Human Rights Watch has published a 51-page report entitled ‘Unwelcome Guests: Greek Police Abuses of Migrants in Athens’, documenting alleged abusive treatment of migrants in Athens
Athens police are conducting abusive stops and searches and have detained tens of thousands of people in a crackdown on irregular migration, Human Rights Watch said in a review released today.
The following is a report distributed by the humanitarian group:
The 51-page document, “Unwelcome Guests: Greek Police Abuses of Migrants in Athens,” documents frequent stops of people who appear to be foreigners, unjustified searches of their belongings, insults, and, in some cases, physical abuse. Many are detained for hours in police stations pending verification of their legal status.
“It’s cruelly ironic that the authorities named the sweeps Xenios Zeus, after the ancient Greek god of hospitality,” said Eva Cossé, a Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “In fact, Operation Xenios Zeus is anything but hospitable to migrants and asylum seekers, who are regularly stopped, searched, and detained just because of the way they look.”
Between August 2012, when Operation Xenios Zeus began, and February 2013, the police forcibly took almost 85,000 foreigners to police stations to verify their immigration status. No more than 6 percent were found to be in Greece unlawfully, suggesting the police are casting an extraordinarily wide net.
The report draws on dozens of interviews with people who have been subjected to at least one stop since Operation Xenios Zeus began. Many of those interviewed had a legal right to be in Greece at the time of the stops because they are asylum seekers, legal foreign residents, or Greeks of foreign origin.
Many said they felt they were stopped because of their physical characteristics and gave disturbing accounts of clear targeting on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Tupac, a 19-year-old Guinean asylum seeker, for example, said that in early February police officers forced him and other black and Asian passengers out of a bus in central Athens: “[P]olice officers came to the door and said ‘All blacks out, all blacks out.’”
While stops can involve a relatively quick check of identity papers, Human Rights Watch found that migrants and asylum seekers with a legal right to be in Greece are regularly subjected to lengthy procedures, both on the street and at police stations, that amount to unjustified deprivation of liberty. Many people are held by police officers in the street, confined in police buses, and detained in police stations and the Aliens Police Division for hours without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing, Human Rights Watch said.
Ali, a 33-year-old registered Afghan asylum seeker, was stopped and detained by police officers in central Athens along with his 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. “The kids said [to the police], ‘He is our father, he has a pink card [asylum seeker’s card], why did you catch him?’ They [the police] said that, ‘We will take him to Allodapon [police station], we will do the control [of the identity documents] and we will release him.’”
The police ordered Ali to send his distraught children home on their own, even though they live in Piraeus, outside Athens. But he chose to keep them with him throughout the procedure, though they were kept separately from him and about 45 other people the police had rounded up. Ali was released five hours later, only after a Greek nongovernmental organization intervened on his behalf.
Under Greek law, police have broad powers to stop people and require them to provide proof of their identity without any suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. Identity checks for immigration control, such as those conducted on a massive scale during the ongoing Operation Xenios Zeus, are not prescribed explicitly in law.
The lack of training in immigration and asylum issues, and of specific guidance for officers participating in the operation, leaves too much room for abuse, Human Rights Watch said.
The Greek authorities told Human Rights Watch that bringing foreigners to the police station is necessary to identify forged documents and to verify photocopies of documents. However, authorities have taken no steps to put in place the training and technical means to enable police to verify the documents on the street.
“Investing so many resources just to catch the wrong people and release them afterward is a huge waste,” Cossé said. “If the authorities are serious about improving security on the streets of Athens and controlling irregular immigration, they should focus on real criminals and base police operations on evidence and intelligence, not stereotypes.”
Police mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers is a longstanding, serious problem in Greece, as documented by Human Rights Watch and others. Almost everyone interviewed complained of rude, insulting, and threatening behavior, and four people described physical abuse.
Body pat-downs and bag searches during immigration stops also appear to be routine, even in the absence of any reasonable suspicion that the individual is carrying unlawful or dangerous objects.
Since the early 2000s, Greece has become the major gateway into the European Union for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from Asia and Africa. Years of mismanaged migration and asylum policies and, more recently, the deep economic crisis, have changed the demographics of the capital city. The center of Athens, in particular, has a large population of foreigners living in extreme poverty, occupying abandoned buildings, town squares, and parks. Concerns about rising crime and urban degradation have become a dominant feature of everyday conversations as well as political discourse.
Greece has a right to control irregular immigration and a duty to improve security on the streets for everyone. However, the breadth and intensity of immigration sweeps in the context of Operation Xenios Zeus raise serious concerns about whether the means to achieve those legitimate aims are necessary and proportionate, Human Rights Watch said.
International and Greek law prohibit discrimination, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, unjustified interference with the right to privacy, and violations of dignity and the right to physical integrity. International and national standards also require respectful treatment by the police.
The Greek government should revise its general stop and search powers, including for Operation Xenios Zeus, Human Rights Watch said. The government should adopt legal and policy reforms to ensure that all measures to identify irregular migrants are conducted in full compliance with national and international law prohibiting discrimination, including ending ethnic profiling, and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
“No one should be held by the police, even for a short time, without good reason,” Cossé said.
Self-defence group set up night-time patrols to protect against attacks
Via EnetEnglish, Channel4
Nicknamed the Black Panthers, a new self-defence brigade wants to protect themselves from racists who are targeting people who are not ethnic Greek.
Fed up of being the target of Golden Dawn gangs, a group of Athens residents has decided to take on the extremists by setting up night-time patrols in their neighbourhoods.
Nicknamed the Black Panthers, the self-defence brigade wants to protect themselves from racists who are targeting people who are not ethnic Greeks. The group uses mobile phones and social media to alert each other of attacks and mount a rapid response.
A member of the group who has lived most of his 28 years in Greece after coming from Kenya as a baby told Britain’s Channel 4 in a report broadcast on Tuesday evening: “I am a member of the Black Panthers and everybody knows that. So I am giving them (Golden Dawn) a straight warning – don’t mess with black people, anyhow. And I mean it.”
“I’m not afraid of this neo-Nazi, stupid, idiotic group,” Michael Chege told Channel 4 reporter Jamal Osman. “In world war two, they were crushed. In world war three, we will exterminate them out of the face of the earth.
“They want to do what Hitler did. Try it. They will have the same fate and even worse,” he continued.
Born in Kenya, Chege moved to Greece with his family when he was eight months’ old. Now aged 28, he says he is treated the same as a newly arrived immigrant. He has experienced numerous police ID controls, so he has to carry a bag full of documents to prove that he is legal in the country.
“I don’t know if people know how it feels to be a stranger in your own land,” said Chege, who as the only black child in his school, is used to having to fight to “get respect” from others. His training in martial arts has come in useful when attacked by Golden Dawn.
“I have encountered them ten times in a real fight, in a battle in kill or be killed,” he said. In a recent encounter, two men got onto a bus he was travelling in and ordered him to “leave, run or get down”.
Refusing to submit to their threats, he took on the men on and emerged with only minor injuries.
Chege’s mother Ann says she now wants to return to Kenya because “there is nothing left for us here”.
“No matter how the situation is, I love Greece. I feel it is my home. I cannot condemn Greece. I have enjoyed Greece. Those days. But now, it has changed 180 degrees. When I walk at night, I’m scared. If I raise enough money, I want to go to Kenya [for good] at Christmas time. By God’s grace.”
Via The Electronic Intifada
Natan Blanc, a 19-year-old from Haifa, has spent more than 120 days in prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli military.
He began thinking about resisting conscription during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week offensive against Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
Israel’s Defense Service Law — introduced in 1949 — gave the Israeli military the authority to enroll any Israeli citizen who turns 18. After finishing a mandatory service of one year, Israelis remain in a reserve unit in the army. This requires Israelis to spend one month in the army each year until the age of 40.
Conscientious objection to military service is considered a felony in Israel. It is usually punished by imprisonment for a few weeks — during which pressure is put on an objector to change his or her mind. Following that spell in jail, the objector is summoned again to a military recruitment committee. Continued refusal to serve can lead to further imprisonment.
In total, Blanc has been summoned to a recruitment committee eight times. On each occasion, he has been sent to jail. He is scheduled for release in three weeks’ time.
Recently released for two days for good behavior, Blanc spoke to The Electronic Intifada contributor Sawsan Khalife’.
Sawsan Khalife’: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Natan Blanc: I’m 19 years old, from Haifa. I studied cinema in high school. When I turned 18, there was a one-year education program with 12 places in Jerusalem, after which we were supposed to serve in the Israeli military.
All the other 11 volunteers continued to their military service in the IDF [Israeli military]. I knew from the beginning I would not. I also volunteered in a youth leadership program for MDA [Israel’s national medical service] and as an editor for Wikipedia.
SK: How did you come to be politically aware?
NB: My political awareness comes from home. My parents are political activists; I participated in demonstrations with my parents from an early age. When I grew older I was a member of a youth leadership program, which I left because everyone was going to serve in the military and I found myself alienated and in an extremely different place than they were.
SK: How would you describe the IDF (the Israeli army)?
NB: The IDF is just a tool of the Israeli government to practice its authority; the IDF follows decisions that come from higher places. For decades the IDF has been violating basic human rights by implementing the government’s decisions and policies.
I have been summoned to the recruitment committee eight times now and each time I was imprisoned for my refusal to be part of the IDF. Last time, which was over a week ago, was over my refusal of their offer to serve in a hospital as a part of the national service. I refused because I would have to wear the IDF uniform.
As a result they put me in prison again, for the eighth time, and I got released yesterday. I was put in Prison Six near Atlit [a coastal town south of Haifa], which holds Israeli soldiers who violate the law while doing their service, or in my case, who refuse to do the military service to begin with. There are not many cases like mine in prison. I was the only prisoner who got convicted for service refusal this year. Our percentage is very small.
SK: But you could have avoided prison time and still not serve in the military?
NB: Yes, as a lot of people claim mental or medical problems to avoid prison time. I do not want to lie. It is important in this case to tell the truth as it is. There is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of by stating what you believe in.
SK: And what is it that you believe in?
NB: I stated several times in court my refusal to be part of the occupation. I am against what the IDF does; I have a moral problem with it and won’t take part in these actions.
All this injustice towards the Palestinians under the Israeli regime: there is no democracy, they don’t choose their own fate as they have no right to vote under a regime that forces its decisions on them. It is the Knesset [Israel’s parliament] that votes and decides for the Palestinians; it decides their fate without including them in the decision-making process. I will not take part in that either.
SK: Do you believe the State of Israel will damage your possibilities of getting a job or education in the future?
NB: I think all these stories about not being able to get a job are the government’s attempt to scare people from avoiding military service. As for the society’s approach towards me, I believe there are a lot of people who understand and support my cause, but a lot more will have a hard time accepting it.
SK: Are there any organizations who support exemptions for serving on ideological grounds?
NB: There are two main organizations, Yesh Gvul and Ta’ayush. They hold demonstrations in support of exemptions for military service in front of Prison Six. They send letters to all those who have refused to do the service, offering them support and legal counseling.
SK: What would you say to Israeli young men and women when they turn 18 and have to serve in the IDF?
NB: Serving in the military will not only affect your life, but a lot of other people’s lives. You should have a clean conscience. You should think carefully before you take part in occupation and war.
I know it is compulsory to serve in the military, but it is possible to refuse like I have. Of course, there are consequences, but if your conscience is not clean, do not do it, no matter the price you will pay.
Sawsan Khalife’ is a political activist and journalist from Shefa Amr in the Galilee region of Palestine
Via Eagainst.com & Europeans Against the Political System
In support and solidarity with the suppressed Athens Indymedia and 98 FM – Radio Band of Subversive Expression.
In Greece, where pauperization, mass unemployment and destitution are on the rise, where many look for food in garbage bins while others are driven to suicide unable to secure shelter and welfare, the dissident media annoy and must close. In the country of violent State repression where the police now openly and shamelessly cooperate with the neo-Nazis against the movement. In the country of blatant racism and misinformation through the media, which have become disseminators of government propaganda, all other media that do not comply with the decisions taken without the majority’s consent must be closed.
While public education is but a memory, and the labor laws that protected basic labor rights were abolished overnight, while predatory laws spring up on a daily basis like rashes of an infectious disease, showing the sadism of the ruling elite and of the tragic and ludicrous governmental personnel; here in Greece that the basic income was annihilated for the benefit of domestic and international capitalism, the markets and the eurocrats, some say that “at least you have freedom of speech” and that “movements are expressed dynamically, opposing voices are heard. ”
The anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement, which is growing stronger every day since the revolt in December 2008, having somehow gained a “hegemonic” word within the resistance movements, apart from the repression it receives on a daily basis, directly and indirectly, and exactly because it is obviously taken into account, is challenged in every aspect. First the squats and the self-organised spaces came under direct attack: the structures that managed to bring closer this political movement to the rest of society, which paralyzed and bewildered by the political agenda and the general collapse, tends to be radicalised. The government and the political parties do what they can to prevent this radicalization, fighting fiercely the anarchist/antiauthoritarian spaces, promoting (with the help of the manipulated mass media) the fascists of Golden Dawn, who are now seated in parliament.
The latest blow was the shutdown of Athens Indymedia and the counter-information radio stations 98FM and Radio Entasi, which since Thursday midday 11 of April have been subject to state repression via backstage pressure, without an actual legal issue in hand. Τhe various pro-EU extremists, supporters of Neoliberal social policies, of the “smooth functioning of institutions”, would say: “in what serious country would a website be allowed to disseminate communiques of terrorists and incite mass destruction of property?” They are right. In no “serious” country, where the freedom of press is supposedly respected a website like Athens Indymedia would be allowed to broadcast for more than five days. They forget, however, that these countries do not owe their prosperity to blind obedience to the laws, suppression and social discipline. Instead, part of the freedoms the citizens (of these countries) enjoy is due to social struggles that took place during the previous century, struggles that managed to dismantle the old order (the fugitive serfs as Marx called them, or the struggles of workers, minorities and women), leading several groups to gain autonomy (let’s not forget that these struggles were initially stigmatized as “outbreaks of lawlessness”, “incitements to violence” or even “terrorism”, such as May Day in Chicago, as thanks to those struggles today the supporters of “law and order” can work 8 hours a day instead of 15, and get annual leave and sickness pay instead of dying outside the factories). On the other hand, the biggest part of the economic prosperity of the “serious” countries is due to domination, to the colonization of the non-Western world and the brutality it left behind. Let’s also not forget that new laws have now been introduced to countries like Britain, the Netherlands and Hungary forcing the unemployed to work for free 30 hours a week. For those that never wondered, this is because our societies have politically paralyzed, and follow faithfully and blindly the laws under the fear of repression, under the impending stigma of “terrorism” and “illegitimate degeneracy” – code-words used to label all those who disagree with the political system. Will such laws be implemented or forced sooner or later in Greece? Who could stop them when there will be no real opposition voice?
The silencing of the 3 specific counter-information media which have an enormous social impact (Indymedia is among the websites with the highest rates of everyday visits) is a clear political choice made by the autocratic Greek government, which desperately tries to annihilate any counter-information network, because this is exactly the way an important part of Greek society chooses to stay informed for what really happens in the country, being radicalised as a consequence. The fact that the Greek government shamelessly despises the civil-’democratic’ Constitution is not a surprise to us. In post-memorandum Greece there is hardly a constitutional provision that has not been out-rightly circumvented or violated. Τhe blatant violation of the constitutional provisions according to which “anyone can express and spread verbally, in writing and via the press their thoughts by respecting the laws of the State” and “the Press is free. Censorship and any other precautionary measure is forbidden.” (article 14, paragraph 1 and 2), is a new qualitative and quantitative characteristic, making clear to all the authoritarian face of the Greek government, within the country and abroad.
Under these circumstances it is very important to re-establish the operation of the 3 counter-information media under the status they existed until today. It is not of concern if -technically speaking- it is possible to run them outside the Polytechnic School. The important thing is that their operation is supported by the students’ unions and their decrees, but mainly that any tactical withdrawal gives the opportunity to the government to utterly, definitely, irrevocably repress any opposing voice. It is absolutely certain that an unscrupulous government will stop before nothing. It is unconditionally crucial that Athens Indymedia, 98FM and Radio Entasi continue to broadcast free, the same way and from the same places they used to before April 11. At the same time, however, websites with articles that call Albanians a ‘dishonored breed”, Jews a “source of all evil” that would soon “be buried in their tomb in the Dead Sea” and Turks the “offspring of the devil”, remain open, stigmatizing people of different orientation, allowing the racist poison to spread in society.
Let us speak clearly. The attack on Athens Indymedia and 98fm is a POLITICAL attack. Yes, the website could be based elsewhere, but this is exactly the point! This would be a defeat for the whole anarchist movement. Those who share this view and rest assured that it can operate outside the university, automatically accept an unprecedented political defeat. All must understand that this is not just a technical issue. All must see the unprecedented denial of freedom of expression for (indirectly or directly) ALL OF US! Because this is what it is: DEPRIVATION OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. Meanwhile to those who might say that some journalists are also denied the right of freedom of expression due to popular anger and fear of being targeted by armed groups, we answer that these vocationalists who always criticize safely from ‘above’, should know that they applaud violence when they defend the policies that have forced an entire population to poverty. When they justify the violence of the repressive forces and of Golden Dawn, they become terrorists themselves. They undoubtedly have the right to express themselves as they wish. If they are elitists, it is their undeniable right to attempt to demonize poverty by any means possible. However, they should be ready to take responsibility, given that their elitism causes mass reactions against them. Those who supposedly speak in the name of the majority and baptize “populist”, “lawless”, and “terrorist” anyone who disagrees with them should either fear or respect the people about whom they speak. If both are not possible, then they had better be afraid.
At a time when the benchmark of the movements is the media of counter-information and the social structures of resistance, there is no luxury for further losses and/or retractions. This should be understood by those who think they have not been directly influenced by the particular practice of preventive (and vindictive) censorship. The citizens of other countries should realize that not only in Greece the once seemingly unpopular Government reveals day by day its totalitarian face, but that across the globe, political inertia, addiction to political correctness and “legality” has led to a state of absolute subjection, where every voice not in line with the dominant doctrine is considered illegal and therefore should be gagged for the “good of all.” Protection from the danger of “lawlessness” (once expressed as “protection from the threat of communism”), reliance on the work ethic and the instrumental capitalist order, are the factors which during the interwar period in Europe allowed the implementation of the state of exception, leading to the rise of fascism. We should therefore understand that just with the fear of being stigmatised as “terrorists” we are deprived of all freedoms at all levels of social life; that the government should be politically and morally isolated by those who respect themselves and value freedom, equality and solidarity. Finally, the movement itself should and must show its solidarity as in the case of the government’s attacks on political squats and autonomous spaces. If an injury to one is an injury to all, then injuring the heart of the movement is war against all of us.
In hard and ugly times, like those we live in years now, counter-information is one of the most important weapons in our arsenal. It is what keeps us in touch with reality, what WE manage without partisan or monetary support, without interference from third parties, without filters of respectability for the sake of balance, or fear of bullying by rippers and moralist prosecutors. It is by us, for us! And when we say “us” we mean those not on the side of the oppressors, the exploiters and their lackeys. What we must understand is that this time we ourselves must show practical solidarity. Athens Indymedia and 98fm are vibrant parts of the revolutionary movement, and the revolutionary movement is all of us, who do not believe the prefabricated nonsense of the TV channels that support the regime in which we live. We take information in our hands. We choose to live the events and have a personal opinion about them, and not hear them like another TV serial.
We know that freedom of expression, thought and action are obstacles for every government, as we know well that to control the flow of information is one of the strongest weapons in the hands of the oppressors. We therefore think that our response should be solidarity in practice. Athens Indymedia, Radio 98fm, and Radio Entasi are integral parts of our action, bridges among all groups that fight against oppression.
The Amigdalesa reservation camp for immigrants, referred as “Center for Illegal Immigrants” by the state and the mainstream media, operates since April 2012 in Greece, near the city of Athens.
Two of the detainees, both names remain unknown (one is registered in Block 13 of the camp), both on hunger strike demanding justice and fair treatment, attempted to commit suicide. One of them used a broken glass from the camp’s window and cut his throat and the other drunk a bottle of shampoo.
Many communities and organizations called by the KEERFA (Movement United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat), the Pakistan Community of Greece Unity, THE Afghan Community in Greece, the Bangladesh Cultural Organization, the Egyptian Community in Greece etc.along with a team of lawyers. After an extensive meeting, it was decided that there have to be direct and organized actions of solidarity to the hunger strikers of Amigdalesa camp. The representative of the meeting pleaded the state and the public for the immediate closing of the reservation camp.