Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Conditions Deplored for Migrants Being Held in Greece at Turkish Border

New York Times
December 7, 2010

While Frontex, the European Union border agency, has sent a special force to close the Greek-Turkish land border to illegal immigration, a human rights group visiting the area said on Monday that they had found more than 800 migrants being held in “inhumane” conditions in Greece, with 120 minors including 9 girls locked up in one overcrowded facility containing 450 people.

Greece’s northeastern land border has become a big crossing point for economic migrants and refugees trying to enter the European Union now that sea routes to Italy and Malta have been closed. In October, Greece requested help from Frontex, which on Nov. 2 sent 175 agents, a helicopter and detector equipment to the region to halt the arrivals.

Gil Arias Fernández, deputy executive director of Warsaw-based Frontex, said in Athens last week that migrant numbers had dropped by 44 percent since the operation began, with 4,720 people intercepted in November compared with 7,586 the previous month; 13 smugglers had been arrested, too.

But members of Human Rights Watch, a Washington-based rights body, issued a statement in Brussels on Monday saying that they had found Afghans, Eritreans, Iraqis, Algerians, Syrians, Iranians and Moroccans in “degrading” conditions at four of the five detention centers along the border, and that Frontex could not “turn a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis for migrants in the Greek border region.”