Amnesty damns ‘ill-treatment’ of migrants detained in Greece

Greek authorities «tortured and ill-treated» immigrants last year, hundreds of children under state supervision disappeared, and conditions at detention centers remained poor, Amnesty International (AI) said yesterday. The allegations were included in a global report issued in London by the human rights watchdog. There was no immediate reaction from the Greek police. Among the most serious offenses cited in Greece was the alleged torture by police in December of some 60 Afghan asylum seekers, including at least 17 minors. «Police reportedly punched, kicked, sexually abused and threatened them with guns, both in their homes and at the local police station in Athens,» the group said. «Although a preliminary investigation was opened into the case, AI called for a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation.» «There were concerns that actions by coast guard officers and police – including border police – aimed at discouraging undocumented migrants from entering Greek territory, violated international standards,» Katerina Kapernakou, an officer of Amnesty International in Greece, said. The group criticized the conditions that thousands of illegal immigrants face, citing the reported detention of some 200 immigrants at a facility designed to hold 80 people on the Aegean island of Lesvos. Amnesty hailed Greece’s approval in November of a protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights to formally abolish the death penalty, but said more was needed to protect human rights. According to Amnesty’s four-page report on Greece, five coast guard officers on October 15 were found guilty of torturing a group of immigrants on the island of Crete in June 2001, and received suspended prison sentences of between 12 and 30 months. The rights group also expressed concern about reports that 502 children – mostly from Albania – went missing between 1998 and 2002 from a state hostel for street children near Athens. «Many of the children were apparently victims of traffickers, who forced them to sell trinkets or beg,» the report said. Amnesty «was concerned that the children had reportedly not been adequately protected at the home, and that little or no effort was made by the Greek authorities to find them.»