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JRS Greece: hard conditions for asylum seekers in Athens
February 01, 2016

JRS Greece: hard conditions for asylum seekers in Athens
People wait for a ferry to take them to Athens on the Greek island of Lesbos (Photo: JRS Greece).
“JRS staff is regularly visiting detention centers around Athens. There are problems with hygiene and food while many migrants do not have proper clothing.”
(Athens, Greece) February 1, 2016 – Despite the winter cold and rough seas people continue to take great risks to reach Greece from Turkey. JRS is present on the Greek island of Lesbos and in Athens welcoming and accompanying new arrivals.

On January 23, JRS staff witnessed the arrival of three ferries from the Greek islands to the port of Piraeus near Athens. The huge ferries collectively were carrying about 8,000 people.

Director of JRS Greece, Rev. 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, such as traveling 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 nongovernmental organizations.

Forced migrants increasingly are being sent by the Greek authorities to detention centers, where conditions are extremely bad. JRS staff is regularly visiting detention centers around Athens. There are problems with hygiene and food while 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 so called Dublin Regulation, a European Union law that requires all migrants to apply for asylum in the country where they first set foot.

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.

Recent observations on the ground by JRS support the findings of the European Council of Exiles and Refugees in November. Persons in need of protection still face considerable obstacles to accessing the asylum procedure.

Reception conditions are not improving and asylum seekers often are exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Finally, the detention of unaccompanied children clearly is not in the best interests of the child and conflicts with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
christian.fuchs@jrs.net
202-629-5946