Court raps Greece for failing refugee

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday fined both Greece and Belgium for the mistreatment of an Afghan asylum seeker who claims to have suffered abuse in both countries. Meanwhile hundreds of refugees pushing to be granted asylum are planning to launch a hunger strike on Tuesday. The unidentified refugee who took his appeal to the European Court had applied for asylum in Belgium in February 2009 after traveling there from Greece. But Belgian authorities had returned him to Athens last June, citing the European Union’s Dublin II Regulation according to which asylum must be requested in the first European Union country entered. The asylum seeker was sent back to Greece despite a warning issued by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) condemning the Greek asylum procedure and reception conditions for refugees. On his return to Athens, the refugee was detained in cramped, dirty conditions before being released and left to fend for himself on the streets, the court heard. An attempt to leave Greece with a false identity card landed him in another detention facility where he alleged he was beaten by the police. «Had the [Greek] authorities examined his asylum request promptly, they could have substantially alleviated his suffering,» said the court, which fined Greece 5,725 euros. In a related development, seven Afghan refugees went on hunger strike in Athens yesterday to push for the processing of asylum applications they claim to have lodged years ago. The Afghans have sewn their mouths shut. Two Palestinians who have been on hunger strike since mid-December are in hospital. Earlier this week, a group representing 300 refugees in Athens and Thessaloniki said they would launch a hunger strike on Tuesday with similar demands.