United Nations special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak also said he had received “consistent” allegations of police beatings, and that at one Athens precinct, police kept a hard line on migrants for fear of far-right militants.
“The time has come for urgent measures to fundamentally restructure the whole way of how asylum seekers and migrants are dealt with,” Nowak told a news conference at the end of a 10-day mission to Greece.
“I appeal to the European Union, and the Commission in particular, to assist the government… they are in need of very substantial financial and technical assistance so that the crisis can be solved,” he said.
The UN fact-finding mission visited five prisons, nine police stations, two border stations, three migrant detention centres and three hospitals.
In most cases, it recorded severe overcrowding at both jails and police stations. Some police detention cells, where migrants can be kept for up to two weeks, sleeping on benches or on the floor, were so overcrowded and filthy that the UN mission had difficulty breathing, the UN rapporteur said.
“Very often, I was told that cleaning personnel do not dare any more go into these filthy overcrowded detention facilities,” Nowak said. “The hygienic conditions are simply indescribable.”
At the detention cells of Athens International Airport — which were built to house 18 people in groups of two — the mission found 88 detainees. As only two bathrooms are available, the detainees regularly urinate in bottles.
“This is by itself inhuman,” Nowak said.
To improve conditions, the UN official said asylum procedures ought to be transferred to civil authorities and that the health ministry should be placed in charge of health care in prisons and police facilities.
He also called for the establishment of an independent police complaints commission to investigate claims of abuse.
According to Greek figures sent to the UN, from 2003 to 2007 only one officer was dismissed out of 238 police ill-treatment investigations, he said.
“We found persons with injuries too afraid to allow a forensic examination, too afraid to speak even,” Nowak said. “That is a very negative signal.”
But police say they also feel pressured into a hard line, he said.
In one Athens district with a high migrant population that has seen frequent clashes and attacks on foreigners, high-level officers said they felt “at risk” from far-right groups and could not afford to be seen as soft, Nowak said.
About 300-400 persons enter Greece illegally every day, not counting those returned by other European Union states under current EU migration regulations, known as the Dublin II system, Nowak said.
The police this week said they had caught more than 96,000 irregular migrants in the first nine months of the year, and that arrests on the Greek-Turkish border had spiked by nearly 400 percent compared to the equivalent period last year.
The authorities attribute the increase to the success of Greek-EU patrols in patrolling the waters around Aegean Sea islands which were hitherto used by people smugglers to land migrants.
In recent years Greece has had one of Europe’s lowest asylum approval rates, with only 0.9 percent of applications accepted.
WORKING AND LIVING BY THE SWEAT OF OUR BROW!
We sell things on the street because we don’t have an alternative way of making a living.
No work is refused in order for us to make a living.
These people that you see on the street , these people that you keep harassing, are people who are familiar with most trades and professions.
Even though we are only vagrant street vendors, we are the ones paying for the houses that were had locked up for a long time, houses crying for a human presence.
A house can’t live by itself. It needs souls, it needs lives.
Water, power, telephone, means of transport and everything else we need to live are not for free.
You will never see one of us involved in affairs of the night and the underworld.
We are honest people, very sociable and open to everyone and everything.
We have obligations, but we also have rights.
We are only asking for understanding and tolerance.
Immigrant street vendors
I arrive in GREECE in the morning, at 7 o’clock. The GREEK police took us to a camp. This camp was very dirty I have been in this for 23 days.
After 23 days the police sent me to another camp witch was for minors refugees. The director of this camp told me it was full and that I must go to ATHENS.
Then I went to ATHENS but I had just enough money for the ticket and nothing for the hotel. When I reached ATHENS I only had 7 euros. I saw that in ATHENS there was a lot of refugees who were sleeping in the parks. I slept one night with them and after I left ATHENS to PATRAS.
I arrived in PATRAS with my 7 euros. I found that PATRAS was like ATHENS. I have been in PATRAS for 3 months. Most of the nights I had to look for food in the bins because I had nothing. In PATRAS all refugees wanted to go forward but the police didn’t let us go.
After 3 months I came back to ATHENS and then I went to the camp for minors. We were sometimes more than 200 minors there. There I have been for 9 months I became lazy because we only ate and slept . Nevertheless I learnt German and Greek. Sometimes I went by foot to the beach, near Mytilini – 9 hours’ walk. I had no money for the bus. I didn’t have any future there. I found work for 3 months harvesting oranges. With the money I spared, I paid 500 euros to a smuggler and I had 200 euros left.
Then I went again to PATRAS and I succeeded to cross to ITALY
Recently, fascist and nationalist violence has been on the rise once again in the wider area of Ayios Panteleimonas. From September 11th to September 14th, fascist gangs used the cover of some locals and the police to attack, beat and stab migrants and to smash up their shops. Yet the migrants don’t retreat. They defend their lives, they crouch together and defend against far-right attacks and pogroms. Ahead of the [local municipality] elections the far-right is intensifying its shouting against migrants who “steal our jobs” and “are responsible for the crisis”. At the same time [the far-right parliamentary party] LAOS is voting in favour of the IMF agreement while organised gangs support the “average greek tradesman” – that is, the same person who has for years now exploited their employees, whether local or not.
- are supplied by the state
The “citizen protectors” arrest, beat up, torture and arrest injured migrants. The local police station enforces the policy of the state and its bosses against the migrants. A policy which names endless policing as “citizen protection” and equates “organised crime” with “petty thieves”. A policy creating migrant detention centres, spills blood on the borders of the EU and names “illegal” all those forced away from their places.
- they’re sharpened by mass media and the national body
Mass media, regularly hiding away reality, present the groups of neo-nazis, macho greeks, racists and descendants of nazi collaborators as “groups of enraged locals”. They hide away racist pogroms, the stabbing of migrants and police violence and they instead project “a suffocating situation” and “increased crime rates”.
In the midst of the crisis they continue to target migrants as a “national threat to health, national order and security”. They are moulding a national body on behalf of those who sit on our necks, perpetuating national divides, racism and xenophobia.
Common Struggles by locals and migrants
Us locals and migrants must find common ground to breach
national unity, to create embankments, to fight together against all sorts of fascists, the attack launched by the state and bosses, the contempt for our lives.
Nevertheless, we don’t agree either with the character and the perspective of the documentary or with the terminology used in it (illegal immigrants, the efforts of the police, etc).
The video is not objective about the reactions of Athens’ citizens. The fascists you see in the video chasing immigrants from the squares are not everywhere. It’s a huge problem in some areas in central Athens. There, some fascists, (and not “Citizens of Athens” that they use as a name), with the cooperation of the police and the Municipality, organize pogroms and brutal attacks against the immigrants.
On the other hand, there are many people that fight neo-fascism and pogroms, trying to express their solidarity to the immigrants with actions. Of course the enemy is the whole state and not only some dozens of fascists. We should also mention that the left-wing parties are totally absent in front of the huge problem, preparing for the elections.“The battle for Attica square”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPl9PW7ONIQ