ONE MONTH AT PETROU RALLI
THE UNACCEPTABLE SITUATION CONCERNING THE REGISTRATION OF ASYLUM APPLICATIONS CONTINUES
The Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees together with AITIMA, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Ecumenical Refugee Program and the Greek Section of Amnesty International co-signing the present press release, and in co-operation with other entities, groups and NGOs, have been carrying out over the last month repeated protests, by giving their presence every Friday to Saturday morning (on 17 February, 24 February, 2 March and 9 March 2012) outside the building of the Attica Aliens Directorate.
(Attached are the call to protest and the list of organisation that have been responding positively to this call )
The purpose of this protest has been to denounce the situation being faced by persons in need of international protection who try to seek asylum in Attica, as well those who have been referred to Attica from other Greek cities, after the illegal refusal of local authorities to register their asylum applications.
The police authorities - following the usual practice of the past years - refuse to register the asylum claims of those seeking protection and only agree to register an exceptionally small number of applications and only during the early hours of Saturday mornings.
During our protests in the course of the past weeks, we found that the current practice of registering asylum applications, namely the subjection of humans to the tortuous waiting along the side of the street for 2-3 days and nights in a row, under deplorable circumstances so that they MAYBE have a small chance of registering their claims, renders access to the asylum process almost IMPOSSIBLE in Attica.
In addition, we observed that the responsible authorities not only do nothing to ease the physical and mental exhaustion caused by the inhuman and degrading torment to which asylum seekers are being subjected, but on the contrary they follow specific practices which aim to discourage asylum seekers from submitting their claims and bar access to vulnerable groups, such as women and unaccompanied minors.
In particular, during our presence there as well as from the interviews we conducted with the asylum seekers, we reached following findings:
1. The majority of asylum seekers who wait in line to submit their application, start gathering at a sidestreet in the proximity of the Attica Aliens Directorate already from Wednesday to Thursday morning, in the hope of securing one of the front places in the line and maybe increasing their luck of having their application registered. The police uses however various techniques to make them go away and discourage them. In particular, as reported to the representatives of demonstrating entities, between Thursday evening and Friday morning the police often chases the asylum seekers away, even with the use of force (globs). Many applicants get discouraged and give up in the meantime their effort to have their application registered. We were also reported that on the evening of Thursday, 1 March 2012, the police resorted to the use of chemicals (teargas) in order to disperse the number of asylum seekers who had already gathered.
2. Τhe most vulnerable groups, like women and unaccompanied minors, not only do not enjoy the special protection they are entitled to, but are prevented in the most inhuman manner from accessing the asylum process. In particular, the police authorities force women occupying the “first seats” within the line to leave the queue. Out of the approximately 20 women who came in the course of the past 4 weeks to submit an application, only a very small number succeeded. It should be noted that even women are subjected to the tortuous waiting of 2-3 days and nights in a row and are exposed to the same deplorable conditions as the rest. It is of particular concern to us, that they are forced to wait within a crowd of men, while the authorities take no particular measure of care and protection about their situation.
3. During our repeated presence there, we registered approximately 10 unaccompanied minors, who were obliged to wait at least 2 days and nights consecutively, among adults, exposed to the very bad weather conditions, and without access to water, food or toilet. On one occasion, during the morning hours of 18 February 2012, and following our persistent protests that unaccompanied minors are entitled to unrestricted access to the asylum process, the officer in charge agreed to allow to three minors entry to the building, in order to register their applications. To our surprise however, we were subsequently informed that despite all the hardship they had gone through, they were eventually dismissed by the officer, without having their applications registered, on the pretext that they were adults or because they came from Pakistan!
In addition, we were told that when one of the minors tried to bring food and water to the others, he was stopped by the guard who did not allow him to pass on these provisions and ordered him to either throw away the food and water or return the products to where he had gotten them from. In other words, not only do the Greek authorities subject vulnerable children to all this hardship, but they even actively forbid them to have food and water throughout the time that they have to wait in the line. They thereby inflict on them an inhuman treatment which aggravates their already vulnerable situation.
A similar degrading treatment was also given to three other unaccompanied minors, who after persistent protests of the attending organisations managed to enter the Aliens Directorate on 10 March 2012. According to the witness statements provided by the minors subsequently, the responsible officer made the children wait for many hours before registering their applications, and even subjected them to manipulative questions and threats, such as that he will only issue papers to them if they agree to register as adults. There was thus an obvious intention to discourage them from submitting their claims until the every last minute.
4. The practice of making asylum seekers “go away” once the police officers have selected 20 applications for registration - either the first 20 ones in line or through random selection with unclear criteria - constitutes by itself an additional form of degrading treatment. The police officers shout in Greek at the exhausted and disappointed asylum seekers, many of whom have been going through this procedure every week for many months or even years, the phrase: “Go away now, next week”, while clapping their hands rhythmically and pushing back those who are left behind, both asylum seekers and us who solidarise with them. No explanation and no response is provided by the authorities to any of those who are present there.
The refusal of the Greek authorities to register asylum applications and the treatment they have in store for asylum seekers, which is an insult to human dignity by all means, do not constitute some new practice, nor are they a result of administrative malfunctions or the economic crisis. On the contrary, they form part of a systematic policy, which has been going on for years, the primary purpose of which is to deliberately discourage asylum seekers from submitting their application in Greece. It forms part of the wider policy of the Greek authorities towards migrants and refugees, which is characterised by deportations of persons who are in danger in their country of origin, overnight conduction of asylum interviews, denial of reception conditions, lengthy detention under inhuman conditions etc, which have been repeatedly denounced by entities and organisation both in Greece and abroad, and have led to the condemnation of Greece by international bodies.
WE HEREBY SHOW OUR SOLIDARITY to all those who were forced to flee from their countries because their life, freedom or dignity were in danger, due to State oppression, war or poverty.
WE HEREBY CONTINUE TO DEMAND
- Unobstructed access to the asylum procedure every day and without mediators
-Refuge and social protection to persons entitled to international protection
- An end to the unacceptable situation imposed by the authorities every day and every Saturday morning at Petrou Ralli.
WE ARE GOING TO BE THERE UNTIL EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS ABLE TO SEEK AND RECEIVE THE PROTECTION THAT HE OR SHE IS ENTITLED TO
WE INVITE ALL THOSE WISH TO SHOW THEIR SOLIDARITY, EVERY SATURDAY FROM 05:00 TO 06:00 AM ON SATURDAY MORNING AT PETROU RALLI !!
Αthens, 15 March 2012
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL - GREEK SECTION
GREEK COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES
ECUMENICAL REFUGEE PROGRAM
GROUP OF LAWYERS FOR THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES