Amnesty wants refugee returns curbed

Greece does not have the adequate infrastructure and procedures to handle hundreds of asylum seekers being returned from other European countries in accordance with an EU directive, the head of Amnesty International’s Greek section has told Kathimerini English Edition. According to a report by AI’s Greek section, a total of 995 would-be asylum seekers were sent back to Greece by countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Belgium in the first 10 months of 2009, as dictated by the EU’s Dublin II Regulation which stipulates that refugees should apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, increasingly Greece. But Greece has neither adequate reception centers nor sufficiently efficient administration to be able to deal with this level of returns, according to Georgia Trismpioti. «We are asking European countries to stop returning asylum seekers to Greece until improvements have been made to the Greek system and until the Dublin Regulation has been revised so that the responsibility of providing asylum to migrants is more fairly distributed,» Trismpioti said. The head of AI’s Greek office said she welcomed plans to open new, modern migrant reception centers on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos by summer and in Evros, near the land border with Turkey, by next year though it remains to be seen how these centers will respond to a relentless influx of would-be migrants into Greece. At present, many of the migrants arriving in Greece, and most of those being returned, have nowhere to go. «A lot of them are probably on the streets, some of them staying with compatriots, others find a place in hostels,» Trismpioti said. Commenting on the report yesterday, Nicolas Berger, the director of AI’s European Union office in Brussels, called on other EU countries to stop «turning a blind eye» to the inadequate asylum system in Greece. «It is clear that Greece is not fulfilling the basic need for protection and the fundamental rights of asylum seekers, and yet countries… keep sending back extremely vulnerable people,» he said.

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