I witnessed a situation of severe overcrowding,” Nowak said.
The problem is partly caused by the fact that many illegal immigrants in the EU enter the bloc through Greece, which puts an unfair burden of the problem on the country, Nowak said, while the situation also is exacerbated by the fact that 41 per cent of those being held are in pretrial detention.
Under Greek law a suspect can be held for up to 18 months pending trial. However, they are housed with convicts rather than separately, a practice which Nowak described as “a clear violation of international law.”
With hundreds of illegal immigrants crossing into the country each day, the migration situation has compounded the problem.
In the first eight months of this year, nearly 90 per cent of illegal immigrants arrested across the European Union were caught in Greece, up from 75 per cent last year and 50 per cent in 2008, Nowak said.
“In my opinion, Greece should not carry the burden of receiving the vast majority of all irregular migrants entering the European Union,” he said. “This is a truly European problem which needs a joint European solution.”
Under a treaty known as Dublin II, EU countries can send migrants they catch on their territory back to the first EU country they entered — which is often Greece. But Nowak urged other EU countries to suspend their return of migrants to Greece.
Due to the pressure of sheer numbers, many police station holding cells were being used to detain illegal immigrants for up to six months, rather than just a few days.
Nowak said that in nearly all those he saw, the cells were severely overcrowded, sometimes holding four times more people than their capacity.
“Overcrowded, filthy, very, very bad ventilation, lighting: the general conditions were just appalling,” he said.
Nowak urged Greece to combat overcrowding in the prison system by reforming its criminal justice system, reducing long sentences and decriminalizing certain offences, particularly those related to drugs.
He also appealed to the government “to finally establish a truly independent and effective mechanism to investigate all complaints about police misconduct” and reform the “dysfunctional asylum system.”
The U.N. envoy visited Greece following an invitation by the government and carried out unannounced visits to detention facilities of his choice.
2 days before EU sends emergency border guard teams to Greece, migrants still streaming in November 9, 2010Posted by Yilan in Yunanistan.
Tags: Greece, Migrants
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Two days before European Union border agency Frontex is to deploy its first ever rapid intervention teams to help Greece with an illegal immigration crisis, migrants are still streaming across the country’s northeastern border with Turkey.
Dozens of illegal immigrants crossed the border from Saturday night to Sunday morning, wading across streams and tramping through frozen fields to reach frontier villages near the town of Orestiada in far northeastern Greece.
Greece currently accounts for 90 per cent of the EU’s detected illegal border crossings, and has reported 45,000 illegal border crossings in just the first half of 2010, Frontex figures show.
EU sea patrols in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey have stemmed much of the flow of migrants to Greek islands near the Turkish coast, and the vast majority now use the northern land border, with most crossing along a roughly 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) stretch near Orestiada.
Greece, already facing a major financial crisis, has said its facilities are overwhelmed and it cannot cope with the numbers.
Panagiotis Siankouris, mayor of Vyssa, the area that sees the greatest influx, told the AP Sunday that between 100 and 300 people cross each day. Most wait to be picked up by police and taken to a local detention centre, where they are held for a few days before being released with papers that give them a month to leave the country.
Last week, Civil Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis appealed to Warsaw-based Frontex for help, and the agency is to deploy 175 staff to the Orestiada area as Rapid Border Intervention Teams from Tuesday. The deployment is scheduled to last for two months.
“The immigration flow at our borders is very intense” Papoutsis said in an interview in the Free Sunday newspaper. “Alone, our country cannot deal with a phenomenon which is not local, but European. As such it requires European solutions, it requires European co-ordination.”
The minister said Greece was also sending a message “to the international community, the countries which are the starting point of the immigration flow, and to Turkey, from which we expect more co-operation in dealing with the international network of smugglers who are commercializing migrants’ hope for a better life.”
The Frontex rapid intervention officers, drawn from the EU’s 27 countries, will include experts in false documents, border checks, stolen vehicles and clandestine entry, as well as interviewers, interpreters and dog handlers, the agency said Friday.
Frontex is also sending equipment, including a helicopter, buses, patrol cars and vans with thermal imaging equipment from Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, as well as a Danish office unit.
Turkey, Greece see improvement amid breakthrough reports November 7, 2010Posted by Yilan in Turkey, Yunanistan.
Tags: Greece, Turkey
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State Minister Egemen Bağış, met with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis in Ankara on Monday.
Turkish-Greek relations are improving, officials from both countries said on Monday, but declined to comment on recent reports that the two neighbors are close to a breakthrough in their decades-old disputes over territorial rights in the Aegean.
“We believe that there is no problem between Turkey and Greece that cannot be resolved. With mutual good intentions, honesty and courage, we can easily resolve issues concerning the Aegean, Cyprus, Halki Seminary and the Turkish minority in Greece,” State Minister Egemen Bağış, who is also Turkey’s chief negotiator for accession talks with the European Union, told reporters after talks with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis, who is in Ankara to attend a Turkish-Greek joint economic committee meeting.
Bağış said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, have achieved significant progress in resolution of all bilateral disputes between Turkey and Greece but declined to reveal further details. “Results of these meetings will be shared with the public when the time comes. But there is an improvement,” he said.
Bağış was responding to a question over weekend reports in the Greek media that the two neighbors are close to a breakthrough in Aegean disputes, which brought the two neighbors to the brink of war three times in the past, most recently in 1996 over an uninhabited Aegean islet.
Relations between the two countries have improved drastically in the past decade, and diplomats have held several rounds of exploratory talks on how to resolve the territorial disagreements in the Aegean but, despite the positive political climate, no significant progress has been reported thus far.
|EU helps Greece on immigration
A team of EU border officials is being sent to help Greece deal with an increase in the number of immigrants crossing into the country from Turkey, the European Commission said on Sunday. Nearly nine out of 10 illegal immigrants use Greece as an entry point to the European Union, and arrivals by land — mostly from Turkey — have increased by more than a third in a year, putting pressure on the country’s northern border regions. In response to a request from Greece, a rapid intervention team from the EU border agency FRONTEX will be deployed to the border with Turkey for a limited period, acting under Greek authority, the commission said. It is the first time the EU’s rapid intervention border teams have been deployed since they were created in 2007. “The situation at the Greek land border with Turkey is increasingly worrying,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said in a statement. “The flows of people crossing the border irregularly have reached alarming proportions, and Greece is manifestly not able to face this situation alone.”
In a statement this month, the UNHCR described the situation of illegal immigrants as “disastrous” and called on Athens to urgently take necessary measures to improve the conditions they live in. Brussels Reuters
Prime Minister Erdoğan, who recently told Greek media that Turkey is ready to end the practice of jet fighters’ overflights of Greek islands in the Aegean, met for two-and-a-half hours with Papandreou on the sidelines of a climate conference. Erdoğan reiterated in those remarks that NATO, of which both countries are members, could have a role in monitoring the military flights. There was no reference to the Aegean disputes in statements of Erdoğan and Papandreou following their talks.
But reports in the Greek media said over the weekend that Ankara and Athens have reached an agreement in principle over how to resolve the disputes. According to reports, the likeliest scenario is that Turkey lifts its objections to Greece extending its territorial waters in the Aegean to 12 nautical miles but that this extension only applies to the coastline of its mainland, not the Greek islands. Practically this scenario would mean that Greece secures control of less than 80 percent of the Aegean, said Kathimerini newspaper.
According to the daily, Erdoğan wants a consensus to emerge by end of the year. “We would like to avoid comments on non-official statements on this issue,” Spyros said in Ankara when asked about the reported progress in Aegean issues. “Authorities of the two countries have intensified their cooperation and contacts to resolve all Aegean issues in the best and permanent way,” said Spyros.
Turkey and Greece are at odds over boundaries of their territorial waters and airspace in the Aegean due to the peculiar geography of the Aegean Sea, where some Greek islands are lined up along Turkey’s western coasts. In 1995, the Turkish Parliament declared any unilateral attempt by Greece to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles from the current six miles as a casus belli, or reason to declare war. Parallel to the dispute over the delimitation of the territorial waters, the two countries are also at odds over the limits of Greek airspace in the Aegean. Greece claims 10 nautical miles of national air space, while Turkey recognizes only six miles because international law defines airspace as covering a state’s land and its territorial waters. In May, on Erdoğan’s first official visit to Greece since 2004, Turkey and Greece pledged to try to ease tensions and signed 21 bilateral agreements on issues ranging from tourism, energy and the environment.