2011 vs 2016: different situation, nothing better for refugees in Greece
On the 8th of December 2016 the European Commission recommend to transfer asylum seekers, that will entered Greece after 15th of March 2017, back to Greece. According to the European Commission, “significant progresses were achieved by Greece”. The Greek Forum of Refugees is wondering: what are the achieved changes for refugees in Greece?
We, refugees in Greece settled here for years, can testify that the actual situation is not better than 2011, when the Dublin transfers from other Member States to Greece have been suspended due to systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum system.
2011: detention without legal ground was the rule for refugees and asylum seekers. 2016: After the EU-Turkey deal, people are staying at the hotspots in the islands, with no possibility to leave the island apart from specific authorization. In theory, these are not detention centers but we wonder where the freedom of movement is? In addition, the conditions are far from being appropriate.
2011: no measures were taken by the state to accommodate refugees, leading them to live in the street being constantly harassed by the police or victim of racist attack. 2016: the European Commission congratulates the increase of the overall reception capacity. What are the conditions of these accommodations? Asylum seekers are being hosted in appalling and overcrowded reception facilities all over Greece. People are staying under tents, while a few live in containers or old buildings. The conditions are far from ideal while people are exposed to weather conditions, diseases, incidents of attacks. Vulnerable people (pregnant women, newborns, people with chronic health and psychological issues, disabled, elderly people, unaccompanied minors, victims of torture) are also living under these conditions. Furthermore it is wide known that many refugees live in the streets, the “urban area” and that capacities in shelters are not increased. Due to the lack of State and European support, abandoned refugees are exposed to exploitation; we are also witnessing sexual exploitation of minors and young adults in the center of Athens with no protection. Are this accommodations acceptable in regard to the standards set by the EU law?
2016: Education is an issue in Greece as very few refugee children can access schools. Even if there is legal provision on access to education, Greek schools do not have the means to respond to the challenge of the increasing number of pupils especially after the austerity measures that Greece is facing.
2011: the asylum procedure was undertaken by the police services, asylum seekers waited for years for a decision and many are still waiting…
2016: 3 years after the new Asylum Service was established, its capacities were increased, however practically; refugees do not see much of a difference. The access to asylum happens only by Skype, refugees are waiting for months to get a call answer to register. Within this time lapse, refugees without their applicant card are being arrested and detained. Once they get this card, they have to wait for their asylum interview after 8 months (average). The appeal authorities and committees were established in April 2016, though many appeals are pending for a year and the applicants are still waiting for the examination of their request. In total the asylum procedure is now taking approximately a year, without taking into account the appeal procedure. Is that better than before? Is it enough to say that the asylum system in Greece is effective?
Under the limit of a press release it is impossible to further analyse. Many reports by experts are exposing and warning against the situation. They are public and accessible.
We kindly ask EU members if they wish to have on their conscience the return of asylum seeker in this Greece.
Following judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).²
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