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Greek detention centres for illegals 'inhumane': EU agency

08 March 2011, 19:21 CET
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(VIENNA) - Conditions in detention centres for illegal immigrants along Greece's border with Turkey are "inhumane" with Athens doing next to nothing about the problem, the EU rights agency said Tuesday.

"The situation at the EU's external land border between Greece and Turkey constitutes a fundamental rights emergency," Morten Kjaerum, director of the Vienna-based Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), said in a report.

"People, including pregnant women and families with small children, are held in inhumane conditions."

In one centre in Soufli, in the Greek border region of Evros, FRA staff found in January 144 detainees sharing a 110-square-metre (1,184-square-foot) room with just one toilet, a cold shower and no heating with temperatures at zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit), the report noted.

According to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), detainees should have at least four square metres of space when sharing a cell, it said.

"Although described as a humanitarian emergency, the situation in Evros is not handled as such. No emergency situation has been declared by the Greek government," FRA said.

"More generally, there is no evidence of a comprehensive emergency response to address the conditions in the detention centres despite the availability of EU funds," it added.

The biggest problems included the systematic detention of all illegals, including children and babies, as well as a lack of coordination between authorities at the local and the national level, with responsibilities shared between several ministries.

While facilities along the border with Turkey were plagued with overcrowding -- sometimes up to five times the planned capacity -- others elsewhere in the country were no longer used, FRA also noted, calling for better distribution.

The findings of the report were based on research conducted by FRA in the region of Evros in January.

Greece has faced a huge migrant influx from Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent in recent years.

Its land border with Turkey now acts as the main entry route for illegal migrants bound for the European Union, with almost half of detected illegal entries.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

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