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Incorrigible dehumanization of Asylum seekers in Greece continues at expense of political EU and Turkish expediency

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The incorrigible dehumanisation continues at the expense of political EU & Turkish expediency.

On a recent visit to Greece and Turkey, the Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, Wilson Chowdhry, uncovers the hidden suffering of Pakistani Christians escaping persecution from Pakistan, and encountering the scapegrace enforcement of the EU and Turkish authorities.

The human suffering is continuing in the Mediterranean Sea albeit on a smaller scale despite the deal that was reached between the EU and the Turkish authorities to stem the flow of refugees and the continual deaths in the Mediterranean Sea. The horrors we witnessed in the Summer of 2015 have not ceased but are continuing under the cover of political silence that has been enforced by paying Turkey $6 billion to stop the flow of asylum seekers and refugees trying to seek salvation here in Europe from religious persecution in Pakistan.

Wilson Chowdhry visited a volunteer who is helping Pakistani Christians in Greece to find accommodation and receive a meal daily. It is either a case of humane intervention or the derogatory and degrading treatment within the refugee camps or accessing this service; one can reach the conclusion which option is safer and more humane.


The Irish contingent is made up of independent volunteer Hilda Orr and her daughter who have given up everything to spend time with the refugees and provide supplies to ease the suffering and brutality that they face. Pakistani Christians are escaping severe blasphemy laws that carry the death sentence and in many cases this law is used to stop the progression of the minority community that make up 3% of the population. Widespread sexual abuse in farm and domestic labour is used as a form of torture for so many and summary beatings from the Police is common place. The testimony or status of a Pakistani Christian is insignificant in many cases of law where Pakistani Police collate statements, fabrication and falsehood with the help of blasphemy laws adds to the daily persecution of this minority and peaceful community.

Recent cases where the death sentence has been passed for blasphemy against Islam in Pakistan has created worldwide press coverage; the case of Asia Bibi has generated and highlighted the real suffering of Christians in Pakistan. Christians are only offered cleaning jobs and are perceived as ‘slaves’ of society that can be abused and beaten at any time. The Pakistani Police Force are normally used to carry out the brutal duties of the moral perception that the government and society happily subscribe to.

Here in Europe the far-right parties have used Christianity as a political stepping stone to create a barrier to incoming refugees from Syria and beyond. However, Pakistani Christians have fallen victim to the indirect racism of EU immigration policies and the stereotyping that is applied to all refugees regardless of faith. In most cases, Pakistani Christian refugees and asylum seekers are not believed that they are Christian by European nations and are not allowed entry on the basis that their faith and suffering cannot be confirmed. Literacy is very low among the Pakistani Christians because of the discrimination that they face in schools and in jobs.

The BPCA are now denouncing EU policies to the wider press in the U.K and beyond.


  • 1.
    Detention and a blanket ban on refugees and asylum seekers are in contravention of the 1951 refugee convention. Sadly, the crocodilian hypocrisy between Greece and Turkey escalates, Greece was more than happy to offer asylum to Turkish military personnel who participated in the attempted coup of last year. Yet Greece is happy to return refugees back to Turkey because of the deal that was struck between Turkey and the EU on the 20th March 2015

  • 2.
    Greece has prevented freedom of movement for those who arrive on any Greek island. Refugees and asylum seekers are forced to live in detention centres and are not allowed to reach the mainland especially Athens. They are not offered any medical help on the mainland and if they do reach the mainland for medical attention their claim is marked as invalid; deportation is used as a method to stop people from leaving the Islands. 

  • 3.
    The vile abuse of the pre-registration system by the authorities is used as a bureaucratic resource to make the lives of the suffering even more difficult. A Skype process is used as part of the pre-registration process and this can take up to eight months or more, thus making it virtually impossible to get medical treatment. The system is clogged up and infected with deliberate attempts to hinder access that many people having given up trying. 

  • 4.
    Greek Asylum offices are the epicentre of indignation. In most cases the police at the gates of the offices engage in bully boy tactics and make people wait for many hours whilst mocking them and taking advantage of their status by passing them from post to post. The government clerks inside these offices participate in the worst form of orogeny making a mountain out of a mole hole over the slightest issue such as a simple ID card. The language that is used is based on esoterica so that only the select few can understand, this makes it so much harder without interpreters and many have not had a chance to receive and education in Pakistan because they are Christian. 

  • 5.
    Relocation to another Member State within the EU is normally met with the excuse that the asylum seeker or refugee is a threat to national security. No right of appeal or consideration for an alternative relocation is offered; the refugees are trapped on these Greek islands and have no way of appealing. Pakistani Christians are normally treated as Jihadis or Islamic extremists when a relocation application is received. It is shameful that bible trivia and liturgical questions are still being used to prove Pakistani Christians are are Christian, despite recommendations from many Christian NGO’s to use more appropriate conversion or personal faith based questions. Sadly lack of physical evidence of faith is often used as an opportunity to fail applications. However, many fled just with their lives and the Pakistani authorities are in no rush to engage with the Pakistani Christians to send Baptism certificates that have been left behind in Pakistan. 

  • 6.
    Family reunification is met with the same incorrigible attitude, the waiting process is painful and in many cases unbearable causing severe psychological issues. If a member of a refugee’s family is based in Germany and the refugee is stuck in Greece the German authorities have two months to answer to the Greeks. Greece is then given six months to send the refugee to Germany; this process is deliberately hindered and many face well over a year, if they are lucky to be reunited with a loved one. This neglect is causing major issues for the minors who are vulnerable to many forms of abuse and exploitation on the Greek islands. 

  • 7.
    Unaccompanied minors are left to survive on their own and are the behest of friends to look after them. Many have turned to crime and prostitution to get pocket money and money for food. As soon as many turn eighteen their official protection is annulled, the process of delay is designed to wait until they are eighteen to avoid helping them in the first instance. On the mainland, there are shelters for minors, but on the islands, they are left on their own and sexual exploitation has increased because of this imposed circumstance. Greece’s very own financial crisis has resulted in the sex industry to become more popular just so people can afford to eat. This makes young male and female refugees more of a target for criminal gangs to exploit. All of this is happening in front of those who are meant to provide protection for minors as a matter of priority. 

  • 8.
    Detention centres are being used as prisons. Refugees and asylum seekers are held for up to eighteen months or longer, the reason is that they have no official documents and are viewed as criminals. Many false charges such as human trafficking and smuggling is imposed upon these people and they have no sufficient translation services. They are held for months or even years before their cases is held. This is the hidden Greek and EU Guantanamo Bay. 



Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association with his wife photographed with PM David Cameron.

Wilson Chowdhry is quoted as saying:

“We demand that the Greek authorities give protection to Pakistani Christians and others in desperate need of security instead of locking them away. We denounce the use of detention for those who are simply asking for safety. It is beyond belief that the nations of Europe cannot organise proper distribution of genuine refugees and asylum seekers just because they are afraid of the far-right vote increasing in their respective nations.

Christian refugees  have nowhere else to go but the west yet few if any make it to the shores of European nations despite the heightened risk for their safety. BPCA has collated evidence of re-persecution of Pakistani Christians whilst travelling through Islamic and other nations in attempts to flee persecution in their homeland.  Yet despite the evidence of repersecution the Western objection to provide asylum to Christians from Pakistan increases.


Moroever Christian refugees acclimatize to Western culture with consummate ease due to the Judeo-Christian principles which they share.

With elections, so close in France and the threat of the Front National increasing its vote, a potentially big issue is before the EU magnifying their fear of Euro sceptics. It is the same in Germany with the rise of the Alternative for Deutschland (AFD). Sadly, as usual, it is the minority who always get the blame in the form of far-right aggression.”

Haroon Maqbool, a Pakistani Christian, who faced violent Pakistani police interrogation and false charges escaped persecution and arrived in Greece after a tumultuous journey from Pakistan to Dubai and then onto Turkey. He arrived in Greece after been passed onto from human trafficker to another. He has been receiving help from Hilda Orr and Wilson Chowdhry. He was arrested in Turkey and placed in prison for overstaying on his visa and faced terrible bullying and insults for being a Christian in prison and within the UN Detention Camp at Lesbos.

Haroon Maqbool, has given a statement relating to his experience trying to reach Greece. His full story can be read by (clicking here)



From left to right - Tariq Iqbal, Wilson Chowdhry, Hilda Orr and Haroon Maqbool.

“We had been told that when we arrived in Greece the Red Cross would welcome us with open arms, provide some basic gifts and then swiftly organise safe passage to a European destination of our choice.

"Almost immediately we were being told that we would be imprisoned in a camp. I am only one of many asylum seekers there are thousands of them in Turkey waiting to travel by boat to Greece. Every day I see hundreds of them, I soon realized the camps would be just as packed as the harbours of Turkey.”


Whilst in the camp he feared for his life, many attempts were made to convert him to Islam and he eventually decided to sleep out in the open and away from the UN tents that were supplied to get away from the extremists who tried to forcefully convert him. One day he manged to hideaway with Christian friends under the canopy of a cargo ship.  You can view his escape here:





Sarinder Joshua Duroch, a third-generation British Citizen of Indian origin, Roman Catholic, former political advisor for a British delegation based in the European Parliament and the author of ‘Enoch, I am a British Indian said in a recent statement:

“It is with great regret that the EU has ignored the pleas of Pakistani Christians and treated them with such ignorance. These people face terrible living conditions in Pakistan that are dictated by discrimination both religious and pre-meditated. The so called coterminous status of open borders has done nothing to help the persecuted Christians, instead they have suffered a similar fate here in Europe.

They came seeking Christian salvation from their so-called brethren and faced nothing but political expediency before the concept of humanity and harmonisation; incidentally these are the two issues the EU always places at the helm of their policies.

Our Christian brothers and sisters have faced a terrible cimmerian from a Europe that supposedly founded its initial values on the ethos of Christianity. It is sad that the EU has totally ignored the pleas of the most vulnerable and continue to give Turkey IPA funding in the region of billions. I hope that European leaders provide some luciferous hope to the genuine asylum seeker and refugee. The present system seems to benefit those who pro-actively do not want to help,and this deal with Turkey seems to have fallen into the advantage of those who see this as an opportunity to continue to hinder the prospects of the neediest that have escaped the worst form of brutal persecution.

Before we call ourselves, Christian, Hindu, Jewish Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist we must try and establish our humanity and humility to become decent humans to serve those that need urgent help and safety.”

Notes for editors:


10 DENOUNCEMENTS AGAINTS EU POLICIES AFFECTING

MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES IN GREECE

It is one year since the EU-Turkey agreement. On March 15th, 2017, yet another restriction was put in place. The Dublin Regulation will now be enforced in Greece. Asylum seekers coming after this date and entering another EU country can be returned to Greece. This is based on the EU Commission's recommendation that the situation in Greece has stabilized. We DENOUNCE this assumption by highlighting 10 situations being faced by migrants and refugees in Greece as a result of shameful EU policies:

1.
RETURNS TO TURKEY, 'The Date of Shame'

On the 20th of March 2016, the EU-Turkey agreement came into being. It stated that every person who reached Greece after that date would be deported back to Turkey. In exchange, the EU promised to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every person deported there. This deal has trapped thousands in unacceptable conditions and without access to information, on the doorstep of fortress Europe; in camps, on the streets, on Greek islands, or in detention centres. This deal violates the 1951 Refugee Convention by applying blanket bans on relocation in Europe for certain nationalities, and fails to consider cases on an individual basis. It is not a country which can guarantee the safety of any refugee. Just recently, eight former Turkish military personnel were granted asylum in Greece, because it was determined that their lives would be in danger if they returned to Turkey, following their role in the attempted coup d'etat. Greece currently returns people to a country from which they also grant others safe refuge from. This is hugely hypocritical.


2.
THE ISLANDS, 'The Impossible Block'

March 20th, 2016, the date of the EU-Turkey deal, also marked the end of people’s freedom of movement inside Greece. Those who arrive on one of the islands after that date are forced to claim asylum there and to remain there while they complete the process. This could take more than 8 months. The conditions in most camps on the islands are awful, with poor infrastructure and frequent reports of police violence. In many camps, residents were forced to spend the winter in summer tents, despite heavy snow falls. There is minimal access to information or legal counsel. If an asylum-seeker leaves an island before their process is complete, they are ordered to return and their claim will be invalid unless they do. Even in those cases where individuals are given leave to go to the mainland because of extreme medical vulnerability, they are not referred to medical services or accommodation. As a result, they are often forced to spend their nights on the street.


3. PRE-REGISTRATION, 'The Nightmare of the First Step'

Anyone who arrives on the mainland without having been pre-registered on an island can only begin their asylum process by calling a Skype line. The lines are open for between 1-5 hours per week, depending on nationality. Though thousands call every minute, it was reported by NPR in July, that only eight can be registered per hour. This means many people wait up to a year to receive just an appointment to pre-register - until then, people are constantly at risk of being detained for being 'illegal', are not eligible for official accommodation, financial support or even medical treatment. Every day, people with serious medical issues are denied treatment at public hospitals because they have not pre-registered - despite the fact that they may have been try to call the Skype line for months.

4. ASYLUM OFFICES, “The doors of indignity”

The Asylum Office in Athens, known as “Katehaki” (named after the metro station next to it), is as well-known as it despised. It is the centralized office processing applications from people seeking asylum. Any little procedure, from renewing a white card (ID) to asking about your case, implies long hours of waiting in queues. Some people even sleep around the gates, the night before, to be the first through the doors, and increase their chances of being heard. Discriminatory and derogatory treatment is commonly reported, mostly shown in the attitude of the police at the gates, as well as an overall general inefficiency.

Asylum seekers are constantly complaining about the impossibility of getting what they ask for: they are not taken seriously unless they are accompanied by lawyers, the Asylum Service does not provide good and updated information… The frustration is overwhelming and the offensive treatment is unacceptable.

5. RELOCATION, “The practice of rejecting “undesirable” refugees”

Relocation has been the middle ground between free movement and the closure of borders; a middle ground that is showing the real face of a failure. Compared to the quotas that European governments agreed on in the past year, the numbers of relocated people per country has remained shockingly low. For example, out of the 1,600 Spain had committed to host, by January 15th 2017, only 544 had been relocated.

France, even having many acceptances, is the champion of rejections with 280 people being rejected by January 2017. There are families in extremely vulnerable conditions that are rejected and then must start the process all over again. The only option they are left with, is to start the asylum process, from scratch, in Greece.

Appallingly, rejections are communicated verbally and no written testimony is issued. “National security” reasons are the main excuse used as an answer. You DO NOT have the right to appeal the rejection and you DO NOT have the right to be reconsidered for any other relocation procedure in Europe.

6. REUNIFICATION, “The unbearable wait”

Family reunification is such a narrowed procedure that families are being devastatingly separated in Europe. Adults only qualify to be reunited with a spouse or one of their children under 18; minors can be reunified with any other sibling. Vulnerable people, such as 18 year olds on their own, find it nearly impossible to get through the process. In the reunification procedure, Greece has three months to ask the corresponding EU country, which has two months to answer. After the decision, Greece has 6 months to send you to the country. So basically, asylum seekers are waiting overall ONE YEAR to get reunified, which becomes an unbearable length of time, most of all for those minors that are facing constant lack of protection.

7. UNACCOMPANIED MINORS, ”Forget about Children’s Rights”

Amongst the human beings trapped in the bureaucracy of European politics in Greece are unaccompanied minors. Some are being registered as unaccompanied even though they are with close family members such as uncles and aunts, leading to forced separation of families. Others fall victim to human trafficking and aren't detected as unaccompanied.

Some of the minors are living on the streets, even after being detected as vulnerable 16-18 year olds. Some have been lucky to have friends who protect them and help them, by offering them space in informal accommodation sites in the city, others live in camps where they don't have the right to pocket money - this means many have no choice but to turn to crime or youth prostitution,running the risk of being trafficked or becoming drug addicts. The "lucky" minors are in shelters on the mainland, administrated by EKKA, nevertheless, they still do not receive a personal allowance and struggle to sustain themselves.

All too often, stifling bureaucracy and a lack of legal support means that cases drag on for months or even years. When the minors turn 18, their official protection status disappears and they are unable to be reunited with their families in other European countries under the Dublin act.

8. DETENTION CENTERS, “The crime of being undocumented”

The policy of detaining unwanted migrants has already been commonly used all over Europe in the past years but it has dramatically increased in the face of the EU-Turkey Refugee deal. Greek camps initially build as reception centres were turned into detention centres in order to facilitate deportations. Asylum claims, especially from nationals of countries that are considered “safe” are not being considered case-by-case but are often prejudged and remain unheard.

Migrants looking for international protection in Greece are fearing arrests and a consequent detention for up to 18 months or even longer. Many are being arrested and held for the pure reason of not having documents. This lack of documentation is a result of the collapsed system of Skype lines, the only way to get pre-registered with the Greek Asylum Services. People then have to remain in the degrading conditions of detention centers and police stations because they are not able to lodge their asylum claim, often due to the absence of an interpreter. It is time for the Greek authorities to take responsibility for these ‘undocumented’ and ‘unregistered’ people who came here for protection.

Many others who came to claim asylum have been detained on the criminal charge of smuggling and human-trafficking. These criminal charges are difficult to substantiate and often have no willing witnesses and little evidence. Many individuals have been coerced into roles such as boat driver by the smugglers and threatened if they do not comply. They are often being held for months and years before even standing trial.

We therefore demand that the Greek authorities give protection to those in need instead of locking them away. We denounce the use of detention for those who are asking for safety.

9. UN-ELIGIBLE NATIONALITIES, “Let us define what is danger”

Even though the Refugee Convention of 1951 states that every person has the right to seek asylum individually and to get their case heard properly by the authorities, it is a fact that some nationalities in Greece are being seen as un-eligible based on their nationality.
These people, even though they have an asylum-case, often receive a rejection without anyone looking at their case. However, sometimes their countries of origin will also not accept their return, especially if they are political refugee fleeing because they are a part of an oppressed opposition to an authoritarian regime.

This procedure leads to people living in even more uncertainty and pushes them to use illegal methods to be in a safe country. During this process they cannot access accommodation reserved for preferred nationalities, they have limited access to legal services and advice, as a result they are often homeless and have no clear path to safety

10. CAMPS, “Welcome to Limbo”

Refugee camps in Greece were built and opened in a rush response to people being transferred from the islands and the closure of European borders. As a result they were often ill equipped to support the people living there and many had to live in tents. Winter-proofing of these spaces happened too late and thus many people suffered terrible conditions during the winter months. When they did finally provide better accommodation they attempted to cover up previous conditions. Even now access to services is unevenly spread between camps and sporadic depending on the groups or organisations running them. Many still have no proper information distribution or access to legal support. This is especially the case in rural areas where travel to urban centres is difficult and thus people live in isolation from the rest of Greek society and are often naïve to their rights.

 

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