UN Special Rapporteur on Migrants’ Rights: EU support to Greece should focus on improving asylum service and conditions for migrants, instead of building more detention centres

by zoejardiniere

07.12.2012 François Crépeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, has called on the European Union to focus its support to Greece on initiatives that will improve conditions for migrants, such as the first reception service and the asylum service, rather than building more detention centres.

In a set of preliminary recommendations following a nine-day visit to Greece, the Rapporteur also calls on the Greek government to step up its efforts in order to ensure that the rights of all migrants within its territory are fully respected.

Crépeau regrets the Greek government’s new policy of systematically detaining everyone detected irregularly entering Greek territory and the “sweep operations” in the context of operation “Xenios Zeus”, which have led to the widespread detention of migrants, often in inadequate conditions. The Rapporteur also recommends that the Greek authorities adopt a policy that promptly provides any migrant who cannot or is not effectively deported with a temporary residence status that allows them to work and live a life in dignity.

Crépeau regrets evidence of informal ‘push-backs’ to Greece carried out by Italian authorities, as well as evidence that, despite ECtHR and ECJ case law against the practice, some Member States are still sending asylum seekers back to Greece.

Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are at serious risk of attack from racist and xenophobic gangs, and the Rapporteur strongly condemns the authorities’ failure to address the problem calling on the authorities to investigate all cases of xenophobic violence against migrants, including any police involvement in such crimes. Crépeau insists that migrants must be able to report incidents of racist violence without fear of detention or deportation.

The Rapporteur commends EU support and Greek efforts to realise the Action Plan on Migration and Asylum, and plans to establish a civilian asylum service and first reception service, intended to be operational by the summer of 2013. However, he remains concerned over the rate of progress and the level of funds and personnel that have thus far been dedicated to this achievement.

The Rapporteur praised the work of NGOs providing services to migrants, who continue to operate despite serious difficulties including their reliance on EU funding that does not always reach them timely due to Greek bureaucratic failures; he urged the EU to increase their support for such organisations and consider providing more direct funding to ensure that they will receive the funds in time to implement their projects.

This visit to Greece is the final country visit undertaken by the Rapporteur in preparation for a thematic report on the human rights of migrants at the borders of Europe. Previously he has visited Belgium, Tunisia, Turkey and Italy. The final report will be presented at the UN Human Rights Council’s 23rd session in May/June 2013.

For further information:

–         UNHCR Press Release, December 2012

–         UN News Centre, Irregular Migration in Greece must be Addressed by the European Union – UN Expert, 3 December 2012

–         Migration Policy Centre, The Management of the External Borders of the EU and its Impact on the Human Rights of Migrants: The Italian Experience, October 2012

–         Matthias Wiessler, ECRE, Greek Forum of Refugees, How Much Further, A film about the lives of refugees in Greece, June 2012.

–         Ekathimerini, UN Official Highlights Deep Immigration Problems in Greece, 3 December 2012

–         Migrants at Sea, Special Rapporteur Concerned over Plight of Irregular Migrants in Greece, 5 December 2012