JRS Greece: hard conditions for asylum seekers in Athens
29 January 2016
Athens, 29 January 2016 – Despite the winter cold and rough seas people continue to take great risks to reach Greece from Turkey. JRS is present on Lesbos and in Athens welcoming and accompanying new arrivals.
On Saturday 23 January our staff witnessed the arrival of three ferries from the Greek islands to the port of Piraeus near Athens. The huge ferries were carrying about 8,000 people between them.
Director of JRS Greece, Maurice Joyeux SJ explains what he saw: “As they disembarked from their overnight voyage there was a burst of activity. Some people went directly to the metro. Others ran to buses. Others begin speaking with groups of smugglers who stood a safe distance away from the police. Within two hours the whole port was deserted.”
Many of these forced migrants attempt to follow the path of those before, through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and on into Western Europe. Others end up in one of the several camps set up in Athens run by the authorities and NGOs.
More and more forced migrants are being sent by the Greek authorities to detention centres where conditions are very bad. JRS staff is regularly visiting detention centres around Athens. There are problems with hygiene and food whilst many migrants do not have proper clothing. JRS staff has also witnessed unaccompanied minors being held in detention in Athens.
JRS is deeply concerned by the European Commission’s intention to consider a recommendation for the reinstatement of transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation.
The transfer of asylum seekers back to Greece under the Dublin regulation has been suspended since 2011 following the findings of human rights violations against asylum seekers by the European Court of Human Rights in its MSS v Belgium and Greece decision and by the Court of Justice of the European Union’s in its NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department decision.
Our recent observations on the ground support the findings of the European Council of Exiles and Refugees (ECRE) in November. Persons in need of protection still face considerable obstacles to accessing the asylum procedure.
Reception conditions are not improving and asylum seekers are often exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Finally, the detention of unaccompanied children is clearly not in the best interests of the child and contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
JRS staff is regularly visiting detention centres around Athens. There are problems with hygiene and food whilst many migrants do not have proper clothing.