Call for refugees’ protection

Authorities protecting Greece’s borders against an unprecedented influx of would-be migrants should give greater consideration to the human rights of those seeking asylum from war-torn states, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a press conference yesterday. «Greece is under intense immigration pressure… but authorities policing the borders must consider the special protection that refugees merit,» said Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, director of the UNHCR’s Greek office. Tsarbopoulos called for an improvement in facilities at border points: more reception centers and more interpreters to tell refugees how they can apply for asylum. Greece still processes only a tiny fraction of asylum applications. The UNHCR highlighted «a crisis situation» at Greece’s western port of Patras where hundreds of asylum seekers – including a large number of unaccompanied children – have been living in a makeshift settlement for years. Deputy Health Minister Giorgos Papageorgiou said unaccompanied minors there were being offered medical care and support. «Greeks know only too well the harsh realities of immigration,» he said. The Interior Ministry’s general secretary Athanassios Andreoulakos stressed that «a distinction should be drawn between refugees and economic migrants,» noting that 112,000 would-be migrants had been arrested at the borders last year. Speakers addressing the conference agreed that the European Union’s Dublin Regulation, which dictates that refugees seek asylum in the first EU country they enter, is «not fair» as it increases pressure on Greece. But there was disagreement about whether Greece should seek additional European Union funding to facilitate its task at the borders. Andreoulakos was hesitant, saying this would turn Greece into a «haven for migrants.» The country’s ombudsman, Giorgos Kaminis, remarked that Greece «is a small country being asked to tackle a huge problem» but stressed that the rights of refugees, particularly children, could not be ignored.

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