Athens, May 17, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
His concern for the greek policy for the detention of refugees and for the lack of sufficient information, expressed François Crépeau during yesterday’s presentation of the preliminary results of his five-day visit to Greece.
The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations for the human rights of migrants was caustic in his comments on the recent EU-Turkey agreement, “a political agreement without binding force”, and stressed the great pressure on Greece to implement it before it entered into force.
In the previous five days François Crépeau visited the national and local authorities in Athens, Macedonia, Lesvos and Samos and visited hot spots, shelters and informal settlements.
There he “saw” solidarity and generosity on the part of citizens and local authorities and a “real determination” of Greece to face the largest migration stream from 1945 onwards with its “own resources in the midst of economic crisis and austerity”.
However, in Monday’s press conference for the presentation of the preliminary conclusions, he expressed concern about the policy Greece follows regarding the detention of refugees, particularly children, and recalled that under the Convention on the UN Child Rights, children should never be detained for any reason.
“I met unaccompanied children locked in police stations all day, without access outdoors, for more than two weeks. Also, I met entire families being held in closed structures for weeks”, he described.
Crépeau emphasized that detention should be ordered when people pose a threat to public interest, and this must be documented, and should not be based simply on suspicion.
Detention conditions, he argued, “are not the best possible”. In particular, he said, at the hotspots there is overcrowding in confined spaces, and this situation “causes confusion, fear and violence”. He also stressed that the provided 25 days of detention are too many, “especially in cases of single women with children”.
The detention, he said, has been requested from the European Union, “but I consider it unnecessary. There is no justification for this, it is possible to apply some kind of detention when it is necessary for one or two days, taking into account the sensitive populations”.
He also stated anxious about the lack of diffusion of information, which is a “source of stress for immigrants and civil society”. The information, he said, must be accurate and precise and be given rapidly.
He rushed to add that has achieved significant progress has been made in relation to the situation encountered in the previous visit in 2012, and brought as examples of the Asylum Service which works well under normal conditions, but which today “is facing difficulties due to the large number of people that resort to it”, but also the creation of reception and hospitality areas that did not even exist in 2012.
In its recommendations to Greece, Crépeau stated inter alia the need to create an independent oversight mechanism, the establishment of the National Child Protection Mechanism, the development of structures for the protection of children and to better organize the management of reception centers, “where it is sometimes unclear who is in charge”.
At the same time, he admitted that the changing context of the European Union poses a challenge for the Greek government. “It is very difficult for the Greek government to organize a long-term strategy when EU-Turkey agreement affects what happens”.
From the European Union he asked to financially support the existing Greek government services, “not only is funding NGOs”, and develop a long term strategy for the refugee issue. “In the past there was an attempt to create a common European immigration policy, but it was forgotten after the great migration flows”, he pointed out.
Commenting on the EU-Turkey agreement on the refugee problem, Crépeau made it clear that this is now called “statement between the EU and Turkey” and is very likely to be “just a political agreement which is not binding and has no legal status in courts”.
“The responsibility for its implementation”, he added, “lies with each state, as they alone makes decisions for which they are accountable”. “When these decisions are made by the states, e.g. Greece, we will have to wait until the Greek courts and the European Court of Human Rights makes an assessment of the validity of the decision about whether the mechanism is ineffective or whether it is affecting human rights”, he said.
At the same time, as he notes in his preliminary conclusions, that Greece “has accepted remarkable pressure (which reaches the level of “intimidation”, according to some bodies) to implement the agreement immediately, before it enters into force and apply the maximum restrictions for immigrants in order to achieve the objective of the return of more immigrants to Turkey”.