UN urges Greece to address migrant detention woes

2016-05-16 21:57
An Afghan migrant holds his child after they arrive at the port of Piraeus, near Athens. (AP)

An Afghan migrant holds his child after they arrive at the port of Piraeus, near Athens. (AP)

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Athens - Greece must regulate and improve conditions for thousands of migrants - many of them children - detained in camps for weeks as they wait for asylum under a sketchy EU-Turkey deal, a UN human rights official said on Monday.

"The perceived lack of information, plus overcrowding, creates confusion, frustration, episodes of violence, fear," Francois Crepeau, the United Nations' special rapporteur on migrant human rights, told reporters.

In a written statement, Crepeau also urged Greece to "renounce the idea" of detaining migrants for long periods except in cases of documented danger to others or flight risks.

There have already been flare-ups of violence in camps, mainly in the Moria facility on Lesbos island, where people increasingly desperate to be allowed to continue their journey to a better future in northern Europe

On Monday, a group of migrants set fire to garbage bins in front of the camp's asylum service. Police dispersed them with stun grenades, the state ANA agency said.

Last week, six migrants fed up with being stuck on the island of Chios tried to swim back to Turkey.

Lack of information is a major reason for the anxiety among the migrants, said Crepeau, adding that detaining children was flat-out unacceptable.

"Greece implements detention of children. Children should not be detained, period," said the Canadian lawyer, who visited camps and detention centres in Athens, the islands of Lesbos and Samos, and Polykastro in northern Greece.

Under a controversial deal between the European Union and Turkey in March, migrants not entitled to asylum are to be deported back across the Aegean.

It went into effect on March 20 after the bloc was overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 1.25 million refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since the start of 2015.

But Crepeau's statement on Monday said the deal was "without mandatory value in international law" and of "undetermined" legal basis.

There are over 54 000 people on Greek territory, including some 45 000 migrants who arrived before the EU-Turkey deal took effect and were stuck after other Balkan countries began closing their borders in mid-February.

Greece on Monday said it would begin preliminary registration of migrants who arrived prior to the EU-Turkey deal, and who wish to apply for asylum.

"The pre-registration exercise will take several weeks to conclude, but all those who arrived in Greece before 20 March, wishing to apply for international protection in Greece and are currently residing on the mainland will be able to pre-register," the government said in a statement.

Read more on:    un  |  greece  |  migrants

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