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Greece Criticized on Migrant Policy in US State Department Report

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Migrants on the island of Lesvos, Greece. Credit: Greek Reporter

The US State Department’s annual report on human rights violations around the world published on Tuesday criticized Greece over its treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.

The report focuses its criticisms on the unsafe and unhealthy conditions for migrants and asylum-seekers detained in pre-removal facilities and residing at the country’s six reception and identification centers.

“Authorities did not always provide adequate security or physical protection to asylum seekers, particularly those residing in the overcrowded camps,” the report says.

“In many instances, newly-arrived migrants and asylum seekers on the islands, including pregnant women and children, stayed for days in the open air, without shelter, food, and other care,” it adds.

“The separation and protection of vulnerable groups was not implemented at some sites due to overcrowding, lack of alternative housing, and restrictions in movement due to the pandemic.”

The report also cites local and international media, human rights NGOs, and international organizations who said that “asylum seekers personally testified that at the Greece-Turkey land border they were physically abused and deprived of their personal belongings, including their money and cell phones, prior to being returned to Turkey.”

Alleged forced return of migrants from Greece

The report, the first to be published under the administration of Joe Biden, also refers to allegations of forced return (refoulement) of refugees, acts of corruption, and violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups, including some by police.

Alleged crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex persons are also listed in the report.

“The government regularly took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government,” the report says.

“There were, however, complaints from nongovernmental organizations and international organizations regarding the lack of government investigation of and accountability for allegations of forced returns of asylum seekers,” it adds.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Greece

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