Iranian asylum seekers sew mouths shut to protest Greek mistreatment
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As Greece faces growing international pressure to improve its “catastrophic” immigration system, a group of Iranian asylum seekers have sewed their mouths shut during a hunger strike in central Athens to pressure the Greek government to accept their applications for refugee status.
Hunger striker Mandana Daneshnia. Photo posted by Amir Mohsen on Facebook.
As Greece faces growing international pressure to improve its “catastrophic” immigration system, a group of Iranian asylum seekers have sewed their mouths shut during a hunger strike in central Athens to press the Greek government to accept their applications for refugee status.
The 45 protesters, eight of which sewed their lips together with medical threads, have been on hunger strike for 12 days in a makeshift tent in front of Athens University. All say they were forced to flee Iran after facing harassment or persecution from authorities. They claim their treatment at the hands of Greek border police has been little better.
Last Wednesday, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, warned that the Greek asylum system is “dysfunctional” and has created “catastrophic” conditions for refugees. During a 10-day fact finding mission in which he visited dozens of prisons, police stations, hospitals and administrative detention centres, he found detainees who had been locked up for up to six months in overcrowded, filthy cells, with very bad ventilation and lighting. Access to medical care, lawyers and interpreters was also very limited. The Special Rapporteur said he received “numerous consistent allegations” of beatings by police officers, but that there was “little forensic evidence” to corroborate them.
Greek law enforcement officials are overwhelmed by the near-constant flow of hundreds of irregular migrants entering the country via Turkey or by sea on a daily basis. In 2010, 90% of the arrests of irregular migrants in the European Union took place in Greece, and there is currently a backlog of 52,000 asylum cases to be examined. Late Sunday, following Nowak’s call for “joint European action” European Internal Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said the EU will help Greece face the growing problem.
First day of hunger strike in front of Athens University. Video posted on Youtube on October 14 by United Democracy Iran.