Amnesty slams Greece over treatment of migrants in rights report

Amnesty slams Greece over treatment of migrants in rights report

Amnesty International has given Greece a scathing review in regards to its human rights record in 2017, and particularly over the country’s treatment of asylum-seekers and migrants.

Published on Thursday, “The State of the World’s Human Rights” report accuses Greece of failing to improve living conditions for thousands of migrants awaiting processing in camps across the country, but also for “paving the way for forcible returns of Syrian asylum-seekers under the EU-Turkey migration deal by endorsing decisions by the Greek asylum authorities that deemed Turkey safe for two Syrian nationals.”

Amnesty says that while arrivals to the Greek islands contracted significantly at the start of last year, a fresh surge over the summer pushed island camps above “insufficient reception capacity” once more, so that by December 2017, “around 13,000 asylum-seekers remained in limbo, stranded on the islands.”

Abuses and pushbacks, meanwhile, continued at the EU external borders, from Bulgaria, Greece, Spain and Poland, Amnesty International added.

Excessive use of force by law enforcement is another issue that Amnesty looks at in its report and in this regard, too, Greece did not fare well in 2017, as the group found that “the majority of victims of the reported incidents were refugees and migrants trapped on the Aegean islands.” 

The report was especially critical of the March 2016 agreement between Ankara and the European Union, saying that in 2017, “European leaders maintained the fiction that Turkey provided protection equivalent to that of the EU, even though Turkey had become even more unsafe for refugees since the 2016 coup attempt. The removal of procedural safeguards under Turkey’s state of emergency put refugees there at heightened risk of refoulement, the forcible return to countries where they were at risk of facing serious human rights violations.”

“Throughout 2017,” the report says, “the deal left thousands exposed to overcrowded, squalid and unsafe conditions on Greek islands that were transformed into de facto holding pens and condemned them to extended asylum procedures. Some suffered violent hate crimes.”

The organization was also critical of other European Union member-states for failing to live up to commitments to ease pressure on frontline countries like Greece.

“As of November, European states had fulfilled just 32 percent of their legal commitment. At the end of 2017, 21,703 asylum-seekers out of 66,400 had been relocated from Greece, and 11,464 out of around 35,000 from Italy. Among the worst offenders were Poland and Hungary, both having refused to accept a single asylum-seeker from Italy and Greece by the year’s end,” the report says. 

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