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UN experts: Greece must improve detention conditions for migrants

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) [official website, database] said Thursday that Greece must improve detention conditions [press release] for migrants and effectively implement recent legislative developments to enhance screening procedures for asylum-seekers. The WGAD, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council [official website], visited Greece for 11 days, finding that the conditions of many of the country's detention facilities fall below international human rights standards. Issues include overcrowding, excessive length of detention, mixing pre-trial and convicted detainees in the same cell and denying detainees the right to free legal assistance. The WGAD did welcome the legislative reforms recently adopted by Greek authorities. Members of the WGAD also commended the Greek authorities for creating the Asylum Service Department to establish the First Reception Service [official websites], which is to be responsible for screening procedures independent from the police.

Laws and policies governing the treatment of migrants continue to raise international human rights concerns. In August spokespersons for the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern [JURIST report] about an Australian law to reopen offshore detention centers used to process migrants and asylum-seekers who arrive in the country by sea. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in July that migrants residing in Greece face a rising culture of discrimination and violence [JURIST report]. In June Amnesty International (AI) said the Cyprus government's practice of detaining all illegal migrants seeking asylum in the island nation violates international law [JURIST report]. In January 2012 the Israeli Knesset passed a bill that imposes harsher penalties on illegal migrants [JURIST report] in Israel, as well as on Israelis who help illegal migrants. AI criticized the bill as a violation of human rights. In March 2011 AI released a report documenting discrimination and human rights violations against Roma migrants [JURIST report] in Slovenia and urging the Slovenian government to protect Roma communities. In September 2010,the Global Migration Group (GMG) adopted a statement urging all governments to respect the human rights of migrants [JURIST report], who are more likely to face various forms of abuse as they lack proper legal status. The GMG stressed that every person, regardless of migration status, should enjoy the fundamental rights to life, liberty and all fundamental human rights.

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