World Report 2011

In September UNHCR described the situation facing migrants and asylum seekers in Greece as a "humanitarian crisis." There were no concrete improvements despite the government's repeated commitments to overhaul its broken asylum system, restore appeal rights, ensure humane treatment for migrants, and police accountability for ill-treatment.

A presidential decree containing modest reforms, including addressing a backlog of more than 46,000 cases, remained stalled, in part because of the country's budget crisis. Only 11 of 30,000 applicants (0.04 percent) were granted asylum at first instance in 2009. Wider reforms have been pushed back to 2011 or later.

The European Commission continued infringement proceedings against Greece for its breach of EU asylum rules, sending the government a second letter of formal notice on June 24. In response to a request from Greece, Frontex deployed 175 border guards to the Greece-Turkey border in November.

Migrants and asylum seekers continued to be detained in substandard conditions. There is little or no assistance for unaccompanied migrant children and other vulnerable groups, many of whom live in destitution or on the streets, at risk of exploitation and trafficking. Following a visit in October, the UN special rapporteur on torture called conditions in many immigration detention facilities inhuman and degrading.

Violence by armed opposition groups, as well as strikes and demonstrations, marked a year of increasing economic crisis and austerity measures in Greece. There were several deadly bomb attacks against public buildings, killing a bystander in March and the assistant to the minister of citizen protection in June. Other attacks caused structural damage. In November police in Greece and elsewhere intercepted over a dozen letter bombs addressed to foreign embassies in Athens, the Greek parliament, heads of state, and institutions in Europe.

A policeman was sentenced in October to life in prison for intentionally shooting a 15-year-old boy in Athens during a demonstration in December 2008, sparking nationwide riots. Another officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity.

In May the Council of Europe European Committee of Social Rights made public conclusions from December 2009 condemning Greece for widespread discrimination against Roma in access to housing. The same committee had condemned Greece in 2004.

Associated documents