(Athens) – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis should demonstrate that he intends to put protecting human rights high on his agenda, Human Rights Watch said in an open letter to the new prime minister released today. Mitsotakis took office on July 8, 2019, following his party’s success in the July 7 national elections.
Human Rights Watch highlighted areas of concern and urged Mitsotakis to take action to end abuses against unaccompanied migrant children, other asylum seekers and migrants, and children with disabilities.
“The new prime minister should outline how he intends to guarantee human rights for everyone in Greece,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “A first priority should be ending the scandalous and abusive detention of unaccompanied children in police lockups and detention centers.”
The new government should:
- End the unlawful practice of detaining unaccompanied migrant children in so-called “protective custody” in police station cells and pre-removal detention centers across the country, and find space for them in open facilities with decent living conditions where they can receive care and counseling, and have access to legal aid and other basic services.
- End the institutionalization of children with disabilities. Many children with disabilities are forced to live in institutions, sometimes kept in cage-beds and/or tied to their beds, which shows little respect for their rights, dignity, and overall well-being. The new government should ensure a systematic shift from institutionalization to family-based care and independent living.
- Order an immediate halt of pushbacks and other summary returns to Turkey from the Evros region, and open a formal investigation into the unlawful practice. Human Rights Watch research has documented that Greek law enforcement officers at the land border with Turkey routinely summarily return asylum seekers and migrants to Turkey, in some cases ill-treating them.
- Put an end to the ongoing “containment policy” of asylum seekers on the Aegean islands, and allow asylum seekers to transfer to the mainland and have access to education, health care and other basic services.
Mitsotakis has said that he wants to turn processing centers on the islands into detention centers and speed up asylum procedures and returns to Turkey. This is not an option, Human Rights Watch said, as the only way to increase the number or speed of returns to Turkey would be by weakening safeguards against abuse and illegal returns and breaching Greece’s duties under EU, refugee, and human rights law.