In a recent press release, Amnesty International spoke of “hellish” conditions for migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Kos, while the organization also condemned attacks against refugees and activists.
“The refugees we met in Kos have fled war and persecution in countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. They include children, some with their families but others travelling alone. The hellish conditions the refugees are now forced to endure and the official indifference to their plight are appalling,” said Kondylia Gogou, Greece Researcher at Amnesty International, who just returned from Kos.
According to the researcher, a group of 15-25 people holding bats, physically attacked refugees in Kos while shouting “go back to your country” and other insults. They also threatened activists and an Amnesty International staff member. However, authorities did not attempt to stop them and just intervened after they witnessed physical attacks.
An activist, who was taking photographs, had her camera removed and suffered minor injuries. Police did not stop the attackers and riot police intervened only after physical attacks had started and used teargas to disperse the crowd.
“Last night’s violent attack shows the danger to refugees and activists who help them. Action must be taken now at all levels to ensure they are protected,” said Gogou.
Amnesty International reported there are currently 3,000 to 4,000 migrants and refugees on the Greek island, who live under poor conditions and are forced to wait in the heat, sometimes for days at a time, to be registered by Greek authorities. Most of the refugees do not have the funds to pay for accommodation so they are forced to live in tents or in abandoned buildings.
The international organization condemned the situation and urged local authorities to cooperate with central authorities and set up reception centers and shelters. Furthermore, the press release noted that the Greek government needs to swiftly implement the plans announced at a press conference on September 3, including urgently deploying First Reception Center staff in Kos to assist with the identification of vulnerable groups. “It must also ensure that the authority responsible for the management of European Union funds such as AMIF (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund), starts its operations as swiftly as possible.”
Finally, Amnesty International urged the EU to support Greek authorities with emergency financial support and try to relieve pressure on Greece in the longer term by significantly reforming EU’s asylum system.