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Society

US State Dept. Rips Greece’s Treatment of Refugees, Migrants

WASHINGTON — While Greece’s New Democracy has steadfastly defended its treatment of refugees and migrants in detention centers and camps in the face of blistering criticism, the US State Department added to the complaints.

In its annual report that came as a top European Commissioner visited the islands of Lesbos and Samos and human rights groups and activists stepped up charges that refugees and migrants were inhumane facilities, the US said there are unsafe and unhealthy conditions at the camps and centers.

That includes, “gender-based violence against refugee women and children in reception camps,” according to the report that’s at odds with what the administration of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been saying.

The report, the first to be published under US President Joe Biden also refers to alleged pushbacks of refugees and migrants across land borders and into the sea back toward Turkey which has continued to allow human traffickers to send them during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.

They had gone to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan and Turkey is supposed to contain some 4.4 million of them, aided with EU funds.

Piling on the criticism, the State Dept. report said there have also been “acts of corruption (and) violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups, including some by police”.

Alleged crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex persons are also listed in the report.

But “The government regularly took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed human rights abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government,” the report said in praise too.

“There were, however, complaints from nongovernmental organizations and international organizations regarding the lack of government investigation of and accountability for allegations of forced returns of asylum seekers,” it added.

Trying to take a balanced approach, the report said Greek authorities had effective control over police, the Coast Guard and Armed Forces and mechanisms to investigate and punish offenders but added that "members of security forces committed some abuses."

Greece has denied pushing back refugees and migrants despite repeated accusations by rights groups and the European Parliament pushed an investigation into whether the EU’s border patrol agency Frontex was complicit, which it denied it had done.

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