Human trash


An article written by Panos Christodoulou (director of Greek Council for Refugees [GCR])

To avoid any misunderstandings: Obviously it is Greece's sovereign right to control its borders and decide who enters, stays or leaves the territory. In this context, our country holds the right to create areas that will facilitate the removal of those who must leave. 

This right, however, is not above some of the obligations that Greece has as a country, which do not derive from charity, but from legal commitments, explicitly articulated in national, European and international law. Among these obligations is to provide international protection to those entitled (refugees and people who should not return to their country for reasons of major force or because there may suffer some serious damage), as well as their integration. Moreover, Greece's obligation is to respect the human rights of those within the country's territory (whether Greek or foreign), regardless of how they arrive and remain in the country. 

The Minister of Citizen Protection’s announcement to create so-called "Closed Hospitality Centers" for undocumented migrants raises several important questions. First, why the haste? For a decade Greece has done very little to improve these conditions and now it all has to be done within a month? Secondly, how necessary would these centers be if Greece had already showed consistency in the obligations stated above? And finally, will these centers operate in such a way that human rights of those who will be "accommodated" there are to be respected? 

Regarding the first question, it is obviously that the Greek government shortly before general elections is coming up wants to demonstrate action in this field. However, the lack of planning and careful consideration on how to create and operate these centers can actually worsen the situation rather than improve it. 


Regarding the second question, it is obvious that if Greece had kept its commitments as a country, efficiently protected refugees and immigrants and implemented a policy of integration, the current situation wouldn't exist and these centers would not be presented by the Greek state as necessary (instead it is a proof of their failure). 

For the third question, unfortunately, our experience tells us that we can not be very optimistic that the conditions in these centers will ensure the dignity and fundamental rights of those who will be "accommodated" there. The appalling conditions in the current detention centers in Evros and the rest of Greece and the way the police treats prisoners, makes us justifiably very cautious about what will happen in these new centers.. 

In regards to people who are entitled to international protection, again, given the current attitude of the authorities, it is reasonable to have serious doubts about whether the Closed Hospitality Centers will provide the proper care for them. The statements of the Minister of Citizen Protection that the beneficiaries of political asylum in these centers will not be affected, can not be reassuring. And that is because although the Minister may characterize in his statements the asylum as an "ultimate human right", it seems that the Greek government has a different perception. Until now, the policies that the police enforces make the access to asylum de facto almost impossible. 

In Athens, for example, there are only 20 asylum seekers selected per week to register an application claim and hundreds of other applicants are not accepted and they have to try again and again numerous times in order to succeed in applying. Same or similar behavior is noted in the rest of Greece, while there are a lot of cases where the police are putting the asylum seekers -unknowingly- to sign resignation requests from the asylum process and redirects or deport people to their country, risking physical damage and most importantly their lives. 

Furthermore, at least so far, during arrest and detention of those entering the country irregularly, there is no procedure to identify vulnerable population (refugees, underage, torture victims, trafficking victims etc), and in many cases there are wrong records of nationalities and ages. As a result, even the children can not receive any protection from the Greek state (although it is the country's obligation) and risk becoming targets of all kinds of exploitation. 

Given the country's current situation, it is not irrational to worry about how these centers will work. But the most alarming of all is that the whole debate reinforces racist and xenophobic trends particularly increased during the period of economic crisis. In view of elections and wanting to regain lost voters, the Minister plays a dangerous game of 'extreme right' (something many media worship), which invests in fear and as a result hatred grows. Already the rhetoric chosen is indicative: people "accommodated" in these centers -without anyone in Greece minding the reasons that brought them to our country- are likened to "bombs" that threaten public health, safety, and the whole country. Also other expressions, such as "sweeping operations" that will "clean up the center", shows that these people are considered as trash. 

And that, I'm afraid is as low as it can get; a society in deep crisis has come to  consider fellow human beings as "trash" and, when they hear about “Closed Hospitality Centers” instead of doing associations with concentration camps, they consider these centers as the solution. "Final Solution"?


photo: Katerina Komita


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