World Report 2013 - European Union: Greece
|Publisher||Human Rights Watch|
|Publication Date||31 January 2013|
|Cite as||Human Rights Watch, World Report 2013 - European Union: Greece, 31 January 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/510fb4e9c.html [accessed 19 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
There was widespread hardship and protest in 2012 amid economic crisis. The far-right anti-immigrant Golden Dawn party entered parliament for the first time with 7 percent of the vote in the June general election.
Legislation passed in April permits police to detain migrants and asylum seekers on overly broad public health grounds, including susceptibility to infectious disease based on national origin and living in conditions that do not meet minimum hygiene standards, prompting condemnation by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT).
The new government continued its predecessor's heavy-handed immigration control approach. Construction of a 12.5-kilometer fence along the border with Turkey, begun in February, neared completion at this writing. A vast sweep operation launched in August had by mid-November led to more than 50,000 presumed undocumented migrants being detained for questioning based on appearance alone, and more than 3,700 arrests. By the end of October, over 1,900 of these had been deported and 1,690 had returned home under the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) voluntary program. The operation continued at this writing.
Critical problems with the asylum system persisted. New government bodies inaugurated in March to oversee asylum reception and application processing were not fully operational due to staffing delays by November. Severe obstacles to submitting asylum applications remained, and latest available figures show Greece remained in 2011 the country with the lowest overall protection rate at first instance in Europe (2 percent).
In July, September, and November, the ECtHR ruled in five separate cases that Greece had subjected undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in detention to inhuman and degrading treatment. In October, the government extended permissible detention of asylum seekers to 3 to 15 months (and from 6 to 18 months for those who applied for asylum only once detained), a decision likely to increase overcrowding in detention.
Greece established five new detention camps for undocumented migrants between April and October, with more facilities planned on islands in response to increased arrivals in 2012, including of Syrians. The European Commission, the CPT, and CAT noted problematic conditions in detention centers, while nongovernmental reports documented substandard detention conditions on islands including overcrowding, poor hygiene, and limited access to health care, water, and food.
Xenophobic violence reached alarming proportions with regular attacks on migrants and asylum seekers, and growing evidence of the involvement of Golden Dawn members. In October, the public order minister presented a draft presidential decree to create specialized police units to tackle racist violence, following a commitment in September by the justice minister to initiate legislative reforms to toughen hate crime sentencing.
The Council of State, the highest administrative court, ruled in November that criteria for acquiring citizenship under a 2010 law were too lenient; the government announced it would present stricter requirements shortly.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, voiced its concern in May after the government published photos and personal information, including HIV status, of accused sex workers after police arrested them for allegedly having unprotected sex with customers while HIV positive.
In May, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) expressed deep concern about inhumane conditions experienced by children with disabilities at the Lechaina Children's Care Center and urged Greece to ensure that children with disabilities are never placed in such conditions.