After a five year trial the Athens Court of Appeal delivered a landmark ruling declaring the far-right Golden Dawn party a criminal organisation. Hundreds of recognised refugees transferred to the mainland and finding no options are returning to Lesvos. In an open letter, 29 human rights and humanitarian NGOs call on members of the Greek Parliament to urgently establish an inquiry into all allegations of unlawful returns of migrants to Turkey as evidence continues to mount.
On 7 October the Athens Court of Appeal found seven former Golden Dawn MPs, including its leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, guilty of leading a criminal organisation, and others guilty of participation in one. The far-right party that won 7 per cent and 21 seats in the 2012 parliamentary elections but was wiped out of parliament in the July 2019 elections stood accused of targeting immigrants, communist trade unionists, anti-fascists, leftists and gay people. A Golden Dawn operative was also convicted of killing an anti-fascist rapper. Celebrations broke out as news of the ruling spread and tens of thousands of people gathered outside the court. European Director for Amnesty International Nils Muižnieks stated: “Today’s landmark ruling is a recognition of the systemic threat posed to our societies by a violent, racist group and a commitment that this threat must not be allowed to continue,” adding: “This verdict is the first step to deliver justice for the victims of hate crimes and discriminatory attacks, and must serve as a stark reminder of the dangers of demonising and scapegoating entire populations.”
A daily average of 20 to 30 people who have been recognised as refugees and transferred to the Greek mainland are returning to Lesvos. In September 2020 an estimated 400 people returned reportedly as a result of harsh conditions and the inability to leave Greece. Dozens of people transferred from the islands sleep rough in Victoria Square in Athens. A local café owner told Kathimerini: “All these people are exhausted. We feel their pain. We’re also human”, adding: “We just want the problem of the people in the square to be settled so that we also feel more comfortable and they do not feel trapped”. Widespread violence including beatings, dog attacks and torture of migrants is reported by volunteers working for No Name Kitchen and other organisations in Patras west of Athens with 35 incidents taking place inside the port, and eight outside in the places where migrants live or on the street.
Referring to the substantial and mounting evidence from NGOs, UN agencies and media of unlawful returns “carried out mainly through pushbacks and collective expulsions” 29 human rights and humanitarian aid organizations are calling for an inquiry by Greek MPs. The organisations emphasise the Parliaments “oversight authority to investigate the allegations of these illegal acts by state agents and proxies on Greece’s sea and land borders with Turkey”. On 7 October the New Humanitarian published a feature on particular tactics of push-backs applied by Greek police. In hundreds of cases since March asylum seekers have been rounded up and transported as much as 400 kilometers to be forced onto dinghies and expelled from the country, allegedly being beaten and robbed. According to the Aegean Boat Report: “A multi-handicapped man was thrown in a life raft outside Lesvos by the Greek coast guard. He couldn’t even walk, and Turkish coast guard needed a crane and a stretcher to lift him out of the life raft”.
The new tented camp on Lesbos hosting 9000 people under harsh conditions and with hours of waiting to leave and re-enter has been hit by hard wind and heavy rain illustrating the exposure of residents in the winter to come.
For further information:
- ECRE, Greece: Closure of Accommodation for Vulnerable Amid Deteriorating Conditions in Camps, Transfers to Mainland, October 2020
- ECRE, Greece: New Camp Filling Up, Conditions are Harsh and COVID on the Rise, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Transfers to Improvised Tent Camp has Begun, Thousands Sleeping Rough, EU to Co-manage New Reception Structure in Lesbos, September 2020
- Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), Solidarity Now and others: Joint statement of 48 NGOs regarding the fire at the Registration and Identification Centre at Moria, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Moria Fire – Thousands Sleeping Rough, Chaos Prevails, Calls for Structural Solutions, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: 10,000 People Prevented Access, Lockdown Extended, Recognition Rate Increases, September 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Border Fence Extension, Denial of Push-backs, Anti-migrant Violence, Continued Destitution, Drop in Protection Rate, August 2020
- ECRE, Greece: No Accountability for Deadly Shooting, Continued Push-backs and Evictions, Critique of Crack-down on NGOs, German States Willing to Relocate, July 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Camp Lockdown Extended, Children in Detention, Cuts in Housing, Red-tape on NGOs and Continued Push-backs, June 2020
- AIDA, 2019 Update Greece, June 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Pushbacks Continue, Eviction of Makeshift Camp in Athens, June 2020
- ECRE, Greece: 500 to Escape Greece – Thousands Facing Destitution, Detention and Push-backs, June 2020
- AIDA, Housing out of reach, May 2019
- ECRE, Greece: France to Relocate 750 People, Government Deny Responsibility for Deadly Border Shooting, Lock-down Extended, and Violations Continue, May 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Chaotic Resumption of Procedures, Hundreds of Children Detained, Crack-Down on NGOs, New Evidence of Push-backs to Turkey, May 2020
- ECRE, Greece: New Relocations the only Positive Development amid Continued Violations, May 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Deadly Shot Fired from Greece, Continued Push-backs, Transfers to Mainland Met with Attacks, Parliament Votes on New Controversial Bill, May 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Fires in Samos Camp, Evacuations on Hold, European Cities Offer Relocation, April 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Unrest Amid Intensifying Corona Threat, ECtHR Orders Measures for Vulnerable Groups, April 2020
- ECRE, Greece: 1000 Vulnerable People Evacuated, Relocation of Children Started, Asylum Procedures Suspended, Renewed Tensions at Turkish Border, April 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Still no Access to Asylum, Second Camp Quarantined, First Relocations Ahead, Push Backs to Turkey, April 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Parliament Ratifies Emergency Decree Amid Intensifying Critique, March 2020
- ECRE, Greece: Fire and Virus Fear in Moria, 450 People Detained on Vessel Moved to Closed Camp, March 2020
- ECRE, Violations Continue in Greece, EU Says Asylum Procedures Cannot be Suspended, March 2020
- Organisations in Greece, Joint Statement: “Protect our laws and humanity!”, March 2020
- ECRE, Weekly Editorial: EU is Crossing the Red Line by Preventing Refugees from Crossing its Borders, March 2020