EU must act on migrants

A top United Nations official has called on the European Union to overhaul its asylum and immigration policies and suggested that EU member states should stop sending illegal migrants back to Greece because the conditions here are not acceptable. Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel treatment, made the suggestions yesterday after a 10-day fact-finding mission in Greece that included visits to islands where illegal immigrants are often dumped by traffickers from Turkey. Statistics indicate that nearly nine out of 10 illegal immigrants use Greece as an entry point into the EU. «Greece should not carry the burden of receiving the vast majority of all irregular migrants entering the European Union in 2010,» said Nowak. «The European Union should fundamentally rethink its asylum and migration policy and replace the Dublin II Regulation [which obliges migrants to be sent back to their EU point of entry] with a fairer system of burden sharing which also takes into account legitimate concerns of asylum seekers and irregular migrants.» Nowak also urged the European Commission to provide more money and technical assistance to Greece to overhaul its asylum system, which he described as «dysfunctional.» The UN official said he was appalled by the conditions in which some refugees and migrants were being kept. «Some of these facilities are so overcrowded, dark and filthy that it was very difficult for us to be there with the detainees, we had to go out because we didn’t have enough air to breathe,» he said in reference to some holding cells at police stations in Athens. «All the detention facilities, the only exception being the one in Chios, were totally overcrowded, with very, very bad ventilation and lighting, and general conditions were just appalling. «Such conditions of detention clearly amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.» Nowak recommended that Greece decriminalize some offenses and apply noncustodial measures to ease the burden on the detention system. He also suggested that illegal immigrants should only be detained «as a last resort» and that a civil authority, rather than the police, should handle asylum applications.

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