2. Communication to Human Rights Committee Theodoropoulos and others v. Greece filed on 5 July 2020 led to imposition of interim measures on 6 July 2020 ordering Greece not to evict these Roma families of Aspropyrgos until they are offered alternative accommodation (UN HRC letter available here).
3. Situation in Greece – Briefing of CPT ahead of its visit to Greece (13 March 2020)
The NGOs Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), Minority Rights Group – Greece (MRG-G), the Humanist Union of Greece (HUG), and the Coordinated Organizations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece (SOKADRE) express their profound satisfaction that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women included in its List of issues and questions prior to the submission of the eighth periodic report of Greece adopted on 13 November 2020 a large number of the issues and questions recommended by these NGOs in their related reports to UN CEDAW and the oral presentation they made before the Committee, the only Greek NGO present in that briefing. All that and other related material is available here.
1. Please provide information and statistics, disaggregated by age, disability, ethnicity, minority status and nationality, on the current situation of women in the State party to enable monitoring of the implementation of the Convention. In accordance with the State party’s obligations under articles 1 and 2 of the Convention and in line with target 5.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere, as well as in the light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations (CEDAW/C/GRC/CO/7, paras. 21 (e), 22 (b) and 23 (b)), please indicate how the State party intends to improve the collection and analysis of data pertaining to the areas covered by the Convention so as to support policymaking and programme development and to measure progress towards the implementation of the Convention and the promotion of substantive equality of women and men, including with regard to the specific areas covered herein.
Impact of the pandemic on women’s rights and gender equality
2. In line with the Committee’s Guidance note on CEDAW and COVID-19 issued on 22 April 2020, please indicate the measures implemented by the State party in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to redress long-standing inequalities between women and men by placing women at the centre of recovery as an economic diversification strategy; meet the needs and uphold the rights of women and girls, including those belonging to disadvantaged and marginalized groups, women in conflict or other humanitarian situations; and ensure that confinement either partial or total and post-crisis recovery plans do not relegate women and girls to stereotyped gender roles. Please indicate measures in place to ensure that all COVID-19 crisis response and recovery efforts: (a) address and are effectively aimed at preventing gender-based violence against women and girls; (b) guarantee that women and girls have equal participation in political and public life, decision-making about the recovery, economic empowerment and service delivery; and (c) seek to ensure that women and girls benefit equally from stimulus packages, including financial support for unpaid care roles, that are aimed at mitigating the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic. Please explain how the State party is ensuring that measures taken to contain the pandemic, such as restrictions on freedom of movement or physical distancing, do not limit access by women and girls, including those from disadvantaged and marginalized groups, to justice, shelters, education, employment and health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.
Constitutional, legislative and public policy framework
3. In accordance with the State party’s obligations under articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, please provide information about legislative provisions recognizing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women and explain how the legislation in place implements the State party’s obligations under the Convention concerning protection of women against all forms of discrimination. Please also indicate the legal remedies and compensation available to women who are subjected to any form of gender-based discrimination, particularly women belonging to ethnic or national minorities, Roma women, migrant, refugee or asylum-seeking women, women with disabilities, older women, and rural women and girls. Please provide information on progress made in the implementation of Article 11 of Law No. 4604/2019 on promoting substantive equality of men and women, which requires all ministries and public enterprises to incorporate gender-responsive budgeting and actions, and to report the data and outcome to the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality. Please also provide information about new plans or strategies to achieve equality of women and men, including the human, technical and financial resources allocated for their implementation, and about specific programmes addressing the rights and situation of women belonging to minorities, Roma women, women with disabilities, and migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women.
Women’s access to justice
4. Please indicate whether free legal aid is available to women without sufficient means in all areas of law, in order to ensure their access to justice, and provide information about legal arrangements to facilitate the work of non-governmental organizations and other key stakeholders providing legal assistance to women in judicial proceedings, including those before the Constitutional Court (para. 11(d)). Please provide information about the number of complaints concerning gender-based discrimination and violence against women that have been received and processed by the Greek Ombudsman since 2016, disaggregated by age, rural or urban area, migrant, refugee or asylum-seeking status and disability. Please indicate whether the Greek Ombudsman has the authority to refer cases of gender-based discrimination against women to the courts. Please also explain the legal complaint procedures available to women in cases of discrimination by private actors, including enterprises or service providers. Please provide information about judgments in which the provisions of the Convention were applied, invoked and/or referred to directly, and efforts made to interpret national legislation in line with the Convention.
5. Please indicate measures taken to facilitate reporting of cases of gender-based violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, sexual violence, harassment or other forms of gender-based violence perpetrated online. Please report on the number of prosecutions carried out in the past five years in cases of gender-based violence against women, disaggregated by age, offence, urban or rural area, sentence imposed and the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. Please indicate the number of victims of gender-based violence, disaggregated by age, disability, ethnicity, national minority status and nationality, who have received reparations, psychological rehabilitation and compensation in the past five years.
National machinery for the advancement of women
6. Please provide information about the human, technical and financial resources available to Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR), the General Secretariat of Gender Equality in the area of advancement of women and gender equality and the Observatory Mechanism to Monitor the Implementation of Gender Equality Policies in Public Activity (paras. 13 and 14 (a), (b) and (c)) and about the proportion of the annual increase or decrease (over the past five years) in the Government’s recurrent budget for gender equality. Please describe any measures taken to strengthen and further develop the national machinery for the advancement of women, including in the context of the COVID‑19 crisis, such as strengthened coordination arrangements. Please describe any efforts made to take into account the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Beijing Platform for Action in the State party’s measures to give effect to the Convention. Please provide information about the mechanisms of the national machinery for the advancement of women to ensure gender mainstreaming at the ministerial and local government levels, as well as across all sectors of policy-making. Please also inform the Committee about strategies in place for monitoring gender budgeting and their impact on women’s rights. Please provide information about the number of registered non-governmental organizations (national and international) that promote women’s human rights and describe the formal procedures established by the national machinery to consult women’s civil society organizations in the development of strategies and plans for gender equality and the empowerment of women and to ensure their participation in the mechanisms for implementing and monitoring such strategies and plans. Please provide specific information about budget allocations and methodologies to engage with organizations of Roma women, migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women, women with disabilities and rural women.
Temporary special measures
7. Please provide information about policies, programmes and plans on the development of temporary special measures to achieve substantive equality of women and men, particularly with reference to the participation of women in public decision-making and political life, and to promote women’s equal representation in all areas of the Convention where they are underrepresented or disadvantaged, including education and employment, in accordance with article 4 (1) of the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendation No. 25 (2004) on temporary special measures. Please elaborate on the groups of women targeted by temporary special measures, the short- and long-term goals of such measures and whether they have been implemented in the public and the private sector, as well as the budget allocated and the time frames for implementing such measures. Please also inform the Committee about temporary special measures adopted to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against women with disabilities, refugee and asylum-seeking women, Roma women, older women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and women belonging to minorities.
Stereotypes and harmful practices
8. Please provide information on steps taken to adopt a comprehensive strategy to eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminate against women (para. 19 (a)). Please provide information about: (a) measures taken to expand public education programmes on the negative effects of discriminatory stereotypes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society, in particular in rural and isolated areas in the archipelago; (b) innovative measures taken that target the media to strengthen understanding of the concept of equality of women and men and to use the education system to enhance a positive and non-stereotypical portrayal of women and men (para.19 (b) and (c)). Please also inform on programmes to combat gender stereotypes in the media and in education. With reference to joint general recommendation No. 31 of the Committee/general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2019) on harmful practices, please provide information on measures to provide redress for girls who have entered into child and/or forced marriages, rehabilitation and counselling services available to them and mechanisms to track cases of child and/or forced marriages, and the number of prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators in the reporting period. Please provide specific examples of the implementation of policies or measures that have contributed to increased understanding of sharing of domestic and family responsibilities between women and men, promoted concepts of gender equality in line with the Convention and countered attitudes that undermine the achievement of gender equality. Please provide information on the cooperation with women’s civil society organizations and the private sector on measures to eradicate discriminatory gender stereotypes and about the monitoring of the implementation of these measures.
Gender-based violence against women
9. With reference to the Committee’s general recommendation No. 35 (2017) on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation No. 19, please provide information on provisions defining all forms of gender-based violence against women, including physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence, as criminal offences in the Criminal Code. Please provide information on measures taken to ensure that police officers and prosecutors refrain from turning away alleged victims of gender-based violence. Please also inform the Committee on measures envisaged to revise police practices that may deter women from seeking protection from the authorities in cases where they have been subjected to or are at risk of gender-based violence. Please describe strategies to identify instances of hate speech and incitement to gender-based violence against women belonging to minorities and migrant, refugee or asylum-seeking women, and provide information on the number of prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators of hate speech and incitement to gender-based violence against women during the reporting period. Please inform on specific protective measures adopted to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence against refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant women and girls, especially those held in reception and identification centres at “hotspots”, other reception centres and other immigration detention facilities. Please indicate the proportion of women aged 15 to 49 years subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the past three years (disaggregated by urban or rural area, ethnicity, five-year age group and employment status). Please describe national strategies or programmes implemented during the reporting period to prevent gender-based violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, partnerships with civil society actors to monitor and evaluate the implementation of such strategies or programmes, and the progress achieved. Please also provide information on the steps taken to ensure the meaningful participation of women’s rights organizations, in particular those working on behalf of disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women, in the implementation and monitoring of the Law related to gender-based violence against women. Please describe measures adopted by the State party to address the numerous reports by women of excessive use of force, including torture and ill-treatment, by law enforcement officials.
10. Please report on the number of shelters and crisis centres throughout the State party and the human, technical and financial resources allocated to them. Please provide information on measures aimed at increasing the accessibility of shelters for women with disabilities and on the legal and psychosocial counselling available to them. Please also inform the Committee about efforts undertaken to establish a unified mechanism for the systematic collection of statistical data on the incidence of gender-based violence against women in the State party.
Trafficking and exploitation of prostitution
11. With reference to the Committee’s general recommendation No. 38 (2020) on trafficking in women and girls in the context of global migration, the Committee’s previous concluding observations (paras. 22 and 23), and information from alternative sources, indicating difficulties in the State party’s identification of victims of trafficking, including children, please provide information about the current legislation, public policies and action plans to combat trafficking in persons. Please inform on the progress made in the investigation into the whereabouts of over 500 girls and boys, mostly Albanian Roma, forced to beg in the streets, who had been rounded up by the police in Athens prior to the 2004 Olympic Games and had disappeared from Agia Varvara, a State-run care home. Please provide information on the 2019 revised Criminal Code and on the introduction of mitigating circumstances for cases of trafficking and on the possibility for an alleged perpetrator of plea bargaining. Please also report on: (a) existing mechanisms and the human, technical and financial resources allocated to identifying women and girls who are victims of trafficking and exploitation during the reporting period; (b) the number of detected women and girls who are victims of trafficking, disaggregated by age, country of origin, minority status and migrant, refugee or asylum-seeking status; (c) the number of investigations, prosecutions and sentences imposed on perpetrators of trafficking in women and girls during the reporting period; and (d) the type of redress and reparations provided to women and girls who are victims of trafficking, including psychosocial support, crisis and housing shelters, compensation and restitution.
12. Please indicate the measures taken to prevent trafficking in women and girls for purposes of sexual and labour exploitation, particularly migrant and refugee women, and about legislative and policy measures to facilitate women’s access to formal employment. Please describe efforts undertaken to cooperate with countries of origin of trafficking in women and girls in identifying and combating the root causes of trafficking, including low socioeconomic status, poverty and armed conflict. Please also inform the Committee about the introduction of gender-sensitive safeguards in migration and asylum procedures. Please report on programmes available to enable women to leave prostitution regardless of their country of origin, age, minority status or other grounds.
Participation in political and public life
13. Please provide information on measures taken, including temporary special measures, to promote equal representation of women in political and public life (para. 25). Please provide updated data on the representation of women in political and public life, including in relation to the most recent national, regional and municipal elections, the foreign service and in international organizations. Please provide information about measures taken to better understand and address the barriers to the representation of women in the political sphere. Please indicate whether concrete goals and timelines have been adopted, including for women belonging to ethnic minority groups, for example, through statutory quotas for Parliament, political parties, senior government positions, public administration and the foreign service. Please also elaborate on the outcomes achieved, supported by data. Please describe the State party’s legal framework with regard to political harassment and measures to promote the political participation of women on an equal basis with men. Please indicate measures implemented by the State party to support women candidates in campaigning for elections. Please provide information on training provided on gender equality for politicians, journalists, teachers, local officials and civil society leaders (para. 25 (c)).
14. Please provide information on: (a) the enrolment at all levels of education and in vocational training of women and girls in urban and rural areas; (b) the proportion of female students and graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and in information and communication technologies (ICT); (c) measures to promote women’ and girls’ choice of non-traditional fields of education and career paths; (d) the programmes and budget allocations for developing scholarships and study grants targeting women; and (e) the criteria for distributing education grants among women belonging to marginalized groups. Please provide information about continuing education, the percentage of women therein and scholarships available to them. Please also provide statistics on the enrolment rates of girls with disabilities in mainstream schools and special schools, and measures taken to ensure their access to good-quality inclusive education. Please provide information about education on sexual and reproductive health and rights in accessible formats, including measures to review school curricula to include awareness-raising on gender equality and to eliminate sexist stereotypes in education.
15. Please provide information on the measures taken to reduce the persistent gender wage gap, particularly in the private sector, which, among other things, has an adverse effect on women’s pension benefits. Please provide information, disaggregated by age, urban or rural area and disability, about: (a) the nationwide employment rate of women and women’s employment across the different sectors of economy; and (b) the unemployment rate of women compared with that of men, the number of women in the informal sector of economy and measures taken to address unemployment among women, as well as the impact of pregnancy and short-term contracts on job security for women. Information shows that only the 30.7% of women hold a full-time position and that twice as many women (14%) as men (7%) work part-time. Please provide information on measures taken to reduce horizontal and vertical occupational segregation and address the concentration of women in part-time and low-paid jobs. Please provide information on measures taken to eliminate discrimination in the labour market against mothers and pregnant women in relation to hiring, career advancement, conditions of employment, pay and denial of paid maternity leave, particularly in the private sector. Please indicate the current coverage of childcare facilities and support in the community for women and men with parental responsibilities, in rural and urban areas.
16. Please explain the legal framework concerning retirement and disability pensions and specific measures aimed at increasing women’s access to social protection schemes, including non-contributory schemes targeting women with disabilities or women from marginalized groups, during the reporting period. Please provide information on concrete measures taken to ensure access to formal employment for migrant, asylum-seeking, refugee, Roma women, as well as women with disabilities and other marginalized groups of women. Please also provide data on the number of migrant women employed as domestic workers and information on measures taken to ensure that women migrant domestic workers are guaranteed the same level of protection and benefits as other workers. Please inform the Committee on steps taken to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), of the International Labour Organization.
17. With regard to the recommendations of the Committee (para. 31 (c)), please provide information on progress made towards the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive programme on sexual and reproductive health and rights and on the allocation of human, technical and financial resources for the implementation of such a programme. Please also provide detailed information on steps taken to ensure the free, active and meaningful participation of women’s organizations, in particular those working on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, in awareness raising on issues pertaining to women’s health. Information before the Committee shows that over half of the births in Greece occur by caesarean section (C-section), placing the State party as one of the countries with the highest prevalence of C-sections performed without medical necessity worldwide. Please provide information on measures taken to reduce excessive reliance on C-sections, including by training medical personnel on natural birth and introducing stricter controls on the use of C-sections.
18. Please elaborate on the steps taken to ensure unimpeded and effective access to legal abortion and post-abortion services for all women in the State party, including by ensuring mandatory referrals in cases of conscientious objections by institutions; to ensure that information provided by health-care professionals to women seeking abortion is science-based and covers the risks of having or not having an abortion; and to ensure the confidentiality of the personal data of women and girls seeking abortion. Please provide information on the safeguards implemented to ensure access to appropriate and safe childbirth procedures that are in line with adequate standards of care, respect for women’s autonomy and the requirement of free, prior and informed consent.
Economic empowerment of women
19. Please provide information on measures taken during the reporting period to identify and provide assistance to women disproportionately affected by austerity measures. Please also provide information about: (a) women’s access to bank loans in urban and rural areas during the reporting period; (b) measures to support women entrepreneurs throughout the State party, start-up businesses owned by women and women beneficiaries of finance schemes for businesses, including microcredits and appropriate technology for establishing and developing small and medium-sized enterprises, disaggregated by urban or rural area, age, disability and migrant, refugee or asylum-seeking status; and (c) the levels of poverty affecting women of all ages and measures to combat the social exclusion of women, particularly older women.
20. Please provide information on measures adopted during the reporting period with the aim of increasing rural women’s access to land ownership. Please provide information about: (a) legal and policy frameworks to protect the natural environment and rural women’s livelihoods; and (b) mechanisms to mainstream gender equality and consult rural women organizations regarding the protection and management of natural and other assets and water supply.
Disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women
21. In view of the intersecting forms of discrimination against disadvantaged and marginalized groups of women in the State party, please provide information about the situation of:
(a) Migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women. Please indicate the measures taken to ensure the protection of all migrant women, including undocumented migrant women, who are at particular risk of violence. Please report on the efforts made to strengthen labour inspections of workplaces of migrant women, including private households. Please mention, and include examples of, efforts to take an inclusive and non-selective approach in upholding the principle of non-refoulement and a gender-sensitive approach to the continuing refugee inflows and asylum claims, including in procedural matters, in line with the rights covered in the Convention and in the Committee’s general recommendation No. 32 (2014) on the gender-related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women. Please also provide information about: (i) measures taken to combat discrimination against migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women, particularly with regard to their access to education, employment, health care and housing; (ii) measures to ensure the accessibility of safe houses, crisis centres and maternal homes and to provide women referred to such facilities with interpretation services; (iii) reintegration services set up during the reporting period and about the results achieved; and (iv) international cooperation programmes at the regional or international levels aimed at addressing the vulnerability of migrant and asylum-seeking women and ensuring the safety of women facing deportation to their country of origin;
(b) Roma women. Please provide information on the steps taken to review laws and policies on land and housing, with the participation of Roma women, to ensure that they can fully enjoy their rights to adequate housing, education and family and private life without discrimination and fear of segregation, forced eviction and displacement. Please report on efforts made to establish and enforce a strict code of conduct for police to effectively ensure respect for women’s human rights in all police operations;
(c) Women with disabilities. Please provide information on measures taken to include women and girls with disabilities in all policies and strategies to promote equal opportunities for women and men, in particular with regard to education, employment, access to justice, protection against violence and access to sexual and reproductive health care services and poverty reduction programmes. Please also report on how free and informed consent is ensured for women with disabilities prior to any medical treatment and on any existing exceptions to that universal right. Please indicate the measures adopted to protect women with disabilities living in institutions from violence and abuse and to eliminate practices involving physical and mechanical restraints.
Marriage and family relations
22. With reference to the Committee’s previous concluding observations (para. 37) please inform on steps taken to: (a) fully harmonize the application of local Sharia law and the ordinary laws in the State party with the provisions on non-discrimination of the Convention, in particular with regard to marriage and inheritance; (b) strengthen enforcement efforts to prohibit polygamy and child and forced marriages, in line with joint general recommendation No. 31 of the Committee/general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2014) on harmful practices; (c) train legal professionals, including the judiciary, as well as ethnic communities and religious leaders on the Convention and the Committee’s general recommendations; (d) review the Family Law with a view to extending existing legal provisions to couples living in de facto unions, including same-sex unions, and introducing provisions regulating the distribution of property to ensure women’s equal share in all property accumulated during the union. Please explain the current legislative framework concerning marriage and family relations, in particular how it guarantees that women and men have equal rights and responsibilities during marriage, at its dissolution and in all family matters, including inheritance, property rights and child custody. Please specify if there is any subsidy available for single-parent families in the absence of child maintenance payments.
23. In the light of information about the impact and vulnerability of the State party to natural disasters, such as floods and forest fires, which are expected to occur more frequently owing to climate change, please describe how women’s organizations are consulted and participate in decision-making procedures regarding climate change with the aim of establishing legal frameworks on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction that are responsive to gender equality and the rights of women, in line with the Committee general recommendation No. 37 (2017) on gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change.
Sustainable Development Goals
24. Please provide information about measures taken to integrate a gender perspective into all efforts aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
25. Please provide any additional information deemed relevant with regard to legislative, policy, administrative and any other measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention and the Committee’s concluding observations since the consideration of the previous periodic reports, in 2015. Such measures may include recent laws, developments, plans and programmes, recent ratifications of human rights instruments or any other information that the State party considers relevant. Please note that, further to the issues raised herein, the State party will be expected, during the dialogue, to respond to additional questions relating to areas covered by the Convention.
* Adopted by the pre-sessional working group on 13 November 2020.
 Unless otherwise indicated, paragraph numbers refer to the Committee’s previous concluding observations.
GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR (GHM) MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP – GREECE (MRG-G) HUMANIST UNION OF GREECE (HUG) COORDINATED ORGANIZATIONS AND COMMUNITIES FOR ROMA HUMAN RIGHTS IN GREECE (SOKADRE) Address: P.O. Box 60820, GR-15304 Glyka Nera Tel.: (+30) 2103472259 Fax: (+30) 2106018760 e-mail: email@example.com website: https://greekhelsinki.wordpress.com
Presentation to UN CEDAW on Greece’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
9 November 2020
In the limited time available, I will focus on violence against women, human trafficking and exploitation of prostitution, participation in political and public life, education, unemployment, caesarian births and abortions, education on sexual and reproductive health, disadvantaged women, women in prison or in detention, and marriage. However, I welcome questions on any other issue that will be answered in writing as provided.
There is grave concern about the widespread practice of police officers and prosecutors turning away women who seek to report alleged domestic violence, without any consequences to those officials even when such practices are denounced. The documented cases in our report were also reported to UN CAT, which issued a specific recommendation that the State party “ensures that police officers and prosecutors refrain from turning away alleged victims of gender-based violence, [and] should also consider revising police practices that may deter women from seeking protection from the authorities in cases where they have been subjected to or are at risk of gender-based violence.” Your Committee may want to seek information from Greece for these specific cases as well as how the CAT recommendation was implemented.
Additionally, UN CAT also made a priority recommendation that Greece “adopts specific protective measures, including the establishment of a mechanism to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence against refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant women and girls, especially those held in reception and identification centres at “hotspots”, in other reception centres and in other immigration detention facilities.” A few days ago, UN CAT published its evaluation of the related section in the follow-up report of Greece, grading it “2D,” because the information failed to respond fully to the recommendation and was therefore insufficient to assess implementation.
Concerning human trafficking and exploitation of prostitution, the legislative framework was adequate to combat human trafficking. However, in the 2019 revised Criminal Code, what was in principle an adequate frame of sentencing for such hideous crimes has been reduced to a much milder one. Additionally and most importantly, the Committee is requested to note that the recognition of mitigating circumstances in effect cancels what appears as severe sentencing for such crimes. Moreover, and contrary to what GRETA recommends, the possibility of plea bargaining was also introduced. The Committee may wish to seek explanations for these reductions in the sanctions for human trafficking.
Moreover, the Committee is requested to review the Appendix we submitted where 18 domestic judgments were analyzed to examine the legislation and case-law related to human trafficking cases. In almost all trials, the victims were not present or at least represented. Only in 4 cases were sentences of 10 or more years imposed. In all other cases, the sentences were ranging from 2,5 years to 7 years in prison, usually converted to fines (if 5 years or less). In some cases, sentences in first instance judgments were suspended until the appeal trials, which, in one case, allowed the convicted trafficker to disappear. Last, but by no means least, is the recurrent phenomenon of some courts convicting persons for human trafficking with multiple victims but then imposing a sentence for only one crime, as opposed to what the law prescribes, i.e. sentencing them for concurrent crimes, one per victim. Greece should be asked to provide the rationale behind such low sentences and, additionally, if it considers amending legislation so that:
* the aggravated human trafficking offense is punished harsher than the basic human trafficking offense;
* pecuniary fines should be restored to the levels before 2019 and retained in addition to custodial sentences even in the presence of mitigating circumstances;
* plea bargaining and suspension of sentences until the appeal trials are excluded;
* the substantial lowering of sentences because of mitigating circumstances that in effect converts them to non-custodial sentences is avoided, as it leads to punishment without the necessary unbending stringency;
* prosecutors and judges are urged, when choosing sentences within the range prescribed by law, to opt more often than not for sentences towards the upper limit that will prevent perpetrators to soon be free and resume their illegal activities, which favors organized crime networks and facilitates exploiters.
Concerning participation in political and public life, the higher than before mandatory 40% quota for women candidates in all levels of elections does not also apply to those elected. Hence women remain vastly underrepresented in the elected bodies, between 8% and 24%. The Committee should ask Greece if it considers applying the 40% quota even among those elected, a practice that many Greek political parties have adopted for their central committees for example.
Concerning education, the Committee is recommended to ask Greece for updated statistical data to see if there has been any significant improvement in the very low level of school attendance and the high dropout rates among Roma and migrant girls and those belonging to the Muslim minority in Thrace.
The unemployment rate for women is 20% and for men 14%: Greece should hence be asked to explain why such a gap persists, what was done to reduce it and why such efforts, if any, have failed to date.
Concerning health, official statistics show that more than 50% of the births are done with caesarean sections. Moreover, in private hospitals almost all non-caesarian births are vaginal births with episiotomy, and not natural births. There are no official data on abortions. The estimated annual number ranges between 100,000-150,000, with 20-25% of them concerning young girls under 16 years old. CEDAW’s recommendation that Greece“promotes education on sexual and reproductive health and rights” was not implemented. The Committee is requested to inquire for the reasons of such non-implementation, which we largely attribute to a negative influence by the official state Church of Greece.
The difficult situation faced by women in prison or in detention has remained almost unchanged. As reported by CPT in 2020, the situation in police detention centers was worse in general “most police establishments visited were totally unsuitable for holding detained persons for periods of longer than 24 hours… the Greek authorities must put an end to holding unaccompanied minors under “protective custody” in police stations, a practice which has been found by the European Court of Human Rights to be degrading and unlawful. Steps must also be taken to ensure that women and unaccompanied minors are never detained together with unrelated adult men… As a matter of principle, women with infants or in later stages of pregnancy should never be detained [in transfer centre for prisoners] in an environment such as that in the two transfer centres visited…Transferring women and their children in such conditions [in vehicles used for transferring prisoners], prone to intimidation and verbal abuse by male prisoners, is an abnegation of the State’s duty of care towards them.”
Finally, there continued to be a non-application of the general law to the Muslim community of Thrace regarding marriage and inheritance. Early marriages persist in the Muslim and Roma communities. Concerning the application of sharia law by the Muslim community of Thrace, the law has changed making it optional. However, in conservative societies, pressure on women may be high enough to deter them from opting out of it, which is why it should be totally abolished.
(Athens) – Members of Greece’s parliament should urgently establish an inquiry into all allegations of unlawful returns of migrants to Turkey by law enforcement officers and others, 29 human rights and humanitarian aid organizations said in an open letter released today. These returns are carried out mainly through pushbacks and collective expulsions and are often accompanied by violence.
Parliament should exercise its oversight authority to investigate the allegations of these illegal acts by state agents and proxies on Greece’s sea and land borders with Turkey. The parliament’s inquiry should examine whether any illegal acts identified are part of a de facto government policy at odds with international, European, and Greek law.
Over the years, nongovernmental groups and media outlets have consistently reported the unlawful return, including through pushbacks, of groups and individuals from Greece to Turkey by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men, who appear to be working in tandem with border enforcement officials.
Reports from 2020 recorded multiple incidents in which Greek Coast Guard personnel, sometimes accompanied by armed masked men in dark clothing, unlawfully abandoned migrants – including those who had reached Greek territory. They abandoned the migrants at sea, on inflatable vessels without motors; towed migrant boats to Turkish waters; or intercepted, attacked, and disabled boats carrying migrants.
Nongovernmental organizations and the media have also reported persistent allegations that Greek border guards have engaged in collective expulsions and pushbacks of asylum seekers through the Evros land border with Turkey.
On June 10, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was “closely monitoring” the situation at the Greek border and reported receiving “persistent reports” of migrants being arbitrarily arrested in Greece and pushed back to Turkey. The IOM said that Greece should investigate.
On August 21, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was “deeply concerned by an increasing number of credible reports indicating that men, women, and children may have been informally returned to Turkey immediately after reaching Greek soil or territorial waters in recent months,” and urged Greece to refrain from such practices and to seriously investigate these reports. The agency had released a statement making similar calls on June 12.
On July 6, during a debate at the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on fundamental rights at the Greek border, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said those incidents should be investigated. In its new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented on September 23, the European Commission recommended to member states to set up an independent monitoring mechanism, amid increased allegations of abuse at the EU’s external borders. But no such system has been instituted.
Confronted during a CNN interview with an August 14 New York Times article documenting pushbacks, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “It has not happened. We’ve been the victims of a significant misinformation campaign,” suggesting instead that Turkey was responsible.
Greek lawmakers should conduct a prompt, effective, transparent, and impartial investigation into allegations that Greek Coast Guard, Greek police, and Greek army personnel, sometimes in close coordination with uniformed masked men, have been involved in acts that not only violate the law but put the lives and safety of displaced people at risk.
Any officer found to have engaged in such illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers and officials who have command responsibility over such forces, should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as applicable. The investigation should seek to establish the identity and relationship of the masked men and other unidentified officers to law enforcement and take steps to hold them to account. The investigation should cover events surfaced in 2019 and 2020, the groups said.
The following quotes may be attributed to members of the groups involved:
“Despite government denials, over the years many witnesses and victims have told us about pushbacks from land and sea that put migrants’ lives at risk,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Parliament should step up now and do all it can to put an end to this life-threatening practice.”
“The continued failure to address the serious allegations of pushbacks and violence against people on the move at Greece’s borders can no longer be tolerated,” said Adriana Tidona, migration researcher at Amnesty International. “We call on the Greek parliament to exercise its powers in the interest of all those who have been harmed by these actions and to ensure that there is no repetition.”
“Over the years, we have filed a score of complaints about or related to pushbacks at Greece’s borders, including deaths, that Greek prosecutors seem to ignore,” said Panayote Dimitras, spokesperson for the Greek Helsinki Monitor. “Greece needs to act quickly to set up an independent border monitoring mechanism to investigate violations, as proposed by the European Commission, and end these abuses once and for all.”
“The right to seek asylum must be upheld at all times,” said Josie Naughton, chief executive officer of Help Refugees. “The Greek parliament should urgently conduct an inquiry to examine the well-documented and illegal practices of pushbacks and mass expulsion, which endanger the lives of men, women, and children seeking asylum in Greece.”
“We have documented the pushback of more than 1,150 asylum seekers from Greek territory in the past three months alone,” said Natalie Gruber, spokesperson for Josoor. “These are not isolated incidents but systematic violations of national, EU, and international law that the parliament cannot shrug off as fake news anymore.”
“Greek authorities are systematically expelling migrants, including those who have reached Greek territory, and abandoning them in open water,” said Amelia Cooper from Legal Centre Lesvos. “The Greek parliament should not only open an investigation of these events, but must also decree and enforce – immediately – the cessation of illegal collective expulsions at all Greek borders.”
“In order to break with the current failures to hold member states like Greece accountable for their pushbacks and rights violations at borders, the European Commission must step up its efforts and quickly put in place an appropriate monitoring mechanism,” said Marta Welander, executive director at Refugee Rights Europe. “Such efforts must also involve civil society, NGOs, and national human rights institutions to ensure that available evidence is taken seriously and leads to timely investigation and redress.”
“The protection of the borders, of vital importance in itself, can be in compliance with international law and human rights standards,” said Antigone Lyberaki, SolidarityNow’s general manager. “The Greek parliament has both the means and a constitutional obligation to oversee and investigate the alleged infringement of international human rights obligations by the Greek state.”
“As a child protection organization, Tdh Hellas is particularly worried about the fact that among those reported to have been violently expelled across EU borders are children, including babies,” said Melina Spathari of Terre des hommes Hellas. “The Greek government should stop such acts and try instead to address the chronic gaps in the reception and protection system for families and unaccompanied children.”
Human Rights Watch
ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth
Danish Refugee Council
Equal Rights Beyond Borders
Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
Greek Council for Refugees
Greek Forum of Refugees
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Hellenic League for Human Rights
International Rescue Committee
Legal Centre Lesvos
Medecins Du Monde – Greece
Mobile Info Team
Network for Children’s Rights
Refugee Legal Support
Refugee Rights Europe
Refugee Support Aegean
Terre des hommes Hellas
Open letter to Members of the Hellenic Parliament calling for an investigation into border abuses
Subject: Open letter to Members of the Hellenic Parliament calling for an investigation into border abuses
Dear Members of the Hellenic Parliament,
We, the undersigned 29 human rights and humanitarian non-governmental organizations, jointly call on you to urgently establish an inquiry into all allegations of unlawful returns of migrants to Turkey, including pushbacks and collective expulsions, at Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey, particularly with regard to allegations of such practices concerning the Evros region and the Aegean islands, as well as alleged violations of Greek, EU and International law on the rights of asylum seekers.
These incidents have entailed other very serious human rights violations such as arbitrary deprivation of liberty, grave breaches of the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, and failure to respect and protect the right to life. Parliament should exercise its oversight authority to investigate these allegations and to determine if the scope of any illegal acts identified amount to a de facto government policy at odds with international, European, and Greek law.
We urge you to conduct a prompt, independent, transparent, and effective investigation into allegations that Greek Coast Guard, Greek police and Greek army personnel, sometimes in close coordination with uniformed masked men dressed in black or commando-like uniforms, have been involved in such unlawful returns or other acts that put the lives and safety of displaced people at risk. The investigation should look at those allegations with a particular focus to the events surfaced in 2019 and 2020, as evidenced by the reports relied upon.
Any officer found to have engaged in such illegal acts, as well as their commanding officers, including government officials who have command responsibility for such forces, should be subject to disciplinary and criminal sanctions, as applicable. The inquiry should seek to establish the identity and relation of the masked men and unidentified officers to law enforcement and steps taken to ensure that they are held to account for illegal acts they may have carried out.
Over the years, non-governmental groups and media outlets have consistently reported the unlawful return, including through pushbacks, of groups and individuals from Greece to Turkey by Greek law enforcement officers or unidentified masked men, who appear to be working in tandem with border enforcement officials. An indicative list of reports of incidents is attached to this letter.
Non-governmental groups and media outlets reported in 2020 (reflected in the annex) that Greek Coast Guard personnel, sometimes accompanied by armed masked men in dark or commando-like clothing, have unlawfully abandoned migrants at sea on motor-less, inflatable vessels; violently transferred individuals from Greek islands, or from the dinghy upon which they were traveling, to such rafts, and then left them adrift near Turkish territorial waters; or reportedly intercepted and disabled boats carrying migrants by damaging or removing the engines or their fuel or puncturing the hulls of inflatable boats.
Non-governmental organizations and the media have also reported in 2020 on persistent allegations that Greek border forces have used violence against and in the unlawful return of displaced people, including in the form of collective expulsions and pushbacks, through the Evros land border with Turkey.
On June 10, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was “deeply concerned about persistent reports of pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, in some cases violent, at the European Union (EU) border between Greece and Turkey” and called upon Greece to investigate. On August 21, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was “deeply concerned by an increasing number of credible reports indicating that men, women, and children may have been informally returned to Turkey immediately after reaching Greek soil or territorial waters in recent months,” and urged Greece to refrain from such practices and to seriously investigate these reports. The Agency earlier released a statement making similar calls, on June 12.
Similarly, in its July report on Greece, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said it had received reports “that a number of persons newly arrived in the Evros region had been arrested, detained and summarily returned across the land border between Greece and Turkey without being given the opportunity to apply for international protection in Greece.” The WGAD urged authorities “to promptly and fully investigate allegations of such pushbacks, including any acts of violence or ill-treatment that may have occurred during such incidents, and to ensure that such practices do not occur in future.”
On July 6, during a meeting at the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on fundamental rights at the Greek border, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said that incidents should be investigated. In its new Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented on September 23, the Commission recommended to member states to set up an independent monitoring mechanism, amid increased allegations of violence and abuse at the EU’s external borders.
Despite the numerous allegations brought forward by international and non-governmental organizations and numerous calls for investigation of the alleged incidents, we regret that the Greek government has so far denied these practices and failed to take actions to end those abuses or to genuinely investigate this pattern, assume responsibility, and hold those responsible to account.
During the 6 July meeting at the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee, members of the Greek government refused to comment on those allegations, which they qualified as “fake news,” despite the amount of reports reflected by European lawmakers. Confronted during a CNN interview with a New York Times article documenting the issue of pushbacks, published on August 14, Prime Minister Mitsotakis said, “It has not happened. We’ve been the victims of a significant misinformation campaign,” suggesting instead that Turkey was responsible.
The reported practices, including violence, deprivation of liberty, and unlawful returns, violate several human rights norms, including the absolute prohibitions against refoulement – the forcible return of anyone to a real risk of persecution or other serious harm. They violate the prohibitions against inhuman or degrading treatment, arbitrary detention and collective expulsion, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Greece is a party.
Greece is also bound by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which recognizes the right to seek asylum, guarantees protection from refoulement and prohibits collective expulsions. Summary returns do not allow for an adequate assessment of protection needs. Turkey does not meet the EU criteria for a safe third country to which an asylum seeker may be returned, which include respect for the principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum.
We recognize that due to the lack of equitable responsibility-sharing mechanisms among EU member states and other failures of solidarity, Greece bears a significant responsibility among EU member states. We have repeatedly called on EU institutions and member states to implement a meaningful responsibility-sharing mechanism. Nevertheless, this situation does not relieve Greece of its human rights obligations stemming from its domestic, European and international commitments, which include the duty to protect the human rights and dignity of everyone, irrespective of their status as migrant or asylum seeker.
We thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to a continued dialogue.
Human Rights Watch
ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth
Danish Refugee Council
Equal Rights Beyond Borders
Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
Greek Council for Refugees
Greek Forum of Refugees
Greek Helsinki Monitor
Hellenic League for Human Rights
International Rescue Committee
Legal Centre Lesvos
Medecins Du Monde – Greece
Mobile Info Team
Network for Children’s Rights
Refugee Legal Support
Refugee Rights Europe
Refugee Support Aegean
Terre des hommes Hellas
Minister for Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis
Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Ioannis Plakiotakis
Chief of the Hellenic Police, Police Lieutenant General Michalis Karamalakis
Commandant of Hellenic Coast Guard, Vice-Admiral Theodore Kliaris
European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson
President of the European Parliament, David Maria Sassoli
Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), Juan Fernando López Aguilar
Executive Director of Frontex, Fabirce Leggeri
Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, Michael O’Flaherty
Migrants and asylum seekers gather on the Turkish side of the closed Kastanies/Pazarkule border crossing, on the borderline between Greece and Turkey on 02 March 2020 – DIMITRIS TOSIDIS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The human rights situation at the border between Turkey and Greece where thousands of vulnerable men, women and children are trapped between borders without access to assistance or the possibility to seek international protection is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Urgent action is now needed to prevent the situation from getting even worse.
Everything must be done to de-escalate violence in the border region, including by ensuring that law enforcement authorities refrain from using excessive force.
All measures should be taken to assess the protection needs of those trapped, and to ensure access to asylum for those in need.
I call on Greece and Turkey, as well as all other member states involved, to ensure that humanitarian assistance is immediately provided to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants trapped at the border in order to alleviate the sufferings of human beings caught up in political turmoil.
Member states should refrain from any further action which leads to vulnerable people ending up in a humanitarian and human rights emergency. I am particularly concerned by the complete closure of border posts by Greece, which is being followed by other member states. I am also concerned about Turkey’s actions in the last days that have encouraged people to move to the border and have left them in this situation.
Regarding the situation in the Aegean Sea, I am alarmed by reports that some people in distress have not been rescued, while others have been pushed back or endangered. I recall that the protection of the lives of those in distress at sea is one of the most basic duties which must be upheld, and that collective expulsions constitute serious human rights violations.
I am also gravely concerned by reports of vigilantism on the Greek islands. The authorities have a clear duty to prevent violence and intimidation against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. They also have the duty to ensure that NGOs and individuals are not prevented from providing assistance.
Member states must also ensure that journalists can cover the situation freely and safely.
Beyond the immediate measures that need to be taken as a matter of urgency, more structural action is necessary. Increasing border control cannot be the only response. Solidarity between member states is now more crucial than ever. This should focus on building further capacity to deal, in a fair and prompt manner, with asylum requests, but also with sharing responsibility for the reception of those in need of protection.
This should, firstly, extend to Turkey. Turkey is currently the country hosting the largest number of refugees worldwide and has been so for many years. Efforts to share responsibility with Turkey, especially in terms of ensuring that those who cannot be adequately protected there can be resettled, have been grossly inadequate. With up to a million more Syrians in a desperate humanitarian situation at Turkey’s border, a much more robust response is necessary.
Secondly, solidarity must be extended to Greece in order to decongest the Aegean islands, and to alleviate the pressure on the mainland where reception capacities are also limited. There is no more time for political wrangling over the relocation of a few dozen asylum seekers here and there. Talks need to be about very substantial numbers if the notions of solidarity and responsibility sharing are to have any meaning.
Over the years, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have been used as pawns to achieve the domestic or geopolitical goals of all the states involved. This is antithetical to the idea of human rights and to the values that unite us. The response I see today threatens to upend the entire system of protection that Europe has painstakingly built up over many decades. It is not yet too late to reverse the current course of action and preserve dignity and humanity.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for calm and an easing of tensions on Turkey’s borders with the European Union in light of the present increased movements of people there – including refugees and asylum-seekers.
UNHCR is monitoring developments in Turkey and in Greece and is offering its support. As in all such situations it is important that the authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people.
All States have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner.
Neither the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees nor EU refugee law provides any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications. Article 78(3) of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) has been evoked by the Greek Government in this regard, however this provision allows for provisional measures to be adopted by the Council, on a proposal from the Commission and in consultation with the European Parliament, in the event that one or more Member States are confronted by an emergency situation characterised by a sudden inflow of third country nationals while it cannot suspend the internationally recognized right to seek asylum and the principle of non-refoulement that are also emphasized in EU law. Persons entering irregularly on the territory of a State should also not be punished if they present themselves without delay to the authorities to seek asylum.
On the borders between Turkey and the EU, UNHCR is working with national partners, Turkish Red Crescent, IOM and Unicef, assessing the situation and providing humanitarian assistance where needed. Groups there have included Syrians, Afghans, Iranians, Sudanese and other nationalities – including women, children and families, arriving in precarious conditions.
In Greece, UNHCR teams reported the arrival of some 1,200 people on 1 March and 2 March morning on the East Aegean islands (Lesvos, Chios, Samos) – higher than the recent daily rate. UNHCR has replenished stocks of dry food and blankets to support new arrivals and has confirmed that other actors have additional items in stock.
Greece, and other States on the EU external border, should not be left alone. Continued European resources, capacity and solidarity are needed to boost Greece’s response.
At the same time, international support to Turkey, which already hosts millions of refugees, as well as other countries neighbouring Syria, must be sustained and stepped up.
While the situation on the Turkey’s western borders and Greece and movement of several thousand people is of concern, the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the northwest Syria and massive humanitarian needs in Idlib for some 950,000 of internally displaced people continues to require urgent action.
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