Monday, February 13, 2006


This blog is now closed. I have moved here with all the old posts, comments and all. Just like the old place but cleaner, quicker and hopefully, with less down time. Please update blogrolls or links. Thank you. See you over at the new place.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Due to having an average-sized brain and only one pair of hands, I have found that I am unable to keep two blogs running AND do all the things I need to do at my new place. So this will be my last post here. It's been a great place to be while it lasted. I guess me and blogger just couldn't be together anymore, though we are parting as friends. The old place will stay here for as long as blogger keeps it. I will be able to pop back for a visit every now and then, at least until they start tearing down the old places. I'm going to miss my first blog but I am keen to move on to better things. And if things don't work out over at wordpress, I could move back in here. Life is sweet. Comments are open on this post until Sunday. For those who haven't heard the news yet I am in my new place right here.


As well as moving to a new place, this blog reached 1000 comments yesterday! And guess what? SeaWitch, you wrote comment number 1000. A special shoutout to you.

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I have a favour to ask all my blog friends. Could you go over to my new home here and leave a message under the post entitled "THE FAVOUR". I just want to check that everyone can access it and that it's all working before I close this blog. Thank you very much in advance.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006


All posts and comments from this blog have been set up in the new place here. Feel free to carry on your discussions over there. So far so good.

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The Greek Helsinki Monitor has issued an urgent appeal to protest the Greek government's prosecution of journalists and human rights defenders. The two cases cited in the appeal are that of journalist Makis Nodaros tried for defamation after he highlighted a case of sexual exploitation, and that of Professor Takis Alexiou who I blogged about earlier this year here and here. To read the full appeal click here.

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As I said in my last post THIS IS NOT MY COUNTRY has a new home. Hopefully, I will be closing this blog on Sunday 12th February. I am turning off comments here today as a trial before I turn them off permanently. From then on, this place will remain but will not be updated. The new place is here. Please wait until Sunday before updating blogrolls or links if you have them. Today is a test to make sure everything is running smoothly.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I made a decision. I am moving my blog to Wordpress because I am fed up with Blogger. All the outages and losing comments is really getting on my nerves. Many bloggers are advising people to move because they predict they are going to start losing blogs all over the place and then start charging for the service. This one will stay current until I am happy with how things are going. For anyone interested in how it looks at the moment click here. Bear in mind it's not finished. There is one disadvantage for those of us who like messing with html in the templates on blogger; you can't do that with the free wordpress blog. The advantages far outweigh that though. Number one for me is categories at last. Number two is automatic pings when you post new entry (for those who care) and number three greater control over comments, spam etc. I hope you all like the new look or are, at least, willing to get used to it. I'm not 100% happy design-wise but apparently they keep adding to the templates. Hopefully one will turn up that I like better. Please don't post comments over there yet. I will let you know when version one will be closing. I will not be deleting it and I'll give you all plenty of time to update those links! See you all over at my new place.

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Monday, February 06, 2006


500 children went missing from the Aghia Varvara institution between 1998 and 2002. Only 4 of the children have since been located. Where are the other 496? No-one knows. Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Juan Miguel Petit visited the country in November 2005 and reported specifically on this case and made recommendations to the Greek government. During the visit, I looked for information on the case of the approximately 500 children who went missing from the children’s institution Aghia Varvara between 1998 and 2002. I share the conclusion of the report of the Ombudsman on the case, which indicated the overall deficiencies of the institution Aghia Varvara to adequately respond to the challenging objective of the government programme set up at the time and aimed at giving protection and social care to street children. I saw the records in which children coming and going from Aghia Varvara were registered. All the elements I gathered indicate a deficiency in the design of the educational and social methodology of the programme. During my visit in Albania, the Albanian Ombudsman informed me that only 4 of the missing children from Aghia Varvara have been located in Albania. We do not know where the others are. As a preliminary suggestion, I recommend to consider the possibility of creating a mixed commission of relevant Greek and Albanian authorities, the Ombudsmen of both countries and NGOs which have worked on the case. The commission should coordinate the efforts to locate the children whose whereabouts remain unknown and identify institutional responsibilities. My perspective on this case is on the lessons that we should draw from it to prevent its recurrence in the future. For this, a more efficient and cooperative relationship between the Government and NGOs is needed to make children a recognised priority for the country beyond political, institutional and ideological disputes. He also commented on other issues: There is still need to improve the coverage of social programmes with specialised staff with specific expertise to work with foreign unaccompanied minors, street children, and victims of trafficking.The protection of unaccompanied minors is to be improved. Although the Government is making efforts in this direction, in practice unaccompanied children are too often treated as adult illegal migrants. This is particularly concerning for more vulnerable categories of unaccompanied minors, such as victims of trafficking and asylum seekers, who may end up being deported without having had the possibility to access the protection measures they are entitled to. The situation of Roma and Roma children is a concern. I visited a Roma settlement in which housing conditions and sanitation are just not acceptable. Access to health and education is limited or lacking and social programmes are not providing assistance to the community. The State should take specific measures to improve the living conditions and the possibilities of development of Roma communities to give to Roma children alternatives other than street work or prostitution as survival strategies for them and their families. My last consideration relates to the lack of an overarching institutional set up for child protection. Institutional responsibilities are spread among different ministries without a coordinating entity. Such a coordinating body is very much needed to improve the institutional capacity to respond to the problems I referred to, together with specific measures such as specialised educators and social workers, outreach programmes, community centres, and resourced shelters. The cooperation of NGOs in the implementation of these measures, which are to be framed in an overarching policy on children’s rights and child protection, is an indispensable asset. We can only imagine what has become of all those children. I cannot believe that so many could have been 'lost' and that so little effort had been made to find them. And yes, I'm going to critisise Greece about this too. If it had been 500 Greek children from an orphanage or other such institution, would it have gone unchecked? This story makes me despair for our humanity. Whatever your views of foreigners and immigrants and asylum seekers and roma and whoever else you have problems with: These are children we are talking about. 496 children. 496 children that Greece had the responsibility to protect (regardless of why and how they were here). And Greece failed them. For a country that prides itself on loving children (I assume now that that means Greek children) This is a disgrace. What is going to be done. My guess is absolutely nothing. UPDATE Here are two links to this story. Just to clarify, Aghia Varvara was a state-run institution where children were housed after being picked up by police from the streets. The Amnesty report cites 502 children missing and both articles state that little or no effort has been made to find them (in fact it was not even reported until 2003) Copy of the letter to the Greek government from the World Organisation against Torture (2004) The missing children also appear in the annual report on Greece from Amnesty International 2005

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Friday, February 03, 2006


Via Athens News Despite the rising hysteria that says Greece is overflowing with immigrants, the government has announced that the country needs 57,000 more to fill vacancies in the job market, mainly in the agricultural sector. The lists of jobs have been drawn up by regional offices around Greece and will be posted at Greek consulates around the world. Workers will then be able to apply for specific jobs and, if successful, will be issued with a work visa. Kathy Tzilivakis of the Athens News writes: Greece is now ready to put in motion perhaps it's boldest and most ambitious plan to dead-bolt the back door to illegal immigration by opening the front door wider. Most of the jobs (almost 40,000) will be in central Macedonia. 45,619 of the vacancies are in agriculture (mainly picking and packing olives, grapes and vegetables), 7,962 in livestock and poultry farming and 2,001 in fishing. I know all the anti-immigration lot are going to get twitchy right about now but think about it. If there was a legal way to secure work in Europe people would take it. No-one is an illegal immigrant by choice. (Let's not get confused between people coming to Europe looking for work and those seeking asylum who often have no choice but to do so illegally). So, take a deep breath and count to ten before you respond.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006


Starfish (who is an occasional commentor here) has nominated this blog for the 2nd Fistful of Euros European Weblog Awards. Also nominated by the same person are Mel's Diner and Sovereignty of the Seawitch. Add your nominations here and I will keep you posted on the voting procedure. Thank you starfish.

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I have blogged several times about Roma issues and about the appalling situation of housing and evictions in Patras (European City of Culture 2006). I wonder what on earth this is all about and how it will it play out? Is  this an attempt to stop those pesky liberals and humanitarians from trying to secure basic human rights for the Roma community . I will be watching this one with interest. Especially since useless objects are being thrown in the river! From Greek Helsinki Monitor (definition in brackets from dictionary dot com) Legal investigations are under way against the Chair of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, Panayote Dimitras, by the Head of the Appeals Prosecutor's Office of Patras, Anastassios Kanellopoulos. Panayote Dimitras and the Greek Helsinki Monitor are accused of encouraging Roma of the Makrigianni settlement to "believe that they enjoy a sui generis (a special case, a category of their own) immunity and to have thus grown insolent, as they believe they will not be punished and that they have hence reached a point of throwing useless objects into the River Glafkos". 

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Via Balkan Human Rights

The Panhellenic Confederation of Greek Roma (PACONGR) and Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) have launched a joint effort to defend the fundamental human rights of Roma by visiting the Roma settlement in the Psari, Aspropyrgos (near Athens). During the visit, the Chairman of the PACONGR Vassilis Dimitriou was interviewed by BBC television on the problems facing Roma and the objectives of the new political party “Independent Rally of Citizens with Special Self Identification – ASPIDA ROM”. Similar actions on other Roma settlements will follow. 

During their visit to the Psari settlement, PACONGR and GHM noted the inhuman and degrading living conditions of the Roma, were briefed about the establishment of a segregated “ghetto” school for the Roma schoolchildren and were informed of a series of discriminatory acts against the Roma, including the use of offending stereotypes.

It was decided to record also audiovisually the unacceptable living conditions, so as to widely inform Greek society, state agencies and Members of Greek and European Parliaments. In addition, it was decided to carry out a census of the community in order to make documented demands to the state concerning their adequate housing the schooling of all school aged Romani children in mainstream public schools and not in segregated Roma-only school annexes. Lastly, it was decided to activate the relevant anti-discrimination legislation for each documented violation of its provisions against any Roma.

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An excellent post by Laurelin In The Rain on a Mary Dejevsky article about the 'fuss there has been this year about the trafficking of women'. The subtitle of the article in The Independent was "How gullible does a girl have to be to follow an old man who promises a free tourist trip?" I agree with Laurelin in her response to it. She writes Firstly, Ms Dejevsky, people who are poor and desperate, as well as unknowledgable about the West, may well believe these people when they offer them a chance. It is the promise of capitalism after all, that if one seizes 'opportunity' and works hard enough that one will 'make it'. Secondly, since when was naivete or innocence a crime, and since when was rape and imprisonment a punishment for crime? Nothing a rape survivor has done/ thought makes the crime against her any less of a crime, and indifference to her suffering because of her perceived naivete is unforgivable. Read the entire post here

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