Greece: Immigration news digest (15 February - 2 March 2006)

Afghan migrant dies as cousin is beaten by coast guards - Unclear remain the conditions under which a 15-year-old Afghan was injured and another 21-year-old fellow national died on Monday evening (13/02) in Patras. According to some Afghan migrants, who have been living in a camp near the port, the boy was beaten by coast guards while he was trying to sneak into a truck due to board a ferry to Italy. The group also testified that the 21-year-old died of shock upon seeing the alleged beating of the youngster. The Port Authority refuted the beating charges and said the boy had sustained his injuries after jumping off some railings during the chase. (Kathimerini, Rizospastis, Traffic, Ta Nea, Eleftherotypia, Ethnos, Rizospastis, 15 February / Ethnos, Rizospastis, Avgi, 16 February)

Update - Afghan who died in Patras was 16 - The 15-year-old Afghan who was allegedly beaten by coast guards in Patras said that during the second round of his testimony at the Coast Guard Premises, he was told to sign a white paper! In the meantime, the boy's cousin who died of shock upon seeing the alleged beating of the youngster was not 21 years old, as originally reported, but 16! The young Afghan is currently accommodated in a hotel in Patras. Last Friday (17/02), a group of persons, reportedly Afghans, caused damage to the building of the Port Authorities, throwing stones and shouting against coast guard and police officers. (Eleftherotypia, Chora, Epohi, 21 February)

100,000 expected to legalise their status - In an exclusive interview with the Athens News, the Interior ministry general secretary Athanassios Vezyrgiannis says that he expects only 100,000 undocumented migrants to legalise their status, but as many as a quarter of a million others to eventually secure long-term resident status. (Athens News, 10 February)

Migrant woman dies on the Greek-Bulgarian border - The body of an unidentified migrant woman, who was apparently trying to cross the Greek-Bulgarian borders on foot and died of exposure to extreme cold, was found on Mount Falakron. This is not the first time people die at the northern Greek borders while trying to reach the "land of promise". (Kathimerini, 16 February)

UNHCR information campaigns - Several articles on the launch of the UNHCR campaign for refugees in Greece have appeared in the national press. The campaign focuses on a number of refugee protection issues that need to be addressed, including the low number of persons who obtain asylum (only 0.84% last year), the limited reception capacity (less than 900 places compared to the 9,050 asylum applications registered last year) and lack of measures for the protection of separated children, and other vulnerable groups. (Ethnos, Eleftheros Typos, Kathimerini, 17 February / Business Today, 20 February / Avgi, Ta Nea, 21 February)

Opinion of centre for torture victims rejected to deny Afghans asylum - A recent decision by the former Minister of Public Order George Voulgarakis shows a lack of "trust" to the expert opinion of the Medical Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (MRCTV). The decision rejected the asylum applications by two Afghan nationals, whom the MRCTV had found to be torture victims, because "the opinion of the MRCTV does not constitute a safe criterion for the determination of refugee status…". The Director of the Centre, Maria Piniou-Kalli, expressed her disappointment regarding the reasoning behind this decision. (Eleftherotypia, 18 February)

Migrant dies during attempt to reach Greece in a dinghy - An immigrant drowned and five others were detained on the islet of Oinousses, close to Chios, after their inflatable dinghy sunk 30 meters from shore, last Sunday (19/02). The 25-year-old Afghan national did not know how to swim and his compatriots were unable to help him. A patrol boat later found the man's body about 300 meters from shore. The five survivors told police they had set off from the Turkish coast to cross into Greece. (Kathimerini, 20 February)

Increase in "irregular entrants" in 2005 - According to data released by the Greek authorities, in 2005 there was an increase in the number of irregular entrants (63,235) in comparison with last year (41,875). The number of smugglers arrested last year was 757 in comparison with 622 arrested in 2004. (Typos tis Kyriakis, 19 February)

Greek State justifies degrading detention conditions for migrants - "Irregular migrants are responsible for the increasing criminality rate. For this reason and for the sake of public order, degrading detention conditions do not constitute a serious offense against human dignity". This is the argumentation used by the Greek State to appeal against a court decision to provide pecuniary compensation of 12,000 euros to a man from Bangladesh who was illegally detained by the authorities for one whole year, under cramped conditions, in Piraeus. (Nea, 28 February / Rizospastis, 1 March / Apogevmatini, 2 March)

Source: UNHCR BO Athens. This edited version by Statewatch



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