Police in Athens systematically harass and abuse marginalized people, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday, adding that the arbitrary detention of individuals who live or spend considerable amounts of time on the streets interferes with their access to much-needed healthcare and support services.
HRW, a leading international nongovernmental advocacy group, reported that the police frequently stop and detain homeless people, drug addicts and sex workers as they walk down the street, wait for a bus, or visit a day center where they can get food and clean up. The organization accused the police of even stopping outreach workers and a HRW researcher on several occasions, detaining them and strip-searching the outreach workers during one stop.
“The new government has made important commitments to change its approach to policing in the center of Athens, but concrete legal and policy reforms are needed to stop these abuses,” Eva Cosse, a Greece expert at HRW said during a presentation of the findings on Wednesday.
“Pursuing and detaining people for no good reason is a waste of Greece’s scarce resources and makes no sense,” she said.
The organization said that the new government’s police plan, also known as the Special Operational Policing Plan for the municipality of Athens, had failed to address controversial practices adopted during the tenure of the previous administrations, raising concerns that abuses may continue.
“Life on the streets is hard enough without police abuse,” Cosse said. “Instead of the police harassing and detaining destitute people living on the margins of society, the Greek government should help people get the services and care they need.”