Greece is a main entry point and passage way for African, Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants seeking a better life in Europe. The European Union has been pressuring the Greek government to slow the influx of people. Two years ago, officials began an operation to detain migrants and asylum-seekers. Some of those people say they are targeted, yet have proof of permission to work and live in Greece.
In a small shop in Athens, a group of African immigrants has met to talk. They speak softly and quietly. They worry others might hear them.
Chuks Ibe is the owner of the shop. He tells VOA he has been in Greece for 20 years without official papers. He says most of his store’s customers are Africans. The business owner says Greeks rarely visit his store.
Chuks Ibe is the father of five children. He says all were born in Greece. But, he says the Greek government does not recognize them as Greek citizens. He says the government treats them as foreigners. It is a problem, he says.
Daniel Ikechukwu has lived in Greece for 13 years. Every six months, he has to pay 600 euros to extend his permit to live and work in the country.
But Mr. Ikechukwu says he cannot work now. He says the last time he went to extend his permit he was told to return after six months.
"The woman I meet there, I tell her, 'See how many years I have stayed in Greece with this paper. And I paid everything, I paid my tax. I was working in the airport. I’m a good worker. You people stopped me from work. My company paying 350, 250 depending on what I make in a month.'"
Another immigrant says he has documents that enable him to live in Greece, but police stop him often.
"Imagine a policeman can ask you in this country to lie down on the floor. Even if you show him the paper, he will still ask you to go down on the floor, just for nothing."
Human Rights Watch says Greek police have detained tens of thousands of people suspected of being in the country without permission. The group released a report on the issue last year. It says people who appear to be foreigners are stopped often. It says sometimes police search their belongings and insult them. The report says there are even examples of physical abuse.
Human Rights Watch also says even those with legal documents are stopped and taken to police stations. It says they can be held for hours while officials verify their documents.
The group also noted that Greek officials have a right to control immigration and a duty to improve security on the streets. But Human Rights Watch says they should also regulate police powers.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Correspondent Mohammed Yusuf reported this story from Athens. Caty Weaver wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this Story
influx – n. the arrival of a large number of people
customer – n. someone who buys goods or services from a business
desperate – adj. very sad and upset because of having little or no hope: feeling or showing despair
verify – v. to prove, show, find out, or state that (something) is true or correct
regulate – v. to set or adjust the amount, degree, or rate of (something): to control
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