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Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 15:28 UK

Greece accused of refugee neglect

By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Dormitory at Camp Samos, camp was closed last year. Pic courtesy: ProAsyl
Many war refugees in Greece are kept in cramped conditions

The Greek government has been accused of neglecting 140 war refugees who have been evicted from their reception centre on the Aegean island of Patmos.

The refugees, including women and babies, are living rough in the streets of Patmos, a French charity claims.

The refugees hail from the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Patmos is one of the Greek islands close to the Turkish coast targeted by people-traffickers paid thousands of dollars to smuggle refugees to Europe.

List of complaints

Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) claims says the 140 refugees had been crammed into a second floor discotheque measuring just 50 sq m (60 sq yards).

Asylum seekers waiting to lodge applications in Greece: pic courtesy NHC
A tiny percentage of applicants are granted asylum in Greece

The only advantage the building offered its occupants was shelter from outside temperatures approaching 40C (104F).

But the refugees have been forced to confront the elements of a harsh Greek summer, because, according to the charity, the government has not paid the rent for the discotheque and the people have been evicted.

The situation was described as "outrageous" by Sophia Ioannou, a Medecins du Monde spokeswoman.

She called on the Greek government to provide sanitary civilised living conditions.

This is the latest in a long line of complaints by international care agencies about Greece's handling of refugees.

Stop the conflicts

Earlier this summer more than 150 war refugee children staged a hunger strike to complain about conditions on the nearby island of Leros.

Asylum seekers waiting in Athens
Many asylum seekers see Greece as the gateway to the European continent

The Greek government says it is trying to do all it can to cope with the refugee influx, but its islands are being swamped.

And it simply does not have sufficient reception centres to handle the numbers coming across the water.

Athens also claims that illegal immigration is a pan-European problem and accuses Greece's EU partners of not doing enough to support it on the front line.

For example, the mayor of Leros claims that Britain and the United States must bear responsibility for the flight of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Charity workers in the eastern Aegean say the only way to stop the problem is to stop the conflicts.


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