Greek police break up refugee camp, make arrests

Dec 27, 2010

Athens – Around 100 refugees protesting at lengthy immigration processes in Greece were Monday driven out of a makeshift camp they had occupied for several weeks near the local headquarters of the UnitedNations High Commissioner for Refugees and arrested by police.

Greek officials used limited force in breaking up the camp. Some refugees climbed trees while others grabbed their children and fled into the city centre, clogging major arteries, according to Greek media reports.

All the refugees were eventually arrested and taken to police headquarters.

The refugees – predominantly from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories – have said they face political persecution at home and need asylum.

Instead of receiving asylum in Greece, they said, they have been trapped in bureaucracy, continuously being shoved between different ministries, with none seemingly able to help them.

During the protest, some refugees said it had taken officials eight years to consider their applications. Some of the refugees had sewn their mouths shut in protest.

Greek agencies have vowed to speed up the review of applications, but human rights groups say that has not yet happened.

Many refugees from the Middle East, Asia and North Africa follow a route from Turkey through Greece to Italy in an attempt to reach Europe. Greek refugee centres tend to be chaotic and overcrowded, with 146,000 illegal migrants detained in 2009, of which 47,000 made asylum applications.

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