Greece: Immigration news digest (3 March - 23 March 2006)

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Migrants awaiting deportation to be detained in prisons, not police stations - Following a report by the Greek Ombudsman condemning the appalling conditions under which aliens are held in various police stations, the Supreme Court issued a circular saying that all aliens who either have served their sentence or are on conditional release should remain in prison until they are deported, and not be transferred to the detention facilities of police stations. (Estia, Avgi, Avriani, Rizospastis, Kathimerini, Eleftheros, Ta Nea, Eleftherotypia, Ethnos, 10 March)

Migrants to instruct lawyers to oppose deportation - Following pressure from Greece's Ombudsman, the Public Order Ministry has allowed police officers to confirm the signature of immigrants who wish to authorise a lawyer in order to fight deportation proceedings against them, especially if their expulsion from the country is legally impossible. (Athens News, 10 March)

Hunger strike in detention centre - Fourteen of the 28 irregular immigrants being housed at an immigration center on the Aegean island of Samos started a hunger strike on Friday (10/03). The migrants are protesting a decision by local authorities to turn down their request to be freed earlier than the three-month minimum period dictated by law. (Kathimerini, 11 March)

€3,000 damages for Bangladeshi imprisoned for a year awaiting expulsion - Athens appeals court judges significantly reduced (from 12,000 to 3,000 euros) the damages awarded to a man from Bangladesh who spent one year in jail waiting for authorities to deport him. According to Habib's lawyer, his client had suffered "inhuman" treatment during his detention, since he did not have access to fresh air, medical care or exercise and his cell was overcrowded and unsanitary. (Ta Nea, Athens News, 10 March / Avgi, Karfi, Rizospastis, 11 March)

Rights for established migrants to be expanded - A law giving more rights to foreigners who have been legally in Greece for more than five years moved a step closer as last week Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos sent fellow ministers the appropriate paperwork to sign. The presidential decree allows the foreigners in question to have the same rights at work as Greeks, allows them to join professional associations and facilitates family reunion. However, in order to acquire this long-term foreign resident status, foreigners are asked to have full health insurance, be able to speak Greek and deposit the amount of 900 euros along with their application. (various press articles of 17 March)

Refugees to be allowed freedom to move within Greece - The Council of State found illegal the provision of a presidential decree stipulating that refugees from third countries with a legal residence permit should be settled in a particular district of Greece. This decision by the Council of State is in accordance with the Community and Greek law providing that third country nationals who reside legally in Greece have the right to move freely and reside wherever they wish within the territory. (Eleftherotypia / Vima / Ad. Typos Rizou / Avriani / Ethnos / Eleftheros / Nafteborik i/ Kathimerini / Press Time, 16, 17, 18, March )

Asylum applications falling, but doubled in Greece - In the last five years, the number of asylum seekers arriving in all industrialized countries has fallen by half, according to preliminary annual figures released by the UN refugee agency. Greece, however, was among those few countries that recorded a major increase in the number of asylum requests. According to the Ministry of Public Order, in 2005 there were 9,050 asylum applications registered by the Greek authorities, representing a 102% increase compared to 4,469 asylum seekers registered in 2004. (Kathimerini / Akropoli / Niki / Eleftherotypia / Chora, 21 March / Athens News Agency, 20 March)

Source: UNHCR BO Athens. This edited version by Statewatch

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