The Greek Forum of Refugees co – signs a joint press release with 27 civil society organizations, once again calling on the Greek government to urgently comply with its national, European and international obligations.
On December 7, 2021, the Commissioner for Home Affairs of the European Union, Ms. Ylva Johansson, issued a robust response to a joint open letter by civil society organizations working in Greece. Addressed to the European Commission and the Greek government, the letter of 26 October 2021 called for immediate access to adequate food and water for all people residing in state – run or – managed facilities, irrespective of their legal status.
In her late reply, the Commissioner notes that the EU has repeatedly raised the issue of the discontinuation of material reception conditions with the Greek authorities. In particular, the Commissioner underscores that: “all persons, irrespective of [legal] status, should benefit from the provisions of EU Law, notably the provisions of the Reception Conditions Directive, the Qualifications Directive and the Return Directive, and from the relevant provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”; and that the Greek authorities have been repeatedly called upon to “ensure that all persons, particularly the vulnerable”, receive food, hygiene products and other basic necessities.
The Commissioner expresses her concern over the administrative delays that hinder asylum seekers’ and refugees’ access to their rights. Ms. Johansson also stressed the need to implement sustainable integration systems to facilitate recognized refugees’ transition to autonomous living, as well as their access to social benefits on equal terms with Greek citizens. The Commissioner also underlines the obligation of the Member States to facilitate the access of recognized refugees to housing.
In addition, the Commissioner undelines the Member States’ specific obligations for unaccompanied children and emphasizes that those who have been granted refugee status should be accommodated in specialized centers or other suitable accommodation. Ms. Johansson points out that Member States have an “obligation to ensure full compliance with the principles of the best interests of the child and of family unity and to ensure a standard of living adequate to their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development, including access to education and to leisure activities appropriate to their age”.
Lastly, the Commissioner reiterates the Commission’s continuing concern over individuals left in protracted “legal limbo”. The Commissioner states that “in line with Article 38 (4) of the Asylum Procedures Directive, the Greek authorities should ensure that applicants whose applications have been declared inadmissible under the Joint Ministerial Decision and those who are not being admitted to Turkey, should be given access to the in – merits asylum procedure. The Commission have enquired with the Greek authorities on the steps taken towards this direction.
The undersigned organizations welcome the Commission’s firm and unambiguous stance on these crucial issues and call on the Greek Government to respect national, European and international law and to:
(a) ensure that all persons, irrespective of their legal status, have access to basic means of subsistence, notably food and hygiene products,
(b) examine in substance the applications of asylum seekers who have been rejected as inadmissible on the basis that Turkey is a safe third country.
We also call on the European Commission to use the tools at its disposal as the guardian of the Treaties, to ensure that the Greek Government applies the relevant EU laws noted in Commissioner Johansson’s response.
The signatory organizations:
1. Lesvos Solidarity
2. ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth
3. Better Days
4. Changemakers Lab
5. DIOTIMA – center for gender rights and equality
6. Greek Forum of Migrants
7. Greek Forum of Refugees
8. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
9. ECHO100 Plus
10. Equal Rights Beyond Borders
11. Europe Must Act
12. Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
13. HIAS Greece
16. Intersos Hellas
17. International Rescue Committee
18. Jesuit Refugee Service Greece
19. Babel Day Center
20. Lighthouse Relief (LHR)
21. Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
22. Refugees International
23. Greek Association of People Living with HIV “Positive Voice”
24. Symbiosis – School of Political Studies in Greece, Council of Europe Network
25. Safe Passage International
26. Samos Volunteers
27. Solidarity Now
28. Terres des Hommes Hellas