From an article today at BBC News entitled Asylum seekers ‘abused’ in Greece
Allegations that Greek police are abusing, threatening and torturing asylum-seekers are clearly taken very seriously in Athens.
The man responsible for the treatment of immigrants, spokesman for the Public Order Department of the Interior Ministry, Athanasios Andreolakos, offers the BBC more than an hour of his time, is well-briefed with specific details to refute claims of mistreatment and is eager to defend his country’s international reputation.
He denies any mistreatment took place – “there is simply no evidence to support this, the allegations are provocative to Greece” – before going on to admit that “no system can be perfect. Any allegations we will certainly pursue, we have zero tolerance for any abuses of this sort”.
The BBC’s Paul Henley spoke to Rodi Suweini about his experience of shocking police brutality and abuse in Greece.
Rodi Suweini is from Baghdad. A serious gunshot wound to his chest and shoulder is testament to his narrow escape from civil war in Iraq.
They tied my hands and my ankles with a rope and pulled me up so that I was suspended from the frame of a window
Other injuries to his face and neck are, he claims, a permanent reminder of his time in the custody of Greek police.
Having crossed the border from Turkey on foot, he was immediately captured and, he says, abused by officers who paid no heed to his claim for asylum.
“First, one of them kicked me in the stomach”, he told me, “and then three of them continued beating me up.
“They hit me across the face, they put a wooden stick to my neck and started to strangle me.
“They accused me of being a people-trafficker. They tied my hands and my ankles with a rope and pulled me up so that I was suspended from the frame of a window and they left me there all day.”
Berit Lindeman works for the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and has visited some of the detention centres here. She described what she saw as appalling and inhumane.
What we saw in Greece… we see in other countries we would not want to be compared to… we are talking about regimes that torture people. We cannot accept this in the middle of Europe
The authorities reaction to this claim is to say that Berit Lindeman is “gullible” (where have I heard that before?). Asylum lawyer Spyros Rizakos is outspoken about that response.
He thinks it a ludicrous idea that his government does not know that some migrants are being mistreated.
“Of course they know,” he says, “because there have been so many reports from organisations like the UNHCR, from the Greek ombudsman and from NGOs like Amnesty and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE).
“To ignore them is a sinful policy, something tragic. And I am doing my best to denounce it and to stop it.”
The article goes on to talk about the fact that asylum issues are a European problem not just a Greek one and that Greece deals with more than its fair share of asylum seekers because of its position in Europe and its extensive shoreline. This should not be confused with being an excuse to abuse asylum seekers.
There is also a brief mention of racism in Greece. Maria Kagkelidou, a journalist for the Athens News newspaper is quoted as saying
Some people are inherently racist here. Therefore, I would not say they would condone mistreatment of immigrants by the Greek police, but they would not be particularly surprised by it. And they would certainly not be up in arms about it
A sentiment I have heard many times here on this blog. You can read the full article here.