Rights groups slam proposed Greek law on migrants

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Europe's top human rights official has called on the Greek government to drop plans to include a clause in a draft immigration law that would allow for the deportation of migrants deemed to have made false claims of abuse by law enforcement officials.

Nils Muiznieks, the human rights commissioner for the 47-nation Council of Europe, said he was "seriously concerned" by the amendment, which he described as "ill-advised and should not be adopted."

Human Rights Watch and Greece's Racist Violence Recording Network, an umbrella organization of 35 rights groups, also said the amendment would deter victims from reporting abuse for fear they would be deported if their claims cannot be proven or are not accepted by a judge.

The amendment was repeatedly submitted and withdrawn during parliamentary debates last week. Interior Minister Yannis Michelakis insisted the amendment remain as police and coast guard officials would otherwise be vulnerable to false claims of abuse. He also said smugglers could coach migrants they bring into Greece to claim they were abused in order to prevent deportation.

Voting on the bill was delayed, and the text is expected to be brought before parliament again this week.

"Instead of encouraging victims to come forward, the changes would have a chilling effect and increase existing obstacles for justice," said Eva Cosse, Human Rights Watch's Greece specialist.

The organization also called for the reintroduction of protection measures for witnesses and victims of crimes, including those of racially motivated attacks.

The Racist Violence Recording Network said the amendment would be "a shield of protection for all perjuring government officials who are involved in incidents of racist violence."

Greek police and coast guard officials have often been accused of mistreating migrants, but only a handful of cases have gone to court. Greece is one of the main entry points into the European Union for people without visas trying to get into the bloc.

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