Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nigerian community in Greece: waiting up to 10 years to obtain refugee status

-More than 30,000 backlog asylum application are waiting to be examined, lots of them Nigerians.

-The main problem they face is the difficulty of renewing the "pink card", the document that certifies them as asylum seekers.

-Since the start of the operation Xenios Zeus in August of 2012, tens of thousands of people presumed to be undocumented migrants have been subjected to abusive stops and searches on the streets, and hours-long detention at police stations.

Athens, June 11th 2014. The current situation in Nigeria is everything but easy. Military operations against insurgents continue to force people to flee their homes, with the north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa most affected. Insurgents have also targeted civilians. Thousands of people are running away from their country, looking for a better life in Europe. But what they find here is just difficulties and, in many cases, police abuse. 
On Saturday 7th of June the Nigerian community in Greece had a meeting with a lawyer and a social worker of the Greek Council of Refugees, and representatives of the Greek Forum of Refugees in order to have some legal and practical advice about the asylum process

The main complain of the Nigerian community has to do with the "pink card". This is a document you get when you ask for refugee status, and certifies that you have applied for asylum. More than 30.000 asylum application including Nigerians’ are currently waiting to be examined, the mainly part of the process of obtaining refugee status. Some of them have been waiting up to 10 years just for having this interview, and meanwhile they have to continue renovating the "pink card" every six months. But this is not easy for them. They report trammels, abuse and misbehavior from the police. Some of them talked about police taking their "pink cards" away, for no reason, or just destroying them. As a result asylum seekers can be undocumented for long periods, with some serious consequences like losing their jobs.

Being undocumented also make them perfect victims of police operations like Xenios Zeus, an epic-scale sweep operation aiming at cracking down on irregular immigration in Athens. Xenios Zeus stigmatizes migrants and asylum seekers, and is a dangerous distraction from the real policing challenges the country faces.

Also Nigerian community face numberless troubles for having access to education or getting married, rights that the Greek State is supposed to ensure for them. 

Yonous Muhammadi, the President of Greek Forum of Refugees, encouraged the Nigerian community to take a more active role in fighting these injustices and informing the authorities about what is happeting, together with the other refugees communities in Greece.

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