Friday, 28 August 2009

Chid refugees held in shocking conditions, says UNHCR

Refugee agency says children are being kept in appalling conditions on a Greek island. Amateur video captures the kids shouting for freedom.

LESVOS, GREECE(AUGUST 21 2009)- The United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday (August 28) more than 850 people, including 200 unaccompanied children, are being held in shocking conditions at a detention centre for illegal immigrants on the Greek island of Lesvos.
The report on the centre at Pagani adds to concern already expressed by UNHCR about Greece's treatment of migrants.

UNHCR's spokesperson in Greece, Ketty Kehayioglou, said the conditions at Pagani were "unacceptable" and "offend human dignity."

The agency had visited several times and found the situation "really, really bad" she said.

Most detainees are from Afghanistan, many seeking political asylum.

Inspectors found overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

"There were about 150 women with 50 babies and they only had two toilets and one shower. The babies were sick for many days and had high temperature and there was no doctor to treat them." said Kehayioglou.

Recent amateur video footage from inside Pagani showed men women and children cramped in rooms like sardines.

It was filmed by members of the "NoBorders" movement, an alliance of anti-racist organizations from across Europe that work for the human rights of illegal immigrants and the end to immigration controls.

Greek health and social solidarity ministry officials have assured the UNHCR that all unaccompanied children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities by the end of the month.

But Greece has failed to implement recommendations presented last year by UNHCR with the support of the interior ministry to overhaul the asylum system, with special measures to protect children.

The UNHCR argues that neither children nor asylum-seekers in general should be held in detention, and says that Greece has a much lower rate of recognising asylum-seekers than other states.

Last year, close to 20,000 requests for asylum were made, while in the same year 358 asylum requests were accepted.

Greece has been struggling under the weight of tens of thousands of immigrants that arrive each year, mainly through Turkey.