31 October 2007

The situation of Refugees in the Aegean

ROME, 31 October 2007 - On two fact-finding missions in July/August and in October 2007 representatives of the German ngo “Pro Asyl” and the “Greek Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants” examined the situation at the EU external border in the Aegean. The research findings are shocking. Serious human rights violations are taking place. The Greek coast guard systematically maltreats newly arrived refugees. It tries to block their boats and force them out of Greek territorial waters. Regardless of whether they survive or not, passengers are cast ashore on uninhabited islands or left to their fate on the open sea.

In one reported case on the Chios island, the degree of maltreatment amounted to torture (serious beating, mock execution, electric shocks, pushing a refugee’s head into a bucket full of water). The police detain all refugees and migrants on their arrival on the islands, including minors. This is in contravention of international law. Without exception, all new arrivals are placed under a deportation order, also in breach of international law. The detainees are left without any information about their rights and without legal counsel. All three of the detention camps visited by the delegation offer unacceptable living conditions. The circumstances of detention amount to degrading and inhuman treatment.
The European Unionbears responsibility for what is happening there. Otherwise Europe is jeopardising its achievements in human rights development – of which it is rightly proud – at its very own borders. Pro Asyl and the Group of Lawyer for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants call upon European institutions to take immediate action in view of the blatant abuses and human rights violations in Greece. The European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, its Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and also the national governments of the EU member states cannot accept the gross violation of international law by one of their members. The practices of Greek border guards and the coast guard constitute a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Refugees and European directives. As long as the systematic practice of violating human rights is not halted and Greece has not introduced an appropriate system for receiving refugees it is irresponsible to return refugees to Greece in the framework of the Dublin II regulation establishing the competence for asylum procedures within the European Union.