Refugees in the Greek harbor city Patras are without any protection: they are being chased, beaten, and detained over and over again. They cannot escape this vicious circle of violence and deprivation of rights because any escape routes to other European countries are blocked. The report – published today by PRO ASYL and the Greek Council for Refugees – concludes that violence against refugees and migrants has a systematic character. The report is based on research carried out from April to May 2012. The researchers examined more than 30 cases of ill-treatment well documented by the physical condition of the victims. According to the victims the main perpetrators of this ill-treatment are members of the Greek Police and the Special Forces of the Greek coast guard. The victims are refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea and Morocco – amongst the documented cases, there are eleven unaccompanied minors.
According to victims’ statements assaults usually occur during raids and identity checks in the harbor area, in self-made shelters of refugees or on the open street. The alleged violence includes verbal assaults, massive intimidation and excessive physical brutality up to torture. These human rights violations take place in a climate of impunity for the perpetrators. Furthermore, humane accommodation or healthcare for refugees is scarce in Patras and access to asylum procedures isn’t guaranteed. Instead, refugees are targets of continuous attacks from right extremist mobs.
“The aim of the report is not to generally condemn Police and Coast Guard or to justify any migrant or refugee’s criminal action. The aim of the report is to contribute to a better understanding of the situation of migrants and refugees in Patras as well as the roots of racism in this city. Furthermore, this report aims to push all relevant authorities to further investigate the situation in Patras, to stop the violence and to lead perpetrators to justice”, says Panos Christodoulou, Director of the Greek Council for Refugees.
PRO ASYL and the Greek Council for Refugees call on the new Greek Government, which will be elected on Sunday, to take all necessary actions to put an end to brutality against refugees. First of all, the principle of rule-of-law needs to be reestablished. The perpetrators of violence need to be punished and Greece needs to adhere to international human right standards. This includes the establishment of a functioning asylum and reception system.
Finally, both organizations criticize the cynical attempt to reintroduce border controls within the Schengen area, while ignoring the tragic situation of refugees who are trapped in Greek transit.
“European politicians, including German Minister of Interior Friedrich, have contributed to the escalation in Patras and Athens with their populist campaign against Greece,” stated Karl Kopp, Director of European Affairs at PRO ASYL. “Germany and Europe have to take concrete action in order to promote humanity and solidarity. Given the catastrophic situation of refugees in Athens and Patras, EU member states need to decide on a generous relocation program from Greece,” he concluded.