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EUROPE > Amnesty accuses Greece of inhuman migrant treatment

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A man walks past a pro-migrant graffiti in Athens. A Greek police officer (inset) conducts a body search on an immigrant. Amnesty International accused Greece of endangering migrants’ lives. REUTERS photos

A man walks past a pro-migrant graffiti in Athens. A Greek police officer (inset) conducts a body search on an immigrant. Amnesty International accused Greece of endangering migrants’ lives. REUTERS photos

Amnesty International accused Greece yesterday of endangering the lives of undocumented migrants and refugees and detaining them in “inhuman” conditions, as the crisis-racked country cracks down on illegal immigration.

In a statement released a few days after 21 migrants died trying to cross the Aegean Sea in a boat, the rights group’s Greek branch accused the police of repeatedly jeopardizing migrants’ lives by turning back intercepted boats, even knifing one group’s inflatable dinghy and sending another boatload back with no life vests.

“Amnesty International has received reports that even people fleeing from conflict and wars in countries such as Syria are being pushed back to Turkey at the river Evros,” the natural boundary between Greece and Turkey, the group said. “The situation in Greece today is totally undeserving of the Nobel Peace Prize recently awarded to the European Union,” the group’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen, said.

Amnesty said it had visited a number of detention centers in July and August and found conditions to be “inhumane” and “demeaning,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Amnesty reported the testimony of a group of Syrians who said Greek police had intercepted their dinghy in June in the middle of the river Evros. The migrants said the police vessel began to push the dinghy back toward the Turkish side of the river, and a policeman struck the inflatable boat with a knife and sank it.

Xenophobic attacks on the rise: Rights groups

In another alleged incident in August, a group of Syrians were put in boats on the river without life vests. When they reached the Turkish side, 15 of the 40 people originally in the boats were missing, the group said.

Other migrants spoke of insurmountable obstacles in lodging asylum claims, as Greek authorities would only accept a small number of applications, exposing the remaining would-be refugees to arrest and detention.

Human rights groups warn that xenophobic attacks on migrants and refugees are on the rise in Greece, where economic hardship and crime have fueled the rise of far-right and vigilante gangs. Greece has seen a surge in neo-Nazi activity, with the far-right Golden Dawn party winning an unprecedented 18 seats with 7 percent of the vote in June parliamentary elections.

Greek authorities and Frontex, the agency that helps border authorities from different EU countries work together, have tried to stem the flux of migrants since 2010.

Exploitation in Italy

In a separate report, Amnesty International has alleged widespread exploitation of foreign migrant workers in Italy, saying they often receive less than the minimum wage and sometimes are not paid at all, The Associated Press reported.

The group said that studies have found a “pattern of labor exploitation” of migrants across Italy, particularly in southern farming areas. The group credits Italian investigators for prosecuting some “extreme” cases of exploitation, but contends less serious abuses often go unpunished.

December/21/2012

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READER COMMENTS

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Rich Murphy

12/22/2012 7:09:32 PM

"It's no surprise that these forums are full of anti-Greeks."??? Are you kidding!! Whatever Greeks are suffering from is all self-inflicted by themselves alone. The main culprits of their problems is corruption at colossal dimensions by the Greeks, of the Greeks, for the Greeks. Call this "Greek democracy" if you will, and write a few more books about "Greek democracy."

Pawel Bury

12/22/2012 9:30:10 AM

It's no surprise that these forums are full of anti-Greeks. It's strange that so many people don't have a clue about what's going on in Greece. Talking in Turkey for democracy, amnesty and minorities, the country with the most convictions in international organizations is a paradox. Greece has a really large problem with illegal immigrants a problem mostly caused by Turkey. People are getting killed by these immigrants every day but still you see only the one side of the story.

kerem atan

12/21/2012 7:29:26 PM

its no surprise that the word 'Xenophobia' comes from the greek language.

Chris Green

12/21/2012 1:47:20 AM

Nothing new - 49 years ago today, many of them were slaughtering Turkish Cypriots at the outset of what has become known as Bloody Christmas or Kanli Noel!

Rich Murphy

12/21/2012 1:28:57 AM

Europeans call Greece "the home of democracy" just because the elite there, a small minority of them, elected their tyrants in the far past. Actually, election does not make it "democracy" as long as the elected and electors do not respect basic human rights and freedoms. Their forefathers did not know that, and did not care anyway then, and not even now.
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