Choose your language

Choose Language: Gr En Ar
Make a Donation

The voice of immigrant communities that live in Greece, in relation to the their efforts to have access to the asylum process and to be issued refugee status, along with the problems they face due to lack of official documentation, as well as the racist attacks that they receive, was addressed today in a conference organized by the Greek Forum of Refugees,in cooperation with the Greek Council on Refugees, called "Asylum Today - The Voice of the Communities"..


Karam Kadul left his home in Syria because he had no hope of a future there. He passed through Turkey into Greece on a boat along with 37 others. "When we reached Lesvos, I was born again" he stated. However, what followed for him was the harsh reality. "The first Greek words I learned were "leave" and "tomorrow". I wanted to have legal status in this country."

Karam's story is one of many that is being addressed by the Humanitarian Initiative "Bridges" for Syrian refugees in Greece.

Karam spoke about his frustration regarding the harsh reality he faced, the thousands of Eur that the "intermediaries" requested in order to help him get to Sweden, the 32 times, as he stated, that he went to the Asylum Service on Katechaki Avenue without managing to have his case addressed, while he claims that those he spoke with had a "very bad attitude."

Ilias Antwan, a Syrian who had been living in Greece for 24 years and a representative of the Initiative, stated that "the Syrian refugees who do not have documents are at risk on a daily basis of being arrested, they do not have food or medicine, so we inform them of their rights that they have in Greece and we have assisted in reuniting many families."
Eleni Petraki, a representative of the Asylum Service of the Ministry of Citizen Protection, referred to the asylum process as a harsh reality. She spoke of the circumstances that existed before the service began to operate, describing it as a bleak situation, while as she said, in the one year that it has been in operation "we have accomplished a few things, and our goal is to accomplish much more in order to service all those who should be offered refugee status."

Mrs. Petraki emphasized that the regional Asylum Office in Athens has to presently deal with all the issues throughout Greece, while by the end of 2014 they expect their office in Thessaloniki to be operational. "Our goal is to not have no one wait for even half an hour" said Mrs. Petraki, noting that the Asylum Service would begin a dialogue with each and every immigrant community in order to find solutions to their problems.

"The Asylum Service that has been in operation for over a year is a good step in the right direction but it is understaffed and is not sufficient because it is the only such office in all of Greece. That is the main problem," noted Yunus Mouxadi, President of the Greek Council on Refugees. "There is also an issue concerning due to the fact that the new Asylum Service was created for the newly arrived immigrants and not for those who have been here for year under the old asylum regime. There are people who have been waiting for years for their requests to be reviewed, " he stated.

"A man from Sudan has been waiting for ten years in Greece for his case to be reviewed so that he may receive asylum," claims a representative of the Sudanese community, while he stressed that often those who are from this particular country fall victim to racial attacks in Greece.

On her part, the representative of the Somalian community noted that the main problem that Somalians face in Greece is the ease with which they end up in jail because they do not have legal documents. As she stressed, they do not have the funds to get legal counsel and she invited the NGOs to support them.
Ilias Anagnostopoulos, director of the Greek Section of Amnesty International, spoke about the "expulsions", pointing out that "Amnesty International has sounded the warning bells repeatedly regarding the allegations of severe violations of human rights against refugees and immigrants on the Greek-Turkish borders."

He referred to reports by Amnesty International that investigate "abusive practices in border patrols, predominantly the illegal and often times dangerous practice of summary expulsions of discovered immigrants and refugees back over the other side of the borders." "The European Union cannot pretend not to see these violations," stressed Mr. Anagnostopoulos.

Vanta Tsakatara, director of Social Awareness and Solidarity at the Ministry of Labor, said that the immigration issue is on of the Government's priorities, and she referred to the relevant EU funds that were been decreased, which consequently makes dealing with the needs that the Ministry of Labor addresses more difficult in regard to this specific issue.

"A matter of vital importance and not a luxury matter" was the discussion regarding immigrants and refugees, according to Maria Kouveli, President of the Immigrant Assimilation Council of the City of Athens, while Dafni Kapetanaki from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noted that the role of the immigrant communities is very significant and that they should participate more actively in the decision-making process.

"For us the most important thing is that those who enter the country have a safe and dignified subsistence" said Aggeliki Xrysochoidou-Argyropoulou, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Greek Council on Refugees.

The conference is part of the "Social Assistance for the Assimilation of Refugees" program which is being implemented in the framework of the European Refugee Fund 2012 and is co-financed by the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare, as well as the European Union.

Humanitarian    Initiative    Bridges

S5 Box