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Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Greece have faced an increasingly hostile environment since the refugee crisis in Europe intensified in 2015. HRDs and independent journalists working on the rights of minorities, and those providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in Greece, are the main targets of persistent acts of harassment and intimidation.

HRDs have been exposed to abuse of power by law enforcement agents and special police forces, including arbitrary restrictions to freedom of movement and the right to privacy, and HRDs have also been verbally and judicially harassed, threatened, preventively detained, interrogated, and had their apartments and belongings searched and/or confiscated.

Amendments to legislation introduced in 2016 in Greece make it obligatory for human rights organisations providing humanitarian assistance and protecting refugee rights to register with the local authorities so that all their legitimate activities are subjected to control, coordination, supervision, and profiling by the state. In cases when HRDs fail to register with the authorities, they could be sanctioned or face charges of complicity in a “criminal organisation.”

Additionally, HRDs and independent journalists critical of the government’s migration and economic policies are subjected to intimidation. In accordance with Greek legislation, media outlets or journalists could be seized if their publications allegedly insult the president or portray Greece in a bad light.