Human Rights Watch used harsh language towards Greece and the EU in its annual report that was published on Tuesday January 21, 2014. “European Union (EU) leaders in 2013 acknowledged problems of rising intolerance and persistent human rights violations across the EU, but failed to take concerted action,” wrote the 667-page report.
“Respect for human rights is measured in deeds, not words,” said Judith Sunderland, senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Ordinary people, from the homeless in Hungary, to black and Arab teenagers constantly stopped by the police in France, to Syrian asylum seekers in Greece, are paying the price for the lack of robust rights enforcement.”
The chapter on Greece in particular, stressed the fact that there have been ongoing attacks on immigrants — 104 in the first 9 months of 2013 — and an increase in attacks against homosexuals. The bill presented in November by the Greek government concerning racist speech and incitement of violence did not address all problems in the existing legislation.
Furthermore, the report contains extensive references to illegal immigrants and especially Syrian refugees and their return to Turkey. Regarding the new asylum providing service which began accepting applications in June, HRW points out that access to asylum remains difficult. Greece has the lowest asylum percentage in the EU (0.9% in 2012).
There was also concern for Roma people seeing as in the first 9 months of 2013, Greek police made 1,131 arrests in camps while Roma children have yet to be integrated in Greek schools.
As far as the EU is concerned, the report mentioned “Racism and homophobia remained serious problems in the EU, prompting calls from the European Parliament and the Council of Europe for more efforts to counter extreme forms of intolerance. Roma, migrants and asylum seekers are particularly marginalized, while Europe’s Muslims face discrimination in many spheres, including the right to exercise religious freedom.”