PRO ASYL - I Came For Peace

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PRO ASYL tarafından Haziran 2012 tarihinde yayınlanan I Came for Peace; The systematic ill-treatment of migrants and refugees by state agents in Patras başlıklı raporun Giriş bölümünü aşağıda bulabilirsiniz.


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Supporters of the extreme right party Golden Dawn[1], which entered Greece‘s parliament for the first time in the 6 May elections, have clashed with police in three days of anti-immigrant protests in the western port of Patras.
The clashes followed an invitation from indignant local residents and neighbours to attend a peaceful demonstration following the killing of a 30-year-old Greek national, allegedly by irregular Afghan migrants in Iteon neighbourhood (near the Peiraiki Patraiki factory) on May 19, 2012. According to the Greek authorities, a group of residents accompanied by members of Golden Dawn then converged on the derelict factory inhabited by migrants and refugees seeking to stow away on ferries bound for Italy.


During the march, Golden Dawn militants shouted anti-immigrant slogans, and riot police who were protecting the migrants responded with teargas after demonstrators attacked them with stones and tried to storm the factory with iron bars and truncheons in order to attack the migrants.


Though a 17-year-old Afghan has been arrested for the murder, fascist groups in Patras continued to riot for three days and handed out flyers stating: “Out of Greece illegal immigrant intruders – the Greek fatherland is for the Greeks”. In this explosive and dangerous atmosphere, the Greek police informed the migrants and refugees in the factory that they
could not protect them and asked them to leave the area. The migrants were then taken into custody and transferred out of Patras over the next few days.


According to a police press release from the Achaia Prefecture on the riots, around 350 members of Golden Dawn party participated in the violent protest in front of the factory and “repeatedly” attacked the police with “stones, firecrackers, improvised incendiary devices, logs, rods, crowbars and other objects”. In total 22 persons were taken into custody while five were arrested[2]. The Union of Police Employees subsequently condemned the disturbances in a statement proclaiming: “We protest againstthe ‘climate of war’ our colleagues had to face!”[3].


On May 24, UNHCR Greece stated in a press release “UNHCR calls for an end to the cycle of violence in Patras”:
“Following recent tensions in Patras caused by the murder of a 30-year-old man last Saturday, 19 May, UNHCR condemns all acts of violence and calls for the respect of the rule of law. It also appeals to all concerned in Patras to maintain calm. The anger generated by the murder, for which a criminal investigation is on-going, should not lead to a cycle of violence, with civilians taking the law into their own hands. It can also not serve as an excuse to target and victimize migrants and refugees in Patras or in other regions of Greece. The fact that thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are trapped in Greece creates significant problems that need to be addressed through serious dialogue, through specific and realistic policy proposals and a comprehensive set of measures. UNHCR calls on all political and social stakeholders in Greece to work towards this direction and to unequivocally condemn all acts of violence.”[4]


The rapid escalation of racist violence in recent days was a logical extension of prevailing exclusion, marginalisation, stigmatisation, illegalisation and dehumanization of refugees and migrants in Patras and throughout Greece.
Though the police played the role of “protector” during the riots it has been regularly acted as a “perpetrator” in the persecution of the city’s migrant population.


As we document in the following report, state officials systematically ill-treat refugees and migrants in Patras. Throughout the past 15 years hundreds of migrants and refugees (undocumented or not) have been living in Patras in improvised shelters seeking to stow away on ferries bound for Italy. This report contains numerous allegations of the ill-treatment
of migrants and refugees by police and other officials, which in some cases are tantamount to torture. All interviewees allege that they had been ill-treated either inside the port after their detection by police and coast guard officers or during identity checks or raids in their shelters. The vast majority of those arrested are released after one or two days. In all of the cases either the coast guard or police officers are alleged to have perpetrated ill-treatment, inflicting physical injury or psychological trauma on individual arrestees for the purpose of deterrence, terror and humiliation. 


The allegations of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which are documented in this report, raise concerns about the systematic use of physical force by law enforcement officers against migrants and refugees.


There seems to be a failure of the authorities to ensure that legal provisions guaranteeing the protection of migrants and refugees during arrest are implemented. The scale of allegations concerning police violence indicates a widespread pattern rather than a few isolated incidents. Furthermore, this pattern suggests a wider policy of repression and fear executed by law enforcement officers, which is aimed at discouraging undocumented migrants and refugees from coming to the port cities and trying to reach Europe through these “gates”. As one of the interviewees told us: “They want to force us out of Patras!”[5]


Such treatment constitutes a serious abuse of the hierarchical power relationship between state officials and the sans-papiers and refugees, which is likely to persist as a result of the ongoing “climate of impunity within law enforcement
agencies”.[6]


These abuses are combined with the absence of access to asylum in Greece, access to information, inadequate reception conditions (housing, nutrition, medical treatment etc.), the lack of humanitarian aid and the total deprivation of
rights faced by migrants and refugees in Patras (but also in Athens and other places all over Greece), which have further contributed to their dehumanisation, marginalisation and exclusion. Migrants and refugees are being targeted and ill-treated by state officials precisely because they are migrants and refugees – and also because they are foreigners (“ξενοι”).


A press release from the Racist Violence Recording Network on February 21, 2012 highlighted the overlaps between racist and police violence. Over a period of three months (October - December 2011), the Network cited eight incidents of racist attacks by state agents in Patras:


“There is a distinct category consisting of 18 incidents, where police and racist violence are interlinked (10 in Athens and 8 in Patras). These incidents concern duty police officers, who resorted to illegal acts and violent practices while carrying out routine operations. There are a few recorded cases of migrants and asylum seekers taken to police stations, where
they were detained and maltreated during a certain number of hours, as well as cases where legal documents were destroyed during these operations.”
 [7]


We see a clear relationship between the social discrimination of migrants in Greece, racist violence and police violence, which reinforce each other by creating through action and propaganda a category of marginalised and rightless non-citizens, as “the other” or an “enemy within”.


Bearing in mind that hundreds of migrants and refugees are trapped in Greece, and particularly in Patras, we hope that this report will contribute to a better understanding of their situation in Patras as well as the roots of racism in this city.



  1. Golden Dawn on May 6, 2012 picked up over 440,000 votes in general elections and entered parliament for the first time in Greece‘s political history. The group has pledged to “scrub the country clean” of illegal immigrants.
  2. Anouncement by the police of Patras concerning the escalation of violence: http://www.dete.gr/news.php?article_id=93684
  3. Announcement by the Police Employees’ Union, May 25, 2012:http://www.thebest.gr/news/index/viewStory/128255
  4. http://www.unhcr.gr/nea/artikel/abbab3147b- 2ca66f2a692169dcc9a64e/ekklisi-tis-ypatis-1.html
  5. Interview held on May 4, 2012
  6. CPT 2008
  7. http://www.1againstracism.gr/index.php/en/component/k2/ itemlist/category/26-racist-violence-recording-network

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