Greek law puts asylum seekers at risk of abuse and deportation, NGOs say

Oxfam and Greek Council for Refugees hit out at Athens's six-month-old toughened asylum rules

A child is pictured in a improvised tents camp near the refugee camp of Moria in the island of Lesbos on June 21, 2020 AFP
A child is pictured in a improvised tents camp near the refugee camp of Moria in the island of Lesbos on June 21, 2020 AFP

A six-month-old Greek law has exposed asylum seekers to abuse and exploitation and is designed to deport rather than protect, two NGOs have said.

Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees have hit out at the law, calling it a “blatant attack” on the humanitarian commitment to protect refugees.

Greece, with the backing of the European Union, has toughened its asylum laws, making it easier to reject claims and reducing the recourse to appeal decisions and legal aid.

The country’s conservative Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, came to power last year promising to cut the number of illegal immigrants and refugees coming to Greece.

The Mediterranean country has been on the front line of Europe’s migrant crisis and in 2019 was the principal crossing point for asylum seekers arriving in Europe.

“Greece’s new law is a blatant attack on Europe’s humanitarian commitment to protect people fleeing conflict and persecution,” Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam’s Europe migration campaign manager, said.

“The European Union is complicit in this abuse because for years it has been using Greece as a test ground for new migration policies.

“We are extremely worried that the EU will now use Greece’s asylum system as a blueprint for Europe’s upcoming asylum reform,” she added.

The organisations’ analysis found that many particularly vulnerable people – such as children, pregnant women and people with disabilities – have been detained upon arrival on “hotspot” Greek islands such as Lesbos without sufficient access to necessary care or protection.

The system also makes it extremely difficult for people seeking asylum to properly present their reasons for fleeing their home countries, including conflict or persecution, to the Greek asylum service, the NGOs said.

“When the Greek authorities reject an asylum application, it does not necessarily mean people are not in need of international protection. It is often a consequence of the accelerated asylum procedure applied in the context of border procedures,” Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou, advocacy officer at the refugee council, said

“This puts people’s lives at risk: those rejected face being immediately detained to be deported to Turkey or their country of origin.”

Published: July 2, 2020 04:05 PM


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