This statement from the Greek Council for Refugees came a few days after the bombing in Patissia that killed a 15 year old boy from Afghanistan and blinded his sister. I apologise for posting it so late but I was taking a break from blogging when this was written.
The darkness that has forever covered the eyes of a fifteen-year-old boy and his family a few evenings ago in the neighbourhood of Patissia, by chance illuminated the horrific reality experienced daily by thousands of people, who have fled their country persecuted or hunted, escaping from wars and oppressive regimes, trying to preserve their life and liberty. These are the people we call refugees. Refugees come to Greece in search of security and a little warmth. Most of them will face humiliation, the loss of dignity and shame.
The family from Afghanistan came to Athens in late September. In an effort to learn about the possibility of seeking asylum, they visited the Greek Council for Refugees on 3 November.
After we had informed them of their rights and assessed them as an especially vulnerable case, we employed a practice which we do not often follow: We gave the family a special reference letter addressed to the Attica Aliens’ Subdirectorate, asking them to facilitate the family’s access to the Petrou Ralli Asylum Department facility, the lodging of their asylum claim and the claim’s examination procedure.
The rest of the story is more or less known and constitutes the standard reality in our country, as it has been described in all reports and complaints that have been made in recent years and particularly in the last year. The family, which by law was entitled to access to asylum, accommodation, food and school for the children, was denied access to Petrou Ralli and ended up “without papers”, forced to search through rubbish in order to survive. This was not because the family did not wish or was not entitled to receive asylum, but because the state, through its practices, did not allow them any alternative to this situation.
Every day the Greek Council for refugees receives tens of complaints regarding shortcomings in this country’s asylum system. Every day tens of people, each bearing their own tragedy, try to find some support and assistance. This is asylum in Greece today. The laws have been forgotten. The European Directive on reception conditions is not applied, while the asylum recognition rate nears a shameful 0.04%. The recent report by UNHCR showed that in 2009 the number of asylum applications in Greece fell by 20%. It is always useful to know why.
Speaking of asylum, we are speaking about lives. The relevant Ministry may have granted the family subsidiary protection, however, the real demand of these people is different. It is asylum they seek, not something else. Therefore we ask the competent Authorities to examine the case on its proper basis, as soon as possible and when the situation permits it. We also ask that the granting of subsidiary protection be considered in relation to all persons coming from war zones.
Asylum is a right and a measure of the civilization of a country. With this in mind and with respect to this case, we will stand by the family, provided it so wishes, as we have stood by each asylum seeker and refugee for the past 21 years with all the means at our disposal. We express our condolences to the family, as well as our sincere apologies for not having been able to help more.
Greek Council for Refugees