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UN calls for independent monitoring of govt’s handling of migration situation23 June 2022

Greece needs to establish an independent monitoring and oversight mechanism to oversee the overall handling of the migration situation by the government, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said on Wednesday.

Speaking in Athens at the end of a 10-day visit at the invitation of the government, Mary Lawlor said that while the “National Transparency Authority has made some welcome contributions in the fight against corruption, it is not equipped to conduct independent investigations into the management of migration flows.”

The UN official also called on the government to ensure that the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is implemented.

It should also consider making the declaration part of national law “in order to clarify the misconceptions currently prevailing about the role and rights of human rights defenders.”

Lawlor also said that Greece should bring the law on human smuggling fully in compliance with UN protocols as the “broad and vague” existing legislation “gives the opportunity for its misuse in criminal proceedings and in some cases has led to the prosecution of human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights work.”

According to ekathimerini, the government should also “publicly acknowledge and commend the legitimate work of human rights defenders and the innumerable contributions they have made to the promotion and protection of human rights,” she said.

“Creating an enabling environment, free from intimidation, restrictive administrative and criminal laws is key for a thriving civil society,” Lawlor said.

The UN official, who was on her first visit to Greece in an official capacity, also made a call for the process of registering civil society organizations that support asylum seekers, migrant and refugees be made more transparent.

Her itinerary included meetings with government officials, coast guard and police, judge and lawyers, members of civil society, including international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs), individual human rights defenders and journalists. She also met with representatives of international organizations and UN agencies and programmes and travelled to Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Thessaloniki where she visited reception and identification centres for migrants.

Lalor acknowledged “the efforts made by the government to improve the situation of those seeking asylum on its territory.”

She added that she was “disheartened to hear from a number of interlocutors about negative perceptions concerning the role and work of civil society in the country.”

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