Police crackdown on illegal migration in Athens is ‘abusive’ says report

Police in Athens are conducting abusive stops and searches and have detained tens of thousands of people in a crackdown on illegal immigration, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on Wednesday.

The report noted that police officers frequently stop people who appear to be foreign and conduct “unjustified searches of their belongings, insults, and, in some cases, physical abuse.” Those detained are kept for hours in police stations waiting for their legal status to be verified, the reports stated.

Greece specialist and the author of the report Eva Cosse noted that it was ironic that Xenios Zeus, the code name given to police operations tackling illegal immigration across Greece, was the name of the ancient Greek god of hospitality.

According to the report, between the launch of Xenios Zeus in August 2012 and February 2013 police had detained almost 85,000 foreigners to verify their permits and other documents. The report noted that “no more than 6 percent were found to be in Greece unlawfully, suggesting the police are casting an extraordinarily wide net.”

The absence of proper training in immigration and asylum issues as well as a lack of specific guidellines for police officers taking part in the operations, “leaves too much room for abuse,” the report read.