Honorable Josè Manuel Barroso,
The letter of UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the European Commission in 2008 shed light on horrifying truths about the Greek authorities’ processing of the asylum applications of the refugees. In this well-known letter the UNHCR criticized the Greek authorities for not providing the asylum seekers with lawyers and interpreters. Hence, UNHCR asked the EU member states to stop returning refugees back to Greece in capacity of first safe country, despite prescriptions in the Dublin convention. Based upon the UNHCR urgent request, the Swedish migration court stopped the return of several refugees to Greece.
Several board members of this organization, Association for Democracy in Iran, have at different times visited Athens and met Iranian refugees. Without any reservations it can be stated that many of these refugees do not have access to any public help, and that they live under terrible circumstances. To neglect the obvious rights of the refugees is a shameful act for an EU member state. Not providing the refugee seekers public help, lawyers and interpreters during the asylum process is far from humanity and questions the rule of law in Greece. Rule of law is one of the EU’s most fundamental principles and by not respecting it the Greek government also disgraces the EU.
Since September 1st 2010, 44 Iranian refugees have gathered together in an everyday manifestation in Athens against the government of Greece. They demand fair processing of their asylum applications. Some of these have lived in Greece for more than 8 years, without any definite answer regarding their application. Since October 14th this manifestation entered a new phase and 25 of the protesters began a hunger strike. 8 of these hunger strikers sewed their lips as a protest against the Greek authorities. More is to be expected.
The hunger strikers’ health condition is worsening for each day that the strike is going on and the Greek government is silent. Some of them have already been to the hospital several times. News agencies such as AP, Reuters, and AFP have reflected the circumstances and demands of these protesters globally. Recently, early in the morning on Saturday October 30th, the protesters were attacked by three unknown persons who threw at least one fire bomb towards them. The lives of the protesters are strongly threatened.
The Association for Democracy in Iran supports the protesters demand for fair processing of their asylum applications. Hence, we demand from the European Commission to:
- immediately condemn the Greek authorities for the lack of rule of law with regard to the asylum processes.
- immediately condemn the passivity of the Greek authorities in their relation to the hunger striking refugees in Athens.
- immediately exercise pressure on the government of Greece to implement rule of law with regard to the asylum processes or invite the refugees to have their cases processed in other EU member states where rule of law is respected.
- immediately express the Commission’s concern for the health of the refugees who are hunger striking in Athens.
The Association for Democracy in Iran
CC: The prime minister of Greece, UNHCR, The Greek embassy in Sweden