Annual Report: Greece 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Greece 2011

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There was a significant increase in the number of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers arriving in Greece through the Greek-Turkish land border in Evros. In October, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, called on the government to take urgent measures to address the humanitarian needs in the Evros region, including the deployment of sufficient personnel and immediate measures to ensure basic standards of human dignity in detention centres. Concerns were expressed at the deployment by Frontex, the European external borders agency, of a rapid border intervention team on 2 November to the region.

Greece continued to lack a functioning asylum system and much delayed reforms were in the process of being adopted by the end of the year. In September, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, called the asylum situation in Greece a "humanitarian crisis" and urged the Greek authorities to speed up the asylum system reforms. European states participating in the Dublin II Regulation continued to exacerbate Greece's humanitarian crisis by insisting on returning asylum-seekers to the country.

The transitional Presidential Decree on asylum determination procedures (Presidential Decree 114/2010) entered into force in November. It reintroduced first instance appeals in asylum and other international protection cases and introduced transitional provisions for dealing with the heavy backlog of pending asylum appeals which reportedly were close to 47,000. The Decree retained the police as the competent authority for the initial examination of asylum claims. Free legal assistance continued to be available only to asylum-seekers who filed an appeal to the Council of State.

In December, a draft law providing for the creation of a new asylum determination authority, staffed entirely by civilian personnel, was laid before the Parliament. The law also provided for the creation of first-reception centres and sought to transpose the EU Returns Directive into Greek legislation. Concerns existed among other issues about the maximum length of pre-removal detention provided for in the draft law.

Long delays in the processing of their asylum claims prompted several asylum-seekers in Athens to go on hunger strike.

Discrimination

Incidents of racial violence against migrants and asylum-seekers reportedly increased, particularly in Athens. It was alleged that the police did not protect victims in the area of Aghios Panteleimon in Athens against such attacks.

Roma

In a decision made public in May, the European Committee of Social Rights found Greece in violation of Article 16 of the European Social Charter, assessing that a significant number of Roma families continued to live in conditions that failed to meet minimum standards. The Committee also held that Roma continued to face forced evictions and legal remedies were not sufficiently accessible to them.

  • In September, in the case of Georgopoulos et al v. Greece, the UN Human Rights Committee found Greece in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with regard to demolishing a Romani family's home in 2006 and preventing the construction of a new home in the Roma Riganokampos settlement in the municipality of Patras.

NGOs expressed concerns over the failure of the Greek authorities to implement the 2008 judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Sampanis v. Greece. Romani children, including the applicants in the case, reportedly remained segregated in education and no effective efforts had been made to improve enrolment rates of Romani children or to ensure their education was fully integrated.

Prison conditions

Poor detention conditions and overcrowding continued to be reported in many prisons throughout the year. In December, around 8,000 prisoners around Greece reportedly refused meals and around 1,200 went on hunger strike and called for improvements in overcrowding and detention conditions, among other things.