Athens, Greece – Two support organisations have requested the European Fee to launch infringement proceedings towards Greece for violations of Europe’s asylum regulation.
Oxfam and WeMove Europe mentioned a Greek asylum regulation that took impact this yr has made it straightforward to disqualify asylum candidates and troublesome for them to attraction rejections.
The teams mentioned these violations are happening “intentionally, on a drastic scale, in a systemic method and on an ongoing foundation”.
A senior Greek immigration supply, talking on situation of anonymity, mentioned that issues within the new asylum regulation had been addressed by means of a parliamentary modification in Could.
“If anyone didn’t present up for an interview or didn’t choose up their registration, the previous regulation allowed you solely to droop their utility. The brand new regulation allowed you solely to reject it. This was amended in Could. The asylum service can now reject or droop an utility.”
The brand new regulation and with higher staffing have helped the Greek Asylum Service double the velocity of its choices this yr and scale back a backlog of instances by virtually one-third.
The immigration supply admitted the brand new regulation stiffened procedures, however mentioned it remained inside the remit of the EU Asylum Directive. “The earlier regulation was beneficial to candidates. The brand new regulation was meant to go in the wrong way.”
The help teams additionally mentioned the federal government doesn’t present appealants with sufficient public defenders. Authorized support teams in Greece have advised Al Jazeera an attraction is just too sophisticated to be filed and not using a lawyer, however just one in 5 appealants has entry to a lawyer. The regulation permits appealants to make use of a non-public lawyer, however few have the assets to take action.
Maybe probably the most critical allegation levied by the help teams is that Greece is conducting pushbacks at its borders. By not permitting potential asylum seekers to use within the first place, Greece dangers reintroducing potential refugees to harmful environments they’re making an attempt to flee – a critical crime underneath the 1951 Geneva Conference on the Standing of Refugees.
Greece was the entry level for greater than 60 p.c of refugee arrivals to Europe final yr, versus simply 23 p.c in 2020.
Migration minister Notis Mitarakis denied that it was as a result of Greece is performing pushbacks.
“We’re defending our borders with dedication, observing our worldwide obligations, and European rules,” Mitarakis just lately mentioned. “Unlawful entries are usually not acceptable, and that’s totally in keeping with worldwide regulation.”
A tricky job
EU guidelines require asylum seekers to use on the EU nation wherein they first arrived. Which means nations, similar to Greece, carry a disproportionate burden of asylum purposes. Though it’s dwelling to only 2 p.c of the EU inhabitants, Greece is processing greater than 13 p.c of EU asylum purposes.
“There isn’t a EU nation internet hosting as many individuals as us in proportion to the native inhabitants,” mentioned Manolis Logothetis, who heads Greece’s Reception and Identification Service. “The Netherlands, for instance, have a reception capability of 5,000 refugees. Our system has a capability of 100,000. It’s pure that we will’t present the identical degree of companies.”
Logothetis mentioned the federal government is attempting to scale down the reception capability.
“Now we have two selections – to extend capability or lower the quantity of people that have to be within the system. We selected the second, which is less complicated on the pocket of European taxpayers.”
In June, July and August, often peak months for refugee crossings within the Aegean, arrivals numbered simply 2,076 in contrast with 18,519 for a similar interval final yr – a drop of 89 p.c.
Throughout the identical interval, 2,736 asylum candidates had been deported, relocated or returned dwelling voluntarily. “It’s the primary time that the stability of arrivals and departures is within the black,” Mitarakis advised Parliament this month.
A continental downside
Greek authorities are usually not the one ones who’ve come underneath criticism. Final yr, Al Jazeera revealed particulars of complaints by support teams towards the European Asylum Help Workplace (EASO).
These included failure to determine whether or not an asylum applicant is a minor, which alters their authorized standing; failure to permit an applicant’s lawyer to be current; and failure to offer dependable interpreters.
Extra significantly, authorized support teams accused EASO of conducting its interviews as interrogations, repeatedly asking the identical query in an effort to seek out inconsistencies.
A choice by the European Ombudsman final yr discovered EASO had dedicated “maladministration” by means of such interview strategies, after they resulted within the deportation of a homosexual Algerian man.
Greek officers level out the dimensions of the refugee phenomenon in Greece calls for larger EU help – a sentiment that sits on the coronary heart of the European Fee’s new proposals for a typical asylum coverage.
“Lesvos alone recorded 22,250 purposes final yr. Austria as a complete recorded 12,000,” mentioned the senior immigration supply. “Samos recorded 8,000 – greater than Finland.”
“Greece is implementing an EU coverage on the islands. It’s implementing the EU-Turkey Assertion. Which means we’re known as upon to do the arduous work for the European Union,” mentioned the supply.
“To inform me that the state of affairs is troublesome and there are issues is hardly information. We all know this very properly.”