Greece: The Human Rights Committee addresses migration, the rise of xenophobia and gender equality in a context of economic slump

Overview of 115th Session - Greece

The Human Rights Committee reviewed the 2nd periodic report of Greece on October 19th and October 20th, 2015. The Committee raised a number of concerns regarding Greece's implementation of the ICCPR. The difficult economic situation facing Greece was recognised. Currently, the youth unemployment rate is 47.5%, Gross Domestic Product has declined by 25% in recent years and austerity measures put in place have contributed to the increase in xenophobia in the country. However, the Committee emphasized economic challenges could not be used as a pretext to compromise on implementation of the ICCPR.

Greece is struggling to deal with the highest migrant arrival rates ever recorded in recent months 500,000 arrivals have been registered since January 2015. Despite the challenges Greece has faced with the increasing numbers of asylum seekers and migrants, the Committee highlighted progress made in asylum services and the integration of minorities. In particular, the Committee noted improvements in the protection and treatment of unaccompanied minors who can now benefit from health care and psychological support.

Regarding the integration of minorities, some progress has been made. There has been a focus on the Roma community. Access to housing, health care, and education have been facilitated. In addition, the "Education Roma Children" (2008) initiative is enabling Roma children to access proper education throughout the country. However, important challenges remain such as the issue of housing for the Roma community. The Committee emphasised that sustainable solutions for relocation are needed.

The Greek delegation stressed that the State was constantly fighting against xenophobia and racism. Parliament ratified a new act to fight against racism. Some members of the "Golden Dawn" far-right political party were tried and convicted of hate speech. The Committee expressed serious concerns about racist and xenophobic attacks against minorities such as LGBT individuals, migrants and the Roma community. Despite efforts made by the State, a climate of impunity continues to prevail.

Equal treatment of women and men has been highlighted as a national priority. The equal remuneration principle is stated in article 4 of the Constitution. Nevertheless, some gaps remain: statistics from Eurostat in 2010 show a wage gap of 15% between men and women. In addition, Committee members raised the issue of participation of women in political life. In response, the Delegation referred to a new action plan for gender equality, which aims to ensure gender balance in political life and to increase women's participation in all aspects of society. Greece currently has a long way to go to reach the goal of gender parity as less than 15% of Government members are women. At the Parliament, the percentage of women representatives is below 20%.

The issue of gender-based violence was also raised. This problem is often considered as a family issue and is sometimes hidden to the rest of the society. In 2014, more than 300 cases of domestic violence were reported. To fight the problem of domestic violence, the State launched an awareness raising campaign to educate the general public that domestic violence constitutes a human rights violation.

The Concluding Observations for which the State should provide information on the implementation within one year, concern:

  • Excessive use of force and ill-treatment
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Expulsion of asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants

The next (3rd) periodic report of Greece should be submitted by 6 November 2020.

Interview with Panayote Dimitras from the Greek Helsinki Monitor, here

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