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Suspected police custody of Syrian refugees in Evros

14 November 2013 / 13:11:22  GRReporter
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The Greek branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees received information that, in the border region in the northern part of Evros, the police had detained around 150 refugees from Syria. According to the complaint, the Syrian citizens, including many families with small children, had entered Greek territory on the morning of 12 November. The information reached the organisation through members of the same group of refugees who claimed that they were relatives of the detainees. In their words, about 70-80 people had been in the yard of a church in the village of Praggi near Orestiada and other 80-90 in a nearby forest area.

The police had not confirmed the information and therefore, the same evening, a team of the organisation had visited the village to find out what was going on. Residents of Praggi told them they had seen police cars take away, in an unknown direction, a group of about 80 foreigners, who had previously been around the church.

The office of the Commissioner for Refugees reports that, despite its constant contact with the police authorities at local, regional and central level, it has failed to find the two groups of refugees. The communication of the organisation states that, as of today, they have not arrived in the First Reception Centre near Orestiada where they must be registered and identified as provided by law.

The organisation urges the Greek authorities to investigate what has happened to the 150 Syrians who, according to witnesses, have been in Evros since 12 November. It recalls that, under the current legislation, the authorities in Greece are obliged to establish their condition, meet their basic needs and then subsequently, start the administrative procedures for the determination of their status.

"Particularly with respect to people fleeing Syria, the UNHCR has addressed repeated appeals to the States to facilitate access of refugees to safety, and to avoid returns to countries neighbouring Syria that presently face the largest burden of hosting over 2.2 million Syrian refugees," stresses the UN.

At the same time, according to a report by the German non-governmental organisation Pro Asyl, based on the testimonies of dozens of immigrants, the Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea and Evros are using inhumane and illegal methods to force the immigrants to return. Some of the cases are described as torture. During the one year-long study, members of Pro Asyl interviewed live 90 immigrants in Germany, Greece and Turkey. It is the country which, according to the report, returns the immigrants.

According to the head of the investigative group, Günter Burkhardt, "Germany provides protection to almost 100% of the Syrian refugees but this is true for those who manage to reach it." He made this statement before the German TV channel, which commented, "Whoever manages to come may stay. Germany has left to others the dirty job of returning the refugees."

The respondents in the survey are 49 immigrants from Syria, 32 people from Afghanistan, 5 from Somalia and 4 from Eritrea. They state that, often, groups of immigrants who had been walking or transported by boat over the sea had been returned together, without being given the opportunity to apply for asylum or for each case to be considered individually.

Of the 90 participants, 76 state that they had been returned at least once: 16 of them had been returned from the region of Evros in northern Greece and 60 from the Aegean islands (the majority of them from Farmakonisi, others from Lesbos, Chios and Samos). The rest had been returned more than once, usually from the land border in Evros first and then from the Aegean Sea.

The immigrants state that, in the majority of the cases, when they had been able to enter Greek territory, they had been sent back to sea in boats that could not be defined as safe for sailing. All this had happened under the threat of arms and after the authorities had deprived them of their personal documents.

The report describes numerous cases of mistreatment of immigrants in Greece, especially of those of them who had been able to reach the island of Farmakonisi. "The treatment of nine men from Syria could be described as torture," reads the text.

In some cases, the immigrants had been detained without being able to communicate with anyone and without being asked for any details other than their nationality. At least once, a boat transporting immigrants had been returned after its leader himself had called the emergency phone number.

"They beat D. in a very cruel way. One hit him with a piece of wood and the other stepped on his head. D. was crying and shouting in Arabic, "I'm not an animal" and they responded, "Stop talking". According to other evidence, the immigrants had been returned en masse, even when there had been old or sick people among them.

A Syrian immigrant who had arrived on the island of Samos describes his meeting with the authorities in the following way: "They were wearing masks and we could only see their eyes. They shot into the air three - four times and got into the boat. We raised our hands, they were pulling the womens' hair, we did not understand what they were saying. They forced us to go down onto our knees, took our money and threw our mobile phones and bags into the sea." According to him, the boat was returned and abandoned in Turkey’s territorial waters and its engine had previously been damaged.



Tags: Crime newsImmigrantsRefugeesSyriaUnited Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesPro AsylReport
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