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Greece: UNHCR urges access to stowaways in Piraeus

Briefing notes

Greece: UNHCR urges access to stowaways in Piraeus

13 March 2007

UNHCR is urging the Greek authorities to allow the urgent disembarkation and grant access to the asylum system of 16 stowaways found nearly a week ago on a cargo ship docked in the port of Piraeus.

The stowaways apparently boarded the Antigua flagged 'RITA' cargo vessel in Turkey. It arrived in Piraeus on Wednesday 7 March. UNHCR and the Greek Refugee Council had access to the stowaways last Friday and most of the group expressed their wish to claim asylum. Those claims were delivered yesterday, Monday, to the relevant Greek authorities but as yet there has been no response.

This group should have access to the asylum procedure in Greece and not be turned away as this could result in a direct or indirect refoulement - return to a country where they claim to feel threatened. We are also concerned that there are five minors amongst this group and two people with serious health problems. They should be disembarked as soon as possible so as not to prolong their ordeal. We hope that a solution can be found shortly that complies with humanitarian and international protection principles and are ready to help the Greek authorities in any appropriate way.