Greek authorities are denying migrants and refugees the right to seek asylum, Human rights Watch said in a report Friday.
A total of 625 asylum seekers who arrived on the island of Lesvos between March 1 and 18 are being denied fundamental rights of asylum, according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Nearly 200 are being detained on the island in unacceptable conditions, the report said. While 436 have been transported to the Malakassa center in Athens, where conditions are unknown, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch, Belkis Wille, told Anadolu Agency. “We don’t know the conditions there because so far we don’t know any group that has gotten access.”
She noted the Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture just completed a five-day rapid reaction visit to Greece to examine the way asylum seekers and refugees have been treated by authorities.
Amongst the places visited was the Malakassa detention camp in Athens.
The findings will be communicated to authorities but it is unclear if the report will be made public.
“If the government they wrote about agrees, then they make it public” she said.
“For up to two weeks, the authorities have been holding women, men, and children – many of them fleeing war and persecution – in the open in cold temperatures, denying their right to seek asylum and preventing them from getting the humanitarian and legal assistance they need and are entitled to,” Wille said in the report.
Since their arrival, refugees and migrants have been kept in restricted areas in small towns and villages of Molyvos, Klio and Aghrios Dimitrios in the north, and in the harbor, said Wille.
Witnesses said police are not letting anyone talk to them.
“So our information is from people on the island who have been witnessing the police and coast guard holding them, and information from aid workers who have been engaging with them, and with two lawyers who have been trying to represent them,” Wille told Anadolu Agency.
One witness saw the group as it arrived on the beach. “They were cold and wet, standing together by the road, frightened and holding onto their children,” the witness said. They were provided two large tents, but there was not enough room for the group to sleep inside.
Witnesses did not see toilets, showers or access to running water, according to Human Rights Watch.
Another witness account and from an aid worker said a group of 99 migrants, including a girl using a wheelchair and a boy who was unable to walk without support, arrived in another area of the island and are were held at Mytilene Harbor. Witnesses saw the group living on two public transport buses, with minimal hygiene facilities, the rights group reported.
Greece suspended for one month asylum seekers right to seek asylum beginning March 1.
“People will continue to arrive on the Greek islands and the authorities should not keep them in the open in poor and unhygienic conditions, barred from the asylum system,” Wille said. “Such policies are abusive and illegal.”