Greece: Immigration news digest (10 January - 8 February 2006)

Committee for monitoring migration policy agreed - The Greek Parliament has unanimously accepted Mr Papandreou's proposal to create an inter-party Committee responsible for monitoring the policy on migration as well as for seeking pragmatic solutions to the problems of migrants residing in Greece. The Committee will include 15 members from different parties, as well as some EMPs. (Ethnos, 10 January)

Death in custody following eviction - A 44-year-old Iraqi migrant, living in Greece legally, died of a heart attack on Wednesday (11/01) morning in central Athens while in police custody after he and 12 other immigrants were forced to leave an old house in which they had been squatting. (Kathimerini, 12 January)

Woman arrested after criticising police violence against Sudanese - "Eleftherotypia" relates the amazing story of a woman who was forced to spend New Year's in prison when she "dared" complain for the violent behaviour of two police officers towards a Sudanese in central Athens. The woman reacted when she saw the two police officers brutally beating the 30-year-old Sudanese, even though the latter was on his knees and handcuffed. Following the incident, one of the police officers asked Ms Nikitopoulou to follow him to the police station without any proper explanation as to the reason of her arrest. After two days in detention she was finally released. Among other things, Ms Nikitopoulou announced the fact that while at the police station she saw two minors from Somalia being held along with adults in a very tiny room. (Eleftherotypia, 14 January)

Asylum recognition rate at under 1% -According to statistical data released by UNHCR (source: Ministry of Public Order), refugee recognition rate for the first ten months of 2005 stands at less than 1 per cent! Only 23 persons were granted refugee status during that period, following more or less the same dramatic trend of previous years: 11 persons were given asylum in 2004 and only 3 in 2003. (Rizospastis, 14 January)

March to protest stabbing of Albanian -Migrants marched from Omonia Square to Parliament in central Athens on January 15 to protest the treatment of immigrants in Greece and the fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old Albanian national, allegedly by a group of Greeks, in Crete on New Year's Day. Similar protests, organized by a number of migrant communities and left-wing groups, took place in the Cretan town of Rethymnon, on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, in the Peloponnesian city of Tripolis and in Thessaloniki. The rally in Thessaloniki was a sit-in protest during which candles were lit in memory of the Albanian teenager. (Kathimerini, 16 January)

Detained Asians transferred as precaution against avian flu - 400 undocumented migrants from various Asian countries were recently transferred from the detention centre of Vryssika in Evros to the centre of Venna in Rodopi, as a precautionary measure against the avian flu. Vryssika centre will be hosting new arrivals that reach Greece through Turkey, including a group of 80 undocumented migrants that were found hidden in a truck near Evros last week. At the same time, border controls to deter illegal entries are being reinforced. (Ethnos, 17 January / Kathimerini, 14 January)

Ombudsman concerned that regularisation will only affect a small fraction of migrants -In a document addressed to the Ministries of Interior and Public Order, the Greek Ombudsman highlights his concerns with regard to the government's legalization process of migrants in Greece. Taking into account the high cost, as well as the existing institutional framework, the Ombudsman estimates that only a tiny fraction (50,000) of the migrants residing illegally in the country will eventually be legalized. (Kerdos, Avgi, 21 January)

Dinghy deaths in the Aegean -Three people froze to death in two dinghies found drifting off the island of Evia, central Greece, last Saturday (21/01), carrying 57 undocumented immigrants from Turkey. Authorities said the three migrants probably died because of the freezing wind blowing across the Aegean Sea but added that autopsies will be conducted. 41 of the immigrants were from Pakistan and 12 from Bangladesh, while the remaining four people were from Albania. The ministry said the immigrants were undergoing medical examinations for signs of bird flu but initial tests show no cause for concern. Two of the immigrants were hospitalized with hypothermia. Authorities are questioning the four Albanian nationals, whom they suspect of leading the people-smuggling operation. (Kathimerini, 23 January)

Afghan refugees living in dismal conditions - 450 refugees, mainly from Afghanistan, live under appalling conditions in an improvised camp in the region Agia of Patras. They are squeezed in tiny huts and face serious problems of hygiene and lack of medical treatment. Some of these people report that when they get sick the hospital refuses to accept them. Those appalling conditions are also confirmed by the Health Department of the Achaia Prefecture, following an inspection they carried out on 17/1/2006. They say, however, that the issue can only be addressed by the Greek Government and the regional authorities, through the establishment of a proper reception centre to host those people. (Rizospastis, 8 February)



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