Greece Human Rights - History

Greece Human Rights - History

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During the year the flow of migrant and asylum seekers to the country from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia continued, albeit in much lower numbers than in the two previous years. The March 2016 EU-Turkey Statement, combined with the closing of the northern borders, turned the country into a host country for migrant and refugee populations. As of October 31, UNHCR figures indicated 46,462 migrants and asylum seekers were residing throughout the country.

Refoulement: The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

On May 24, a group of eight Turkish nationals arrived through the land border with Turkey (Evros River crossing) and expressed the wish to apply for asylum. They included three minors and journalist Murat Capan, who had been sentenced in absentia by a Turkish court to 22.5 years of prison for allegedly attempting to overthrow that country’s government. According to the NGO Hellenic League for Human Rights, they were subsequently placed in a van that reportedly transferred them to a group of five armed men with masks, who silently led them back to Turkey across the river. Turkish authorities took Capan into custody, and he was sent to a prison in Turkey.

On June 23, media reported that the NGO Network for the Social Support of Refugees and Migrants denounced police officers and hooded men in Didymoticho, in northern Greece, for forcibly returning 10 Syrian nationals to Turkey, despite the fact that they had expressed the wish to apply for asylum in Greece. One member from the group reported that police had arrested them all and led them to a detention facility with 200 others, including families with children. The same witness alleged that some hours later, the 10 Syrians were ordered to enter a van that took them to a river, where armed men in uniforms forced them to get on dinghies that eventually returned them to Turkey.

The Hellenic League for Human Rights, UNHCR, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks requested a thorough investigation of reported refoulement incidents. On July 30, the minister for migration policy denied that government authorities were practicing unlawful returns.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees through an autonomous asylum service under the authority of the Ministry of Migration Policy. The law requires that applicants have access to certified interpreters and allows applicants to appeal negative decisions and remain in the country while their appeals are examined.

Authorities worked with NGOs, international organizations, and the European Asylum Support Office to inform undocumented migrants awaiting registration in the asylum system, as well as non-EU foreign national detainees, about their rights and asylum procedures and IOM-assisted voluntary return programs. UNHCR also assisted the government with briefings and distribution of multilingual leaflets and information packages on asylum and asylum procedures.

On January 26 the Supreme Court ruled against the extradition of eight Turkish Air Force officers who filed asylum applications in the country. They were accused of plotting a coup against the Turkish government. According to press reports, the court determined that the eight officers were unlikely to face a fair trial if returned to Turkey and determined that they could be subjected to torture. Turkey subsequently submitted a second extradition request to Greece, which was also denied in May on the same basis as the first ruling. As of November 30, the asylum cases were still under consideration by an appeals committee.

Human rights activists and NGOs working with asylum applicants reported long waits for asylum appeals decisions due to backlogs in the appeals process. For most of the year, appeals judges were awaiting a ruling from the Council of State on whether Turkey was considered a safe third country for rejected applicants, particularly Syrians, to which to return. On September 22, media and human rights activists reported that the Council of State plenary rejected the appeal by two Syrian asylum seekers who claimed that Turkey was not a country of safe return. The council noted that Turkey had ratified the Geneva Convention and agreed on a joint action plan with the European Union to support Syrian nationals in need of international protection. The council further noted that the two Syrians who filed the appeal had relatives in Turkey. The council rejected the applicants’ claims that their lives and freedom would be at risk in Turkey and that Greece would violate the European Convention on Human Rights by returning them to Turkey. Several experts expressed the view that this decision would affect numerous other similar cases.

Asylum applicants from countries other than Syria complained that their asylum applications were delayed while Syrians were prioritized. Many asylum seekers also complained about difficulty scheduling an appointment and then in connecting with the Asylum Service system via Skype. International organizations, NGOs, and human rights activists reiterated the previous year’s concerns about problems related to the asylum system, including the lack of adequate staff and facilities; difficulties in registering claims; questions about the expedited nature and thoroughness of the examination of initial claims and appeals; insufficient welfare, integration, counseling, legal, and interpretation services; discrimination; and detention under often inadequate and overcrowded conditions inside the Reception and Identification Centers (RICs).

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country adheres to the Dublin III Regulation, according to which authorities may return asylum seekers to the EU member state of first entry for adjudication of asylum claims.

In March 2016 the EU and Turkey issued a joint statement on migration. According to the agreement, every undocumented migrant crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands would be confined to a RIC for up to 25 days, during which time the individual would have the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece. Individuals opting not to apply for asylum or whose applications were deemed unfounded or inadmissible would be returned to Turkey under the terms of the agreement.

With the help of NGOs, some applicants whose applications were rejected challenged the legal validity of these decisions before the Council of State, arguing that Turkey was not a safe third country to which to return. A September 22 ruling rejected their arguments and claims.

Freedom of Movement: Undocumented migrants arriving at Greek islands after March 2016 were subjected to special border reception and registration procedures, in closed facilities for up to 25 days. After this 25-day period, undocumented migrants remaining in those facilities were generally allowed to enter and exit. Undocumented migrants were prohibited from travelling to the mainland unless they filed asylum applications deemed admissible by the asylum authorities. Once asylum applications were filed, found admissible, and in process, migrants could move to an accommodation center on the mainland. There was no restriction on movement in or out of the accommodation centers. The National Commission for Human Rights, and NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Doctors without Borders, and the Greek Council for Refugees, expressed concerns, objecting to detention of incoming migrants and asylum seekers under the EU-Turkey statement. On October 24, 19 local and international human rights organizations sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Tsipras calling for an end to the “containment policy” of keeping asylum seekers on the islands and to the deterioration of conditions in the five RICs operating in the north Aegean islands.

Unaccompanied minors were also placed under “protective custody” due to lack of space in specialized shelters. In a July 31 press statement, the ombudsman reported that from the beginning of June until July 31, 77 unaccompanied minors were placed under protective custody in Thessaloniki, with only 13 of them being eventually processed to proper facilities designated for their needs. Inquiries of the ombudsman, conducted in detention and reception facilities on July 17-19, showed that a considerable number of unaccompanied minors remained in police stations under protective custody for weeks, in the absence of adequate shelters for all.

Employment: Recognized refugees and holders of asylum-seeker papers were entitled to work, although this right was not widely publicized or consistently enforced.

Access to Basic Services: Legally, services such as shelter, health care, education, and judicial procedures were granted to asylum seekers in possession of a valid residency permit; however, staffing gaps and overcrowded migrant sites limited certain asylum seekers’ access to these services. Legal assistance was limited and was usually offered via volunteer lawyers and bar associations, NGOs, and international organizations.

There was improvement in housing conditions at reception facilities on the mainland. RICs on the islands faced problems, mostly due to lack of space, which resulted in congestion and in the use of camping tents to supplement the larger, air-conditioned, and sturdier prefabricated houses. Living conditions were more difficult during the winter and summer. In January three deaths of asylum seekers were recorded at the RIC in Moria, Lesvos, allegedly related to inadequate heating. According to a January 18 report by HRW, accommodation for individuals with disabilities at most sites was inadequate. Connections to sewage systems and electric power were at times nonexistent or problematic.

Asylum seekers were hosted in reception camps and facilities operating under state management or supervision, or administered by UNHCR, IOM, or NGOs. Vulnerable asylum-seeking individuals and relocation candidates were also eligible to be sheltered in apartments via a housing scheme implemented by UNHCR, in cooperation with some local municipalities and NGOs. On October 31, UNHCR reported that more than 36,000 asylum seekers had been accommodated in apartments, hotels, and other facilities across the country since the launch of UNHCR’s Accommodation and Services Scheme in 2016. Recognized refugees were generally not eligible for this program; however, starting on August 1, the minister of migration policy announced a program to allow 1,014 recently recognized refugees participating in UNHCR’s housing program to request six-month extensions in the program. By law refugees are eligible for public housing, but all housing programs were suspended due to government austerity measures.

The Ministry of Migration Policy with its Reception and Identification Service, assisted by the Ministry of Defense and/or some municipalities, managed a number of facilities, where new arrivals were detained without permission to leave the center for up to 25 days. Administrative and facility management staff working in these centers usually consisted of some permanent state employees, often detached from their regular services, eight-month contracted personnel under a government-run employment scheme, as well as NGO and international organization-contracted staff. Media reported cases, especially in the islands, in which the assigned staff was inadequate or improperly trained.

All residents in the country are entitled to emergency medical care regardless of legal status. Medical volunteers, medical doctors contracted by NGOs, and the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as army medical doctors, provided basic health care in camps, with emergencies or more complex cases referred to local hospitals. A number of NGOs noted inadequate psychological care for asylum seekers and refugees, especially on the islands. Some individuals suffering from chronic diseases continued to face problems related to obtaining proper medication. There were reports of inadequate health care for pregnant women. Hospitals were often overburdened and understaffed, creating gaps in the provision of services for asylum seekers and local residents.

Following their arrival, migrants and refugees were registered by police and the Reception and Identification Service. Authorities recorded the asylum-seeker’s personal data, took fingerprints, and verified his or her identity. International organizations and NGOs provided basic information on the asylum process, assisted voluntary return and international protection, and conducted medical screenings to identify vulnerable individuals. Doctors without Borders criticized the authorities for failing to identify asylum seekers with nonvisible vulnerabilities, such as victims of torture. Doctors without Borders and other NGOs also criticized gaps in the vulnerability assessment, which they alleged exacerbated health and mental health problems and deprived some individuals eligible for transfer to the mainland of their chance to leave the congested living conditions in the RICs. Segregation of vulnerable groups was not always feasible at some sites. Credible observers reported several violent incidents involving asylum seekers, including fistfights, stabbings, and gender-based violence (see section 2.d., Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons).

Durable Solutions: The government participated in the 2015 EU relocation scheme, and, as of September 27, the European Commission reported the relocation of 20,323 asylum seekers from Greece to other EU member states. Asylum seekers were eligible for relocation under this scheme only if they arrived before the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement on March 20, 2016, and if they held nationality from a country that would receive international protection recognition in 75 percent of member states. The IOM offered voluntary returns to rejected asylum seekers or for those who renounced their asylum claims. The government reported approximately 5,000 voluntary returns by November 22. The government cooperated with international organizations and NGOs to facilitate enrollment of all migrant children on the mainland in schools.

Temporary Protection: As of June 30, the government provided temporary protection to approximately 305 individuals who may not qualify as refugees.

Greece - Civil liberties index

Source: Freedom House. 1 - the highest degree of freedom.

What is Greece civil liberties index?

Date Value Change, %
2018 2.00 0.00%
2017 2.00 0.00%
2016 2.00 0.00%
2015 2.00 0.00%
2014 2.00 0.00%
2013 2.00 0.00%
2012 2.00 0.00%
2011 2.00 0.00%
2010 2.00 0.00%
2009 2.00 0.00%
2008 2.00 0.00%
2007 2.00

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Two migrant men and four children inside a tent at a makeshift camp next to the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 18, 2018.

© 2018 Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters


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Although Greece continued to host large number of asylum seekers, it failed to protect their rights. Overall numbers of arrivals increased compared to the same period in 2017. Deficiencies in the reception and asylum system escalated with severe overcrowding, unsanitary, unhygienic conditions, and lack of sufficient specialized care, including medical care, trauma counseling, and psychosocial support. Physical and gender-based violence were common in asylum camps, and NGOs reported deteriorating mental health conditions among asylum seekers. Most unaccompanied children continued to be placed in camps with adults, in so-called protective police custody or detention or risked homelessness, with authorities failing to resolve a shortage of juvenile shelters or foster care.

Greece’s EU-backed policy of confining asylum seekers who arrived by sea to the Aegean islands trapped thousands in these conditions.

While the government transferred 18,000 asylum seekers from islands to mainland Greece following a concerted NGO campaign in November, it refused to implement a binding high court ruling to end the confinement policy for new arrivals, and instead adopted a new law in May to continue it. On Lesbos, a regional authority inspection in September concluded that the Moria camp, the largest of its kind, presented a danger to public health and the environment, and called on the government to address acute shortcomings or close the camp.

Some migrants and asylum seekers trying to cross the land border from Turkey into northeastern Evros region reported being summarily returned to Turkey during the year, sometimes violently. Greece did not address reception needs of newly arriving asylum seekers in the region, despite an increase in arrivals starting in April. As a result, women and girls were housed with unrelated men in sites for reception or detention of asylum seekers and lacked access to essential services.

Less than 15 percent of asylum-seeking children had access to education on the islands, and only one in two on the mainland were enrolled in public schools.

Far-right groups continued to campaign against asylum seekers on the islands, and there were media reports of attacks across the country on persons perceived to be migrants or Muslims. Police statistics for hate crimes for 2017 released in March showed a marked increase compared to the previous year.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Greece in April, and issued a preliminary report expressing concerns about inhuman and degrading treatment in psychiatric establishments and migrant detention centers.

Human Rights in Greece

George Andreopoulos, a professor of political studies at the City University of New York (CUNY) and founding director of the Center for International Human Rights based at John Jay College, will give a talk at UC Santa Barbara on Friday, October 23.

Andreopoulos’s lecture, “Human Rights in Greece: Challenges and Prospects,” will begin at 1 p.m. in the McCune Conference Room, 6020 Humanities and Social Sciences Building.

Free and open to the public, the talk is presented by the campus’s Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies. It is a program of the center’s Interdisciplinary Research Hub on Global Governance and Human Rights.

“We are very pleased to be able to welcome Professor Andreopoulos, a noted scholar on human rights, to the Orfalea Center to discuss human rights with us,” said Michael Stohl, a professor of communication and the center’s director. “He has an intimate knowledge of the human rights situation in Greece and the scholarly research background to put that situation in historical and political context.”

An expert in the areas of international human rights and global governance, Andreopoulos studied history, law and international relations at the University of Chicago and at Cambridge University. Before joining the CUNY faculty, he taught at Yale University, where he was the founding associate director of the Orville Schell Center for International Human Rights.

His current research project, supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, is titled “Policing Across the Borders: The Role of Law Enforcement in Global Governance.”

Over the course of his career, Andreopoulos has participated in several human rights missions, most recently in Sierra Leone, to study and prepare recommendations on accountability mechanisms in that country. He has served as president of the human rights section of the American Political Science Association, as well as chair of the section’s book award committee.

Andreopoulos is the author of numerous books and articles, including the forthcoming edited volume “Policing Across Borders: Law Enforcement Networks and the Challenges of Crime Control” (Springer), which grew out of a four-year research project carried out in collaboration with the Hellenic Center for Security Studies, an organization established in Greece by the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection as a think tank on security issues.

Also forthcoming is a special issue of the journal Criminal Justice Ethics, of which Andreopoulos is both the guest co-editor and a contributor. The theme of the issue is private military and security companies and the quest for accountability.


In June, the judge in charge of investigating the attack against trade unionist Konstantina Kuneva concluded the investigation, having failed to identify the perpetrators. Concerns were expressed by her lawyers over the quality and thoroughness of the pre-trial investigation. In November, the Council of Misdemeanours in Athens ordered the continuation of the investigation into the case.

Prison conditions

Reports were received of inhuman and degrading conditions of detention in prisons, including overcrowding, inadequate facilities and lack of access to adequate medical care. Women prisoners reported that they continued to be subjected to the practice of internal examinations. In December, legislative amendments were adopted to deal with prison overcrowding and the improvement of prison conditions.

Conscientious objectors to military service

The current law on conscientious objection was still not in line with European and international standards. Conscientious objectors continued to face discrimination and even prosecution.

On 31 March, conscientious objector Lazaros Petromelidis was given a suspended sentence of 18 months' imprisonment on two charges of insubordination by the Athens Military Court of Appeal. In 2008, the Court of First Instance had sentenced him to three years' imprisonment on the same charges.

Freedom of expression

A report in February by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns about the over-restrictive practices of Greek courts in failing to register certain minority associations, and ordering the dissolution of the Xanthi Turkish Union. Similar concerns were expressed by the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues. Despite these, and the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in 2008, the Supreme Court of Greece upheld the refusal of the Court of Appeal to register the association "House of Macedonian Civilization" in June.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

In March, several people were injured in a homophobic attack on a bar in Athens. It was reported that police and ambulances did not respond to the incident, despite many calls.

Trafficking in human beings

Amid concerns that the government had taken insufficient action to identify victims of trafficking, draft guidelines proposed by a coalition of NGOs, including Amnesty International, were still not adopted. Lack of state funding led to the closure of some shelters for victims of trafficking.

Greece: A History of Migration

Countries around the globe have communities that bear witness to the waves of outward migration that once characterized Greece. Over the past 15 years, however, Greece has become a receiver of migrants and a permanent immigrant destination. Most of these new immigrants hail from Central and Eastern Europe, and despite two regularization programs, a good number of them still reside in Greece without authorization. People from Asia (particularly Iraq, Pakistan, and India) have recently been rapidly increasing their share of the total number of immigrants arriving illegally.

As in the past, a complex set of forces are pushing and pulling migration to and from Greece. Today, the government is poised to implement an integration action plan aimed at harnessing these forces to the country's advantage. That process, however, has yet to begin, and considerable public anxiety and political friction is expected to precede the harvest of hoped-for economic, cultural, and political benefits.

Greek History: Waves of Emigration

Two important waves of mass emigration took place after the formation of the modern Greek state in the early 1830s, one from the late 19th to the early 20th century, and another following World War II.

The first wave of emigration was spurred by the economic crisis of 1893 that followed the rapid fall in the price of currants - the major export product of the country – in the international markets. In the period 1890-1914, almost a sixth of the population of Greece emigrated, mostly to the United States and Egypt. This emigration was, in a sense, encouraged by Greek authorities, who saw remittances as helping to improve the balance of payments of the Greek economy. The lasting effect on Greece's national consciousness was the expansion of the notion of "Hellenism" and "Hellenic diaspora" to the "New World."

Following World War II, the countries of Southern Europe, Greece among them, were the main contributors to migration to the industrialized nations of Northern Europe. However, the oil crises of 1973 and 1980 caused economic uncertainty and a sharp fall in the demand for labor, which in turn led northern states to introduce restrictive immigration policies. As these countries became less welcoming to their former invitees, return migration to Greece soon followed.

More than one million Greeks migrated in this second wave, which mainly fell between 1950 and 1974. Most emigrated to Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Economic and political reasons often motivated their move, both connected with the consequences of a 1946-1949 civil war and the 1967-1974 period of military junta rule that followed. Official statistics show that in the period 1955-1973 Germany absorbed 603,300 Greek migrants, Australia 170,700, the U.S. 124,000, and Canada 80,200. The majority of these emigrants came from rural areas, and they supplied both the national and international labor markets.

Following the oil crisis of 1973 and the adoption of restrictive immigration policies by the European countries, these immigration flows were severely reduced and return migration increased. Other factors contributing to these changes included integration difficulties in the receiving countries, the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974, and the new economic prospects developed following the 1981 entry of the country into the European Economic Community (EEC). Between 1974 and 1985, almost half of the emigrants of the post-war period had returned to Greece.

Trading Places: Immigration Replaces Emigration

Declining emigration and return migration created a positive migration balance in the 1970s. Immigration grew at the beginning of the 1980s when a small number of Asians, Africans, and Poles arrived and found work in construction, agriculture, and domestic services. Nevertheless, immigration was still limited in size. In 1986, legal and unauthorized immigrants totaled approximately 90,000. One third of them were from European Union countries. The 1991 Census registered 167,000 "foreigners" in a total population of 10,259,900.

The collapse of the Central and Eastern European regimes in 1989 transformed immigration to Greece into a massive, uncontrollable phenomenon. As a result, although Greece was at that time still one of the less-developed EU states, in the 1990s it received the highest percentage of immigrants in relation to its labor force.

Many factors explain the transformation of Greece into a receiving country. These include the geographic location, which positions Greece as the eastern "gate" of the EU, with extensive coastlines and easily crossed borders. Though the situation at the country's northern borders has greatly improved since the formation of a special border control guard in 1998, geographic access remains a central factor in patterns of migration to Greece.

Also key have been the rapid economic changes that narrowed the economic and social distance from the Northern European countries following the integration of Greece into the EU in 1981. In step with economic development, the improved living standards and higher levels of education attained by young people have led most Greeks to reject low-status and low-income jobs. Meanwhile, both the large size of the informal, family-based economy, and the seasonal nature of industries like tourism, agriculture, and construction, have created demand for a flexible labor pool, independent of trade union practices and legislation.

Greece's first national figures were calculated following a regularization program in 1997, based on information collected from 371,641 applicants for Greece's "white card" residence permit. Analysts believe that the applicants amounted to approximately half of the immigrants living in the country at that time.

The data indicate that, of those registered under the program, over 70 percent were unskilled males with higher than primary-school education. They were concentrated in the region of Athens, and more than two-thirds had Albanian nationality. These migrants were employed mostly in agriculture, construction, tourism, and domestic services—sectors that operate with ease in the informal economy, or extend there.

Data from a second regularization program, initiated in 2001, has not yet become available.

The only other satisfactory data on the immigrant population was collected by the National Statistical Service during the 2001 Census, in which immigrants were registered as a "foreign population in Greece." Despite their shortcomings, these census data on immigrants provide the most comprehensive, updated picture of the population.

It is worth noting that "immigrants" of ethnic Greek origin—either returning emigrants or their descendents—were also registered by the 2001 Census, but the data have not been published yet. A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2003 indicated that over 150,000 immigrants of Greek origin had arrived in the country from the former Soviet Union since 1977 one-third of them had been naturalized.

Greece's Migrants in Context

According to the latest census, the population of Greece increased from 10,259,900 in 1991 to 10,964,020 in 2001. This increase can be almost exclusively attributed to immigration in the past decade. The census showed that the "foreign population" living in Greece in 2001 was 762,191 (47,000 of them EU citizens), making up approximately seven percent of the total population of the total population. Of these migrants, 2,927 were registered as refugees.

It is estimated that the real number of immigrants is higher many analysts believe that migrants make up as much as 10 percent of the population. They cite, among other factors, the fact that the 2001 Census was carried out before the implementation of Act 2910/2001, otherwise referred to as Greece's second regularization program. This legislation dealt with "the admission and residence of foreigners in Greece and the acqusition of Greek nationality through naturalization." Because of their illegal status, a good number of immigrants escaped census registration, while still others entered the country specifically to take advantage of regularization.

Immigration is the cause of population increase and demographic renewal in Greece in the period between the 1991 and 2001 censuses. The average number of children per woman in Greece has fallen to 1.3, against a European average of 1.5, and well below the average of 2.1 required for the reproduction of a population. Of the immigrant population, on the other hand, 16.7 percent are in the 0-14 age bracket, 79.8 percent in the 15-64 age bracket, and only 3.5 percent in the over-65 age bracket. The respective percentages for the national population are 15.2 percent, 67.7 percent, and 17 percent, demonstrating the key role immigrants of child-bearing age play in the population as a whole. Albanians, who are mainly married couples raising families, are the youngest population overall. In contrast, immigrants from the United States, Canada, and Australia have the highest percentages of people in the over-65 age bracket, because they are mainly pensioner returnees of Greek origin.

Males and females make up 54.5 percent and 45.5 percent of the total, respectively. However, gender composition varies widely among the various nationalities. Albanians and Romanians show the most balanced picture, because the percentages of males fluctuate just above the average with 59 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Other nationalities show sharp asymmetries, where either males or females far outnumber the other gender. For example, females make up almost two thirds of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Bulgaria, as well as approximately four-fifths of the Filipinos. On the other end, immigrants from Pakistan and India are almost exclusively male.

Fifty-four percent of the immigrants enter the country for work. Family reunification (13 percent) and repatriation (7 percent) are other main reasons they give for their arrival. Albanians show the highest level of participation in family reunification and immigrants from United States, Canada, and Australia in repatriation—a confirmation of the Greek origin of these immigrants. An unspecified "other reason" concerns 21.5 percent of the total, while "asylum" and "refugee" status seekers account for 1.6 percent.

National Origins of Recent Migrants

In the 1990 to 2001 period of mass immigration to Greece, immigrants arrived in two waves. The first was that of the early 1990s, in which Albanians dominated. The second arrived after 1995, and involved much greater participation of immigrants from other Balkan states, the former Soviet Union, Pakistan, and India. The majority of Albanians arrived in the first wave however, the collapse of enormous "pyramid schemes" in Albania's banking sector in 1996 also spurred significant migration.

According to the 2001 Census, the largest group of immigrants draws its origins from the Balkan countries of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania. People from these countries make up almost two-thirds of the total "foreign population." Migrants from the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldava, etc.) comprise 10 percent of the total the EU countries approximately six percent. A heterogeneous group of people from places such as the United States, Canada, and Australia (mostly first or second-generation Greek emigrants returning home), also account for around six percent. Finally, a residual group from a wide variety of countries makes up 13 percent. None of the individual countries included in this last group exceeds two percent of the total "foreign population."

Of the main countries of origin, Albania accounts for 57.5 percent of the total, with second-place Bulgaria far outdistanced with 4.6 percent. Common borders with both of these countries have facilitated crossing over to Greece, leading to a cyclical form of immigration.

Education and Workforce Participation

Nearly one-half of the migrants have secondary education (including technical-skill schools) and one-third have either completed or acquired primary school education. Almost one-tenth have higher education. A qualitative analysis of the educational levels of the various nationalities shows that, comparatively speaking, Albanians have the lowest level of education and former Soviet citizens the highest. In terms of higher education, females have the largest share of the total, while males appear to predominate in all other educational categories.

Immigrants are almost exclusively (90 percent) engaged in wage work and, to a much lesser extent, are self-employed (6.5 percent). Most of the jobs are non-skilled, manual work well below the immigrants' level of education and qualifications.

According to the 2001 census data, the majority of immigrants (54 percent) enter Greece for work. Bulgarians and Romanians are the nationalities that most often cite employment as the most important reason for immigrating to Greece. Immigrants are mainly employed in construction (24.5 percent), "other services," meaning mostly domestic work (20.5 percent), agriculture (17.5 percent), and "commerce, hotels, and restaurants" (15.7 percent).

Because of the size of their presence in the total immigrant population, Albanians dominate in all sectors. Within the Albanian nationality, however, construction absorbs the highest percentage (32 percent), followed by agriculture (21 percent), and then "other services" (15 percent). In contrast, Bulgarians are mostly occupied in agriculture (33 percent) and "other services" (29 percent).

In the construction sector, immigrants currently provide a quarter of the wage labor, and in agriculture, a fifth of the total labor expended (almost 90 percent of the non-family wage labor). Immigrants play an important structural role in both sectors.

"Other services" —a sector identified with domestic services where female migrant labor predominates—mostly employs immigrants from the former Soviet Union (37 percent) and Bulgaria. At the same time, employment in domestic services allows larger numbers of Greek women to join the labor market.

Immigration Policy Developments

The Greek government has been unprepared to receive the large numbers of immigrants of the last decade, and has hesitated to introduce the necessary legal and institutional changes for the regularization and integration of this population.

The government, however, was forced to adopt a regularization procedure under often contradictory pressures. From one side, in an environment of growing xenophobia, the public demanded the registration of immigrants. From another, human rights and labor organizations sought more humanitarian and less exploitative treatment.

The first regularization program to handle recent illegal migration was introduced as late as 1997 with Presidential Decrees 358/1997 and 359/1997. These aimed at the implementation of Act 1975/1991 on the "entry-exit, residence, employment, expulsion of foreigners and procedure for the recognition of the status of refugee for foreigners."

The twin decrees gave unregistered immigrants the opportunity to acquire a "white card" temporary residence permit. This, in turn, gave them time to submit the complementary documents necessary to acquire a "green card" work and residence permit. To qualify for the "white card" they had to have lived in Greece for at least one year, and submit documents testifying to their good health, a clean court and police record, and proof of having paid national social insurance contributions for a total of 40 working days in 1998. A total of 150 days of social insurance contributions were required for the acquisition of the green card. No registration fees were charged at this stage.

By the end of the first regularization, 371,641 immigrants had been registered for the white card, but only 212,860 received a green card. It is estimated that less than half of the migrants living in the country were registered during this first regularization program.

In 2001, the goverment passed Act 2910/2001 on "the admission and residence of foreigners in Greece and the acquisition of Greek nationality through naturalization." This gave immigrants a second opportunity to legalize their status, provided they could show proof of residence for at least a year before the implementation of the law. Immigrants were given a six-month period to submit all the necessary documents to acquire the work permit, which became the precondition for obtaining a residence permit.

The two regularization methods differed, but the documents required for both were similar. The most important differences were that in 2001 the immigrant had to submit a copy of an official contract with his or her employer for a specific period of time, as well as confirmation that national social insurance contributions had been paid for at least 200 working days (which could also be paid for by the immigrants themselves). In addition, a payment of 147 euros per person over the age of 14 was required. All applicants to the 1997 regularization program whose permits had expired by 2001 were subject to the provisions of the new law.

The 2001 act also set preconditions for future legal migration into the country, giving the Organization of Employment and Labor (OAED) the responsibility to prepare an annual report that would specify labor requirements at the occupational and regional levels in order to define quotas for temporary work permits. These job vacancies would be advertised in the sending countries by Greek embassies, which would also be responsible for receiving the applications for those jobs. To date, however,the government has not begun this procedure.

When the official application deadline for this second regularization program expired in August 2001, it was reported that 351,110 migrants had submitted their documents for the acquisition of a work permit — a precondition for the provision of a residence permit. However, bureaucracy and the lack of the necessary infrastructure created tremendous problems and delays in the processing of the applications. This forced the government to give temporary residence to all applicants until the end of June 2003, recently extended to the end of October 2003. By then, the government expected to have all the applications processed. Once more, however, promises were not fullfilled and thousands of migrants remain "hostages" of a sluggish legal and institutional structure.

The enthusiasm shown by immigrants upon the announcement of the latest act has now vanished. This is as a result of, on the one hand, the weakness of public administration in supporting the implementation of the act and, on the other, the act's "philosophy" of continuous checks and controls that make it difficult to implement. These weaknesses have been identified and raised by many organizations and institutions directly or indirectly involved with the issue. The Greek ombudsman, in a report to the minister of interior, warned as early as 2001 of the implementation problems and asked for amendments that would make it work for the benefit of both immigrants and the Greek public administration.

However, amendments to the act introduced by the government in 2002 did not address the problems connected with the one-year duration of the work and residence permits, the yearly fee for the residence permit for the applicants, and the insurmountable bureaucratic problems. Only recently, the government decided to extend the residence permit to two years starting from January 2004 (Act 3202/2003).

In the meantime, in order to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, many immigrants have had to either hire lawyers to handle their regularization procedure, or lose time and money standing in lines.

To date, the integration of migrants into Greek society appears to have resulted largely from laborious individual/family strategies of the migrants themselves, rather than from the provisions of an institutional framework. This may change as government efforts to systematize integration take hold.

Greece's integration policy was designed and announced by the government in 2002 in its "Action Plan for the Social Integration of Immigrants for the Period 2002-2005." The plan includes measures for the labor market integration and training of immigrants, improved access to the health system, emergency centers for immigrant support, and measures for the improvement of cultural exchanges among the various ethnic communities. However, the implementation of the plan has yet to begin.

Two of the reasons for the non-implementation of the plan appear to include pressure on the state budget to complete the nation's preparations for the Olympic Games, as well as the long, politically sensitive period before the national elections of March 7, 2004.

At this stage, despite the acknowledged importance of migration in Greek economy and society, migration in general and integration in specific do not seem to be high on the government agenda. The expressed anxieties of human rights and migrant organizations about integration and migration policy seem to have done little to shift the debate. Integration may come to the foreground again, however, in connection with social unrest that could follow the foreseen negative prospects of the economy in the post-Olympics period.

Immigrants have contributed significantly to the improved performance of the Greek economy over the past few years, and they have boosted Greece's successful participation in the EU's economic and monetary union. Their structural role in the workforce of the construction and agricultural sectors has been widely acknowledged. Despite a high level of unemployment, which is estimated at nine percent for the country as a whole, there appears to be no serious competition by native Greeks for the kinds of jobs secured by immigrants. On the contrary, immigrants have played a rather complementary economic role.

However, the current high growth rate of the Greek economy—five percent in the EU in 2003—is expected to slow down after the completion of the facilities for the Olympic Games, which have driven huge amounts of activity in construction and other sectors. In addition, the funds allocated to Greece under the European Union's new support framework are expected to shrink following the EU's enlargement in 2004. These economic pressures, along with the uncertainties evident in the legal and institutional framework for the regularization and integration of immigrants, if not dealt with, are expected to lead to social friction and extensive racism and xenophobia in the next few years.

Cavounidis, J. and Hadjaki, L. (2000), Migrant Applicants for the Card of Temporary Residence: Nationality, Gender, and Placement. Athens: National Institute of Labour (in Greek).

Fakiolas, R. (2003), 'Regularising Undocumented Immigrants in Greece: Procedures and Effects', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 29 (3): 535-561.

Fakiolas R. and King R. (1996), 'Emigration,Return, Immigration: A Review and Evaluation of Greece's Experience of International Migration', International Journal of Population Geography, Vol. 2, 171-190.

Kasimis C., Papadopoulos A. G., Zacopoulou E. (2003), 'Migrants in Rural Greece', Sociologia Ruralis, Vol 43, Number 2, pp. 167-184.

King, R. (2000), 'Southern Europe in the Changing Global Map of Migration', in King, R., Lazaridis, G. and Tsardanidis, Ch. (eds) Eldorado or Fortress? Migration in Southern Europe. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1-26.

Lianos, Th. and Papakonstantinou, P. (2003) Modern Migration Toward Greece: Economic Investigation. Athens: KEPE, Studies, No 51 (in Greek).

National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG) (2003), Population Census 2001. Available online.

OECD (2003), Trends in International Migration: Annual Report, SOPEMI.

Ombudsman's Office (2001), Special Report on the Problems of the Application of the Aliens Law 2910/2001, Athens, National Publishing Agency (in Greek).

Sarris A. and Zografakis S. (1999), 'A Computable General Equilibrium Assessment of the Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Greek Economy', Journal of Population Economics, 12: 155-182.

A Short History of Human Rights

The belief that everyone, by virtue of her or his humanity, is entitled to certain human rights is fairly new. Its roots, however, lie in earlier tradition and documents of many cultures it took the catalyst of World War II to propel human rights onto the global stage and into the global conscience.

Throughout much of history, people acquired rights and responsibilities through their membership in a group – a family, indigenous nation, religion, class, community, or state. Most societies have had traditions similar to the "golden rule" of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Hindu Vedas, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, the Bible, the Quran (Koran), and the Analects of Confucius are five of the oldest written sources which address questions of people’s duties, rights, and responsibilities. In addition, the Inca and Aztec codes of conduct and justice and an Iroquois Constitution were Native American sources that existed well before the 18th century. In fact, all societies, whether in oral or written tradition, have had systems of propriety and justice as well as ways of tending to the health and welfare of their members.

Precursors of 20th Century Human Rights Documents

Documents asserting individual rights, such the Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights (1689), the French Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789), and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights (1791) are the written precursors to many of today’s human rights documents. Yet many of these documents, when originally translated into policy, excluded women, people of color, and members of certain social, religious, economic, and political groups. Nevertheless, oppressed people throughout the world have drawn on the principles these documents express to support revolutions that assert the right to self-determination.

Contemporary international human rights law and the establishment of the United Nations (UN) have important historical antecedents. Efforts in the 19th century to prohibit the slave trade and to limit the horrors of war are prime examples. In 1919, countries established the International Labor Organization (ILO) to oversee treaties protecting workers with respect to their rights, including their health and safety. Concern over the protection of certain minority groups was raised by the League of Nations at the end of the First World War. However, this organization for international peace and cooperation, created by the victorious European allies, never achieved its goals. The League floundered because the United States refused to join and because the League failed to prevent Japan’s invasion of China and Manchuria (1931) and Italy’s attack on Ethiopia (1935). It finally died with the onset of the Second World War (1939).

The Birth of the United Nations

The idea of human rights emerged stronger after World War II. The extermination by Nazi Germany of over six million Jews, Sinti and Romani (gypsies), homosexuals, and persons with disabilities horrified the world. Trials were held in Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II, and officials from the defeated countries were punished for committing war crimes, "crimes against peace," and "crimes against humanity."

Governments then committed themselves to establishing the United Nations, with the primary goal of bolstering international peace and preventing conflict. People wanted to ensure that never again would anyone be unjustly denied life, freedom, food, shelter, and nationality. The essence of these emerging human rights principles was captured in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address when he spoke of a world founded on four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear (See Using Human Rights Here & Now). The calls came from across the globe for human rights standards to protect citizens from abuses by their governments, standards against which nations could be held accountable for the treatment of those living within their borders. These voices played a critical role in the San Francisco meeting that drafted the United Nations Charter in 1945.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Member states of the United Nations pledged to promote respect for the human rights of all. To advance this goal, the UN established a Commission on Human Rights and charged it with the task of drafting a document spelling out the meaning of the fundamental rights and freedoms proclaimed in the Charter. The Commission, guided by Eleanor Roosevelt’s forceful leadership, captured the world’s attention.

On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the 56 members of the United Nations. The vote was unanimous, although eight nations chose to abstain.

The UDHR, commonly referred to as the international Magna Carta, extended the revolution in international law ushered in by the United Nations Charter – namely, that how a government treats its own citizens is now a matter of legitimate international concern, and not simply a domestic issue. It claims that all rights are interdependent and indivisible. Its Preamble eloquently asserts that:

The influence of the UDHR has been substantial. Its principles have been incorporated into the constitutions of most of the more than 185 nations now in the UN. Although a declaration is not a legally binding document, the Universal Declaration has achieved the status of customary international law because people regard it "as a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations."

The Human Rights Covenants

With the goal of establishing mechanisms for enforcing the UDHR, the UN Commission on Human Rights proceeded to draft two treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its optional Protocol and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Together with the Universal Declaration, they are commonly referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights. The ICCPR focuses on such issues as the right to life, freedom of speech, religion, and voting. The ICESCR focuses on such issues as food, education, health, and shelter. Both covenants trumpet the extension of rights to all persons and prohibit discrimination.

As of 1997, over 130 nations have ratified these covenants. The United States, however, has ratified only the ICCPR, and even that with many reservations, or formal exceptions, to its full compliance. (See From Concept to Convention: How Human Rights Law Evolves).

Subsequent Human Rights Documents

In addition to the covenants in the International Bill of Human Rights, the United Nations has adopted more than 20 principal treaties further elaborating human rights. These include conventions to prevent and prohibit specific abuses like torture and genocide and to protect especially vulnerable populations, such as refugees (Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951), women (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979), and children (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). As of 1997 the United States has ratified only these conventions:

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

The Convention on the Political Rights of Women

The Slavery Convention of 1926

In Europe, the Americas, and Africa, regional documents for the protection and promotion of human rights extend the International Bill of Human Rights. For example, African states have created their own Charter of Human and People’s Rights (1981), and Muslim states have created the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990). The dramatic changes in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America since 1989 have powerfully demonstrated a surge in demand for respect of human rights. Popular movements in China, Korea, and other Asian nations reveal a similar commitment to these principles.

The Role of Nongovernmental Organizations

Globally the champions of human rights have most often been citizens, not government officials. In particular, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have played a cardinal role in focusing the international community on human rights issues. For example, NGO activities surrounding the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, drew unprecedented attention to serious violations of the human rights of women. NGOs such as Amnesty International, the Antislavery Society, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs, Human Rights Watch, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, and Survivors International monitor the actions of governments and pressure them to act according to human rights principles.

Government officials who understand the human rights framework can also effect far reaching change for freedom. Many United States Presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter have taken strong stands for human rights. In other countries leaders like Nelson Mandela and Vaclev Havel have brought about great changes under the banner of human rights.

Human rights is an idea whose time has come. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a call to freedom and justice for people throughout the world. Every day governments that violate the rights of their citizens are challenged and called to task. Every day human beings worldwide mobilize and confront injustice and inhumanity. Like drops of water falling on a rock, they wear down the forces of oppression and move the world closer to achieving the principles expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Source: Adapted from David Shiman, Teaching Human Rights, (Denver: Center for Teaching International Relations Publications, U of Denver, 1993): 6-7.

Right to education

Prison inmate and university student Vasilis Dimakis went on hunger and thirst strike in April and May, protesting that his transfer to Grevena prison and then to an isolation cell in the female ward of Korydallos prison prevented him from continuing his university education. Vasilis Dimakis ended his strike at the end of May. Following pressure from civil society, he was returned to his original cell in Korydallos prison, where he was able to continue his studies.

Greek Influence on U.S. Democracy

The United States has a complex government system. One important tenet of this system is democracy, in which the ultimate power rests with the people. In the case of the United States, that power is exercised indirectly, through elected representatives. Although the U.S. has been a strong proponent of democracy, it did not invent democracy. The Greeks are often credited with pioneering a democratic government that went on to influence the structure of the United States. Read this article that describes how elements of ancient Greek democracy heavily influenced the figures that designed the United States government.

Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

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After declaring independence from England in 1776, the founders of the United States possessed a unique opportunity to create a government of their choosing. This was a momentous task, and for guidance they looked to what they deemed the best philosophies and examples of government throughout world history. Along with the Roman model, the democratic model of ancient Greece&rsquos system of self-government greatly influenced how the founding fathers set out to construct the new United States government.

Prior to independence, the east coast of what is today the United States was divided into 13 separate colonies. The founders of the United States decided to keep the country divided into states rather than dissolving the colonial boundaries. They did this so that each region could be governed at a local level, with a national government acting as a dominant authority over all. These 13 colonies would become the first states of the newly established country.

A U.S. state resembles the community structure of an ancient Greek polis, or city-state. A polis was composed of an urban center and the land surrounding it, developments similar to that of the major cities and state capitals in the United States and the rural areas surrounding them. In ancient Greece, some of the main city-states were Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and Syracuse. These city-states acted independently for the most part. However, sometimes they engaged in war against each other. They also banded together to defend Greece from foreign invaders.

All Greek city-states had sets of rules by which the people lived in observance and laws they were required to obey. In ancient Greece the idea of rule of law came from the philosopher Aristotle&rsquos belief in natural law. He claimed the existence of a higher justice in nature&mdashcertain essential rights&mdashthat superseded the laws written by humans. Aristotle believed that people should align themselves with this natural law and govern by its ethics.

In the United States today, the rule of law is a principle that ensures that all laws are publicly accessible, equally enforced, and independently judged, and that they adhere to international human rights ethics. The rule of law is important because it allows all individuals and institutions (including the government itself) to be held accountable for their actions. By agreeing to follow the rule of law, the United States can prevent abuses of power by leaders who might act as if they are above the law.

Another important ancient Greek concept that influenced the formation of the United States government was the written constitution. Aristotle, or possibly one of his students, compiled and recorded The Constitution of the Athenians and the laws of many other Greek city-states. Having a written constitution creates a common standard as to how people should behave and what rules they must follow. It also establishes clear processes by which people who break the law are judged and those who are harmed as a result can be compensated or given justice.

Like The Constitution of the Athenians, the U.S. Constitution is a vital document. It lays out the government&rsquos structure and how the checks and balances of power within it relate to one another. The U.S. Constitution acts as the supreme law of the country and establishes individual citizens&rsquo rights, such as the right to free speech or the right to a trial by a jury of one&rsquos peers. Today, the U.S. Constitution is still regularly referenced in law as the supreme law of the land and is enforced by the U.S. Supreme Court, the country&rsquos highest court.

The original U.S. voting system had some similarities with that of Athens. In Athens, every citizen could speak his mind and vote at a large assembly that met to create laws. Citizens were elected to special councils to serve as organizers, decision-makers, and judges. However, the only people considered citizens in Athens were males over the age of 18. Women, slaves, and conquered peoples could not vote in the assembly or be chosen to serve on councils.

The founders of the United States similarly believed that only certain people should be allowed to vote and elect officials. They chose to structure the United States as a representative democracy. This means that citizens elect officials, such as senators and representatives, who vote on behalf of the citizens they represent in Congress. It also means that instead of each individual citizen voting for president directly, a body called the Electoral College officially casts the votes of each state for president. As in Athens, when the United States was founded only white, landowning men were allowed to vote. Over time, however, all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who have not been convicted of a felony have gained the right to vote.

The principles behind the ancient Greeks&rsquo democratic system of government are still in use today. The United States and many other countries throughout the modern world have adopted democratic governments to give a voice to their people. Democracy provides citizens the opportunity to elect officials to represent them. It also allows citizens to choose to elect a different person to represent them if they are dissatisfied with their current elected officials. Today, democracy and the rule of law provide people around the world with a means of protecting their human rights and holding each other accountable as equals under the law.

Greece accused of human rights violations

AMNESTY International has accused Greece of flouting European humanitarian law by employing police brutality and torture in its treatment of detainees, particularly asylum-seekers and minorities.

In a report released on Tuesday, the campaign group referred to 66 cases of alleged human rights violations in the member state, which takes on the EU presidency in January 2003.

It is now calling on the EU to act decisively to combat abuses within its borders.

“Amnesty International believes that serious infractions of fundamental rights in one EU member state are not just the responsibility of that country, but should also be the proper concern of the EU as a whole,” Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty’s EU office in Brussels, said in a statement.

The group is urging the current EU president, Denmark, to put in place a system of “real accountability” to tackle human rights abuses before it hands over the reins to Greece at the end of the year.

The report echoes the findings of a similar study published in June by a coalition of European and Mediterranean human rights groups.

Meanwhile, Amnesty has also called on the EU to expose China to harsher criticism of its human rights record.

It feels that the concern expressed by leading EU figures at their meeting with Chinese premier Zhu Rongji in Copenhagen this week are unlikely to persuade his regime to stop its use of strong-arm tactics to quell democratic dissent.

Amnesty claims the Union’s ‘dialogue’ with Beijing is “effectively a monologue, a self-serving exercise in which the EU is being taken for a ride”.

“Voicing concern at summits is just not good enough when your partner refuses to listen,” said Oosting.

“It is time for the EU to strike a different balance, complementing its ‘constructive engagement’ with real pressure, through public scrutiny of China’s human rights record at the United Nations.”

The report argues that the international clamp-down on terrorism which followed last year’s 11 September atrocities has been used as a pretext to oppress the mainly Muslim Uighur community in the province of Zinjiang.

And it berates Beijing for having “by far the highest rate of executions in the world”, the heavy-handed nature of its ‘Strike Hard’ anti-crime campaign, the alleged arbitrary detention of Falun Gong meditation practitioners and the reportedly systematic abuse of North Korean asylum seekers.

Watch the video: Human Rights Through History- Ancient Greece, The Crusades, World War 2