"It could have been you or me": Protect refugees on Europe's borders

I had only been back from Greece for a few days last week when I read the shocking story of the 200 Bangladeshi farm workers in the Peloponnese who were shot at by their bosses for demanding the wages they’d been owed for seven months.

This is just the latest incident that highlights the vulnerability of migrants in Greece. Whether it’s racist attacks, police harassment, detention in squalid police cells or multi-faceted exploitation, the better life so many seek in Europe is brought to an abrupt end when they reach Greek shores.

If you read my last posts you will know that Greece’s chaotic immigration system means many migrants and refugees remain without legal papers, leaving them vulnerable to arrest and exploitation. Unaccompanied children and people fleeing violence and persecution often spend months in squalid detention centres, where reports of ill-treatment by police are common.

When I was in Lesbos and Athens I spoke to Syrians who were so desperate and traumatised by their treatment in Greece that they wanted to go back to their conflict-torn country.

“One hundred per cent I will die in Syria,” said one man who had just been released from three months behind bars in a grim detention facility despite having committed no crime. “But a hundred per cent I die here too,” he said.

Greece’s asylum and immigration system needs urgent reform and those responsible for racist attacks must be brought to justice. But this relies on decisive action from a government that reportedly denies racism is a serious problem.

The EU must also act, redrafting existing rules to share responsibility for asylum seekers more equally between member states, taking into account asylum seekers’ individual needs.

Remind the EU that they need to act now

You can help make it happen. Today, as part of Amnesty’s S.O.S Europe campaign, my colleagues in Brussels will be ‘sailing’ a migrant boat through the streets of the Belgian capital to deliver 50,000 signatures demanding action from the European Parliament and commemorating the thousands who have died at sea.

Add your voice to theirs by sending a tweet to the European Parliament - just click the button below, or write your own - use #SOSEurope so we can see your tweet!

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If you were as shocked as I was to discover the reality of life for migrants in Greece I hope you will take action. After all, if life’s dice had fallen differently it could be you or I needing to escape a brutal civil war or unrelenting hunger. The least we would ask for would be humane treatment on our journey.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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