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For us West Europeans, unless we are on our vacations, the Aegean sea seems to be pretty far away, tucked away in one of the most remote parts of Europe. We prefer to think of it in terms of dream islands swimming on a warm sea.

http://flickr.com/photos/jefield/ The truth is much more brutal than that: On two fact-finding missions to the region – one of them while millions of Europeans were dipping their toes in Greek seas during the months of July and August, the other one just a few weeks ago, German human rights association ProAsyl and Greek Lawyers found that “Serious human rights violations are taking place:

  • The Greek coast guard systematically maltreats newly arrived refugees. It tries to block their boats and force them out of Greek territorial waters. Regardless of whether they survive or not, passengers are cast ashore on uninhabited islands or left to their fate on the open sea.
  • In one reported case on the Chios island, the degree of maltreatment amounted to torture (serious beating, mock execution, electric shocks, pushing a refugee’s head into a bucket full of water).
  • The police detain all refugees and migrants on their arrival on the islands, including minors. This is in contravention of international law. Without exception, all new arrivals are placed under a deportation order, also in breach of international law. The detainees are left without any information about their rights and without legal counsel.
  • All three of the detention camps visited by the delegation offer unacceptable living conditions. The circumstances of detention amount to degrading and inhuman treatment.”

In the report, one refugee is quoted as saying:

“The two policemen in front of me were armed and showed me their weapons while I was being beaten. They looked at me very seriously. They said: We are going to kill you’. The expression on their faces was terrifying. I was very scared. The other policeman-a fat one- came up to me and said into my ear: ‘Tell the truth. These two policemen are very dangerous. They will kill you’.”

We like thinking of Greece as this easy-going place down south-east, right? Travellers arriving there from the other side may see it differently.

Full report by Pro Asyl and Athens Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants (40-page, 700 kB pdf)

Press release (2-page pdf, 22 kB)

Story via Statewatch

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