Monday, June 09, 2008
The Voice of the Socially Excluded
Yesterday I took the opportunity to go to The Voice of the Socially Excluded conference which was held at the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki. This was a two day event which gave various social groups such as drug uses, ethnic minorities and immigrants the chance to voice their opinions to a wider audience .
Genti Guri, an immigrant from Albania who has been in Greece for nine years spoke of being imprisoned in the country as he is obliged, like so many others to get a residence permit every two years. No problem there you might add but the procedure is long, complicated and expensive, riddled with corrupt official on the take. As a result the process can take up to two years every time, during which the person may not leave the country even for such crisis such as a death in the family.
Others such as Mustapha Serwan, a disabled immigrant originally from Afghanistan and Larisa Iasonidou, an ethnic Greek from Armenia both told of the problems faced by people trying to life in a country where who you know rather than what you know is the main determiner in getting a job and in fact, virtually every aspect of public life here.
However, the most heartrending moments were delivered by Alexandros Karasiadis, a member of a team of Greek lawyers and human rights activists who have been investigating what can only be termed Greece's hidden gulag in which asylum seekers are held for months in absolutely appalling condition in warehouses and old cow sheds with no heating, running water, access to legal services or even a phone, for that matter.
Then the immigrants are often deported from the country without the opportunity to even apply for asylum. Not that that would help much as less than three percent of such cases are approved. The border police's casual brutality and the unwillingness of Athens to follow European law or even its own legislation has drawn criticism from Amnesty international, the United Nations and many other European countries such as Germany and Sweden which have refused to return younger immigrants to Greece due to numerous allegations of ill - treatment.