Palestinian Refugees Facing Ambivalent Fate in Greece

Palestinian Refugees Facing Ambivalent Fate in Greece

The overcrowded Vial refugee camp on Chios island hosts around 5,000 migrants. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images

Palestinian refugees and other migrants have been subjected to a dire humanitarian situation in migrant camps and other substandard facilities set up in Greece, most of them vastly overcrowded, unhygienic and violence-prone.

Human rights sources say that over recent months, Greece’s refugee camps have been running at four or five times their capacities, with tens of thousands of migrants crammed into poorly-equipped tents.

Recently, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam have warned that the new Greek asylum system is designed to deport people rather than offer them safety and protection.

According to GCR and Oxfam, this means that people who have fled violence and persecution have little chance of a fair asylum procedure, and even families with children are regularly detained in inhumane conditions.

In the report ‘Diminished, Derogated, Denied’, published on July 1, the organisations showed how the reformed Greek asylum law, which entered into force on 1 January 2020 and was later amended in May, exposed people to abuse and exploitation.

The situation is further aggravated by the inhumane living conditions in Greece’s refugee camps where people are now at risk of a devastating health crisis should COVID-19 reach the camps.

The organisations’ analysis found that many particularly vulnerable people – such as children, pregnant women and people with disabilities – have been detained upon arrival on the ‘hotspot’ islands, without sufficient access to necessary care or protection. The asylum system also makes it extremely difficult for people seeking asylum to properly present their reasons for fleeing their home countries, like conflict or persecution, to the Greek asylum service.

Testimonies gathered by the Greek Council for Refugees expose these harrowing living conditions in those camps

The organisations said that reformed law effectively bars many people who do not have legal support from appealing an asylum rejection. Deadlines have been shortened drastically and, in many cases, expire before people are informed of the decision. People seeking asylum are only able to submit an actual appeal through a lawyer – but in Lesbos, there is only one state-sponsored lawyer.

Over the past months, during the COVID-19 lockdown, there has been a worrying increase in cases of sexual harassments and reports of rape, and of domestic violence in Greek camps.

Thousands of Palestinian refugees have risked their lives onboard the “death boats” to Greece, among other European destinations, fleeing conflict, homelessness, and economic hardship.

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