Download the full report - Human Rights Watch

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Download the full report - Human Rights Watch

I. Background

Greece is a country that prides itself on its hospitality. But over the past decade it has

become decidedly inhospitable for some foreigners. While tourists are generally welcome,

migrants and asylum seekers face an increasingly hostile environment in which they risk

detention in inhuman and degrading conditions, destitution, and xenophobic violence.

There has been a dramatic increase of immigration to Greece over the past twenty years.

The collapse of communist regimes in the neighborhood in the late 1980s and early 1990s

triggered large-scale migration from Balkan countries, in particular Albania. Between 1991

and 2001, the immigrant population more than tripled to 7.3 percent of the total

population, with Albanians accounting for the largest national group. 1

Since the early 2000s, Greece has become the major gateway for undocumented migrants

and asylum seekers from Asia and Africa, in part because it shares a land border with

Turkey, a major transit route into Europe. The European Union external borders agency

Frontex declared at the end of 2010 that Greece accounted for 90% of all irregular border

crossings into the EU. 2 In 2011, Frontex recorded 55,000 irregular border crossings at the

Greek-Turkish border, a 17 percent increase over the previous year. 3 According to official

Greek government data, Afghans comprised by far the largest national group entering

Greece in 2011, followed by Pakistanis. 4 Greek authorities estimated in April 2012 that

there were as many as one million undocumented migrants living in Greece. 5

1 Ioannis Cholezas and Panos Tsakloglou, “The Economic Impact of Immigration in Greece: Taking Stock of the Existing

Evidence,” Institute for the Study of Labor Discussion Paper Series, October 2008, http://ftp.iza.org/dp3754.pdf (accessed

April 12, 2012), p. 6. The government has not yet published the final data of the 2011 census.

2 “Current Migratory Situation in Greece,” Frontex Press Release, November 29, 2010,

http://www.frontex.europa.eu/rabit_2010/background_information/ (accessed April 4, 2011).

3 http://frontex.europa.eu/news/greek-turkish-land-border-jo-poseidon-land-siutational-update-january-2012-DWvKc6

(accessed April 12, 2012).

4 National Hellenic Police, “Illegal Immigration Statistics 2011,”

http://www.astynomia.gr/images/stories//2012/photos1012/27012012-mi_nomimoi_ypik.jpg (accessed April 12, 2012).

Albanians and Bengalis are in third and fourth place, respectively.

5 “Chrysochoidis eyes 30 migrant detention centers by 2014,” ekathimerini.com, March 26, 2012,

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_26/03/2012_434766 (accessed May 17, 2012).

31 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | JULY 2012

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