Monday, 4 November 2019

Human rights community decries new Greek asylum law

This article was published by Al Jazeera International. 

ATHENS, Greece – Greece passed a new asylum law late on Thursday amid acrimonious debate and against a storm of withering criticism from Greek and international aid organisations.

The three month-old conservative New Democracy government says the law will bring much-needed speed and efficiency to Greece’s bogged-down asylum process.

Critics say it breaks European and international humanitrian law, and creates a monstrous machinery that will likely condemn deserving asylum applicants to deportation and death. 

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees said the law “puts an excessive burden on asylum seekers and focuses on punitive measures. It introduces tough requirements that an asylum seeker could not reasonably be expected to fulfil.”

Europe breaking own rules to deter asylum seekers


This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

ATHENS, Greece - A recent decision by the European Ombudsman that found “serious errors” with an Algerian man’s asylum denial has served to highlight broader issues in Europe’s asylum practices.

Human rights organisations in Greece tell Al Jazeera that the case referred to the Ombudsman is only a part of broader systemic flaws and a deliberately restrictive application of asylum law.

Mr. X was deported back to Algeria after being interviewed by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) on the Greek island of Leros in January last year. His homosexuality is illegal in his home country, and his sexual partner’s family had threatened to kill him if he returned.

The legal aid group Advocates Abroad, which represented Mr. X, says it has lost touch with him and now fears the deportation may have led to his death.

In a complaint dated April 2018, seen by Al Jazeera, Mr. X’s lawyer said the EASO interviewer “prejudiced the outcome” of Mr. X’s case by conducting the interview “in a hostile and adversarial manner,” that contravened EASO’s own published guidelines.

Greece, US hail strategic relationship after signing defence deal


This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

ATHENS – The US and Greece on Saturday signed a revised Mutual Defence Co-operation Agreement that will elevate Greece’s strategic value and lead to US investments in Greek military facilities.

“This is a pivotal point for Greek-American relations,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after signing the agreement. “The Greek-US relationship has literally never been stronger.”

For the first time, Greece is consenting to an indefinite agreement that doesn’t need to be renewed each year. In return, US armed forces are expected to expand the Sixth Fleet’s base in Crete, and create drone bases and permanent helicopter training facilities in central Greece.

Most importantly of all, perhaps, the US is to establish a new naval and airforce base in the northeast Greek city of Alexandroupoli to supply NATO allies Bulgaria and Romania. This bypasses the current route through the Bosphorus, controlled by Turkey.

EU calls on Turkey to speed up readmission of illegal migrants


 This article was published by Al Jazeera International

ATHENS - Greece, Germany and the European Commission on Friday called on Turkey to fully implement its migration agreement with the EU, by speeding up the return of asylum-seekers that crossed onto EU territory from Turkish soil.

“The European Council and Commisison are here to reassure Greece of their unstinting support to bring to fulfilment the EU-Turkey statement,” said German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

The EU-Turkey Statement came into force in March 2016, and stipulates that Turkey must readmit third-country nationals who “illegally and directly entered the territory of the Member States after having stayed on, or transited through, the territory of Turkey.”

“Our aim is the full implentation of the EU-Turkey Statement,” said European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was on the return leg of a trip to the Turkish capital.

Greece launches hydrocarbon production as part of a green agenda


This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

The resort town of Sybota and Paxoi islands in the distance could be impacted by hydrocarbon extraction, say environmental groups

IGOUMENITSA, Greece – For the past two years, the residents of Greece’s northwest province of Epirus have been tripping up on short wooden stakes planted about a foot high in the ground. They stand in rows that continue interminably through villages, over meadows and mountains, blue ribbons fluttering from their tops.

Few Epirots are aware that these stakes do not mark any future road, overhead cable or utility pipe. They are grid markers that allow engineers to evenly space hundreds of controlled, underground explosions that will send shock waves into Epirus’ subsurface, creating three-dimensional maps of its rock formations. Engineers believe those formations will suggest the presence of oil and natural gas.

Epirus is perhaps the last place on Earth where one would expect to find hydrocarbon exploration. It is a pastoral landscape of tilted meadows, gorges so deep and vast that birds born in them never need to fly elsewhere, lakes that reflect the sky as clear as mercury, and savage, snow-topped mountains that drop into an azure Ionian sea.

This is a still-pristine world many Epirots do not want sullied. “Humanity will one day face shortages of drinkable water, and we have some of Europe’s finest water here,» says Vasilis Dimitriou, an activist with Greenpeace. He questions the wisdom of driving concrete pipes through the water table to extract oil that may lie beneath it. «If there is a fracture and oil seeps into the water table, the area is ruined.»

“We want our children’s classmates back”: Refugee eviction causes fury in Athens

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

The police eviction of 143 undocumented migrants from a disused school building in central Athens has provided the first negative feedback to the three month-old conservative Greek government’s toughening refugee policy.

Most of the evictees from the defunct 5th High School building in the Exarheia neighbourhood were women and children from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and seven other Asian and African countries.

About a dozen children were enrolled in local Greek schools, and their sudden disappearance from the classroom raised the ire of their Greek classmates, their parents and their teachers.

“We want our children’s classmates back,” said a statement issued on September 25 by the parents’ association of the 35th and 36th Elementary Schools of Athens. “Thanks to them, many schools in the centre remained open.”

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Striking Greek unions accuse government of leaving them powerless

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.
Supporters of the labour union of the Communist Party of Greece marched through Athens on Tuesday.


Greece’s three month-old conservative government faced its first public sector strike on Tuesday, as it presented a bill it says will bring growth and jobs.

Athens city buses and electric trolleys remained parked, as did light rail and passenger shipping. The result was gridlock when commuters took to their cars. Government services were shuttered. Public schools closed and hospitals operated on skeleton staff. The civil aviation authority grounded flights for three hours.

Although Tuesday’s strike was primarily a public sector strike, private sector unions were present. Banks remained closed and some retail, construction and telecommunications workers’ unions joined protest marches to parliament. The private sector will hold its own full-blown strike on October 2nd.