It’s the first time that an EU country has seen its treatment of refugees described as a humanitarian crisis by the UNHCR. This report gets to the heart of the escalating tensions in Greece.
“I’ve seen too many. They cross the river like bees”, sighs a local fisherman. With as many as 400 people crossing the Evros river each day, arrests of illegal immigrants in Greece have exploded from 3,500 to 20,000 in a year. Most choose to turn themselves in, but they have no idea what awaits them. Infested with rats, Greece’s detention centres are now critically overcrowded. Those who try to avoid this fate end up on the streets, such as in Attica Square, home to hundreds of Afghan refugees. With no government support, crime is rife here, and as frustration builds, racial attacks by local vigilantes are escalating beyond control. Ghulam’s family sleep on a bench in the square – his four-year-old son was recently attacked in the middle of the night. “If I’d stayed in Afghanistan I might have been beaten, but they would have at least spared my children. I cannot believe this is Europe.”