Amidst warnings from over 50 Civil Society Organisations, EU lawmakers reached a political agreement on the EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum in December. The agreement is a continuation of a decade of policy that has led to the proliferation of rights violations in Europe. Moreover, it will have devastating implications for the right to international protection in the bloc and greenlights abuses across Europe including racial profiling, default de facto detention and pushbacks. Next week, MEPs will be presented with a final chance to reject the files in a Plenary vote, and to give a political signal against the adoption of a Pact that would undermine fundamental rights.

Greece in Institutional Decline: 60-day update

Addendum to the Joint Civil Society Submission

to the European Commission on the 2024 Rule of Law Report 

Civil society organisations have reiterated to the European Committee their serious concerns about the backsliding of the country's institutions, in the context of its annual supervision of the Rule of Law operation in the countries of the European Union. 

On January 2023, independent organisations Vouliwatch, Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), HIAS Greece, Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) and Reporters United submitted our report to the European Commission’s annual monitoring of Member States’ systems through its Rule of Law Report. In our submission, we documented persisting deficiencies and emerging threats to the rule of law in Greece.

The planet is on fire. The summer of 2023 saw the highest global temperatures on record. Successive heat waves are hitting many parts of the world, from the US to China, while the climate crisis as a whole is causing unprecedented weather events, severe storms and disasters. 
 
Climate migration will inevitably be one of the most important impacts of the climate crisis globally, triggering, as can be reasonably expected, a chain effect due to the mass movement of people. Since 2008, almost 320 million people worldwide were left with no other option but to leave their homelands and move, due to adverse climatic conditions and more frequent climate disasters. In 2020 alone, some 31 million people were displaced by disasters linked to abrupt changes in the condition of the environment and the availability of vital resources. 
 
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the situation is expected to become worse in the years to come as these numbers are estimated to double by 2050. The World Bank estimates that climate change is expected to force more than 200 million people to flee their homes over the next three decades, unless urgent action is taken to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gasses.
 
In this dire global context, the Greek Council for Refugees together with WWF Greece have launched a joint research project on the particularly crucial issue of climate refugees. The aim of the project is to analyse the current situation and develop a policy proposal on Europe's response to climate migration and particularly the status of climate refugees.

Tomorrow, Thursday, 14 March 2024, the preliminary questions referred by the Plenary of the Council of State in its judgment No 177/2023 concerning the inclusion of Turkey in the national list of "safe third countries" (JMD 42799/2021) will be discussed in an oral hearing before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg (see here and here).  This decision of the Council of State was issued following a request for annulment by the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) against the above-mentioned Joint Ministerial Decision, which designated Turkey as a safe third country for asylum seekers and applicants from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The organisations will appear before the CJEU in Luxembourg, through their legal representatives.

WWF Greece and the Greek Council for Refugees are launching a public dialogue in the context of a joint research project on "climate refugees". In this pre-consultation on climate migration, we invite experts to participate by submitting comments, with the aim of formulating proposals for the definition and protection status of "climate refugees". The pre-consultation is also open to interested members of the general public.  

Walking the corridors of European institutions, we pass posters and banners trumpeting our continent’s commitment to rights, freedoms, and justice. These should be values we live, not words we use when politically expedient, MEP Cornelia Ernst and Spyros Vlad Oikonomou write.

 

Last month, a report documented vicious punishment beatings of people held in Greek refugee camps and detention centres.

Most who spoke to the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) reported having been beaten indiscriminately. 

Others said they were beaten for daring to complain about inhumane conditions in Greece’s EU-funded detention camps. Respondents also reported being shocked with electric weapons and subjected to racist abuse.

Such violence should make headlines across the continent. Instead, we have normalised it. 

The week the report emerged, the European Court of Human Rights censured Greece over an incident in which its coastguards shot at asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea, resulting in the death of a Syrian refugee after months of hospitalisation.

Almost simultaneously, investigators at Forensic Architecture released another update to their massive database on Greece’s systematic and illegal campaign of violence and ‘driftbacks’ in the Aegean Sea. 

The list includes dozens of cases where people were thrown into the sea without lifejackets by the Hellenic Coast Guard or unidentified masked men, and in three instances, handcuffed.

A fundamental breakdown of the rule of law

Greece’s Coast Guard has and continues to carry out crucial lifesaving work. But the state’s failure to address serious allegations is an insult to those crews who do save lives at great personal risk.

 

Meanwhile, humanitarians faced absurd charges including espionage in a Greek court, for nothing more than saving lives. 

They were thankfully acquitted last month, but the case has lasted six years. It is one of many where people migrating or people providing assistance are dragged through the courts whilst authorities endanger lives with impunity.

The situation in Greece reflects a fundamental breakdown of the rule of law, as 17 human rights and press freedom organisations said earlier this month in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. 

The European Parliament has now adopted a resolution on threats to the rule of law in Greece. This must also be followed by meaningful action.

Europe is not, as it claims, powerless to act, and this is not only a Greek problem. Greece’s violence takes place with the tacit consent of Europe, the privately acknowledged price of fortifying the continent’s borders.

The EU has refused to remove its border agency, Frontex, from the Aegean despite the scandal of its complicity in Greek pushbacks and violence, and a recommendation to do so by the agency's own fundamental rights monitor. 

Europe provides lukewarm condemnation of Greek abuses while aiding and abetting them in practice.

A corrosive and corruptive effect

It is telling that EU institutions, which were all too quick to mete out brutal and damaging economic punishments to Greece during the sovereign debt crisis, refuse to hold it accountable for its systematic erosion of European human rights standards.

The EU funds detention camps where people — many of whom have fled torture elsewhere — are beaten and abused by guards. 

At least €276 million has been pumped into Greek facilities in recent years, which European Commission officials have hailed as a success. 

Repeated condemnations of the camps in the European Court of Human Rights suggest otherwise.

Worse still, through the EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum, EU leadership wants the Greek model exported across Europe. 

Dozens of civil society organisations warned of the risks of child detention, racial profiling, and other harms, while people detained in removal centres have been protesting conditions, but so far their words have fallen on deaf ears.

Border control has had a corrosive and corrupting effect on Greek, and European, politics as a whole. 

It is time to ask a serious question: how many more will have to die in the Mediterranean, be beaten in camps, dumped in the rivers and seas, denied their basic right to claim asylum, prosecuted for carrying out life-saving aid, or wiretapped for reporting on abuses before we realise that something has gone seriously wrong?

As well as being immoral and illegal, this approach has not met its supposed goal of ending irregular migration. 

People are still coming to Europe, with border violence only succeeding in creating a cruel and costly humanitarian crisis that need not have existed. As arrivals continue, politicians demand more of the same, producing a vicious cycle.

All the time, resources that could be going into the real problems Europeans face — from collapsing living standards to the climate emergency — are diverted to those who profit from building camps, weapons, and walls.

Rights, freedoms, and justice should be values we live

Last week, the European Commission raided fresh funding from the Green Deal and aid budget for migration control and war.

We are in dangerous and difficult times, where European leadership is urgently needed. 

The EU has demonstrated positive leadership during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, welcoming significant numbers of refugees by triggering the Temporary Protection Directive. 

None of the problems that the alarmists predicted happened. We can and should learn from that experience.

Walking the corridors of European institutions, we pass posters and banners trumpeting our continent’s commitment to rights, freedoms, and justice. 

These should be values we live, not words we use when politically expedient. We sacrifice them at our own and future generations’ peril.

Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke/The Left) is a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and Spyros Vlad Oikonomou is Advocacy Officer at the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR).

Source: https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2024/02/26/rule-of-law-in-greece-is-marred-by-violence-pushbacks-and-humanitarians-on-trial
Photo Copyright: AP Photo/Euronews
22 February 2024
 
Read the Joint Statement on the Revision of the EU Victims’ Rights Directive here
17 organisations who actively monitor and defend the rule of law and human rights in Europe, including the Greek Council for Refugees are writing to a joint letter to express their strong concern about the ongoing deterioration of the rule of the law and fundamental rights in Greece.
 
Read here the joint letter

Η προάσπιση και ενίσχυση του κράτους δικαίου παραμένει άμεση προτεραιότητα της ελληνικής κοινωνίας των πολιτών, ενόψει της συνεχιζόμενης υποχώρησης των θεσμών της χώρας.

Χρόνιες πλημμέλειες και νέες απειλές για το κράτος δικαίου στην Ελλάδα καταγράφονται από τις ανεξάρτητες οργανώσεις Vouliwatch, Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες (ΕΣΠ), Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο (RSA), HIAS Ελλάδας, Ελληνική Ένωση για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου (ΕλΕΔΑ) και Reporters United, με τη συνεισφορά μας στον ετήσιο έλεγχο των εθνικών συστημάτων που διεξάγει η Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή μέσω της Έκθεσης για το Κράτος Δικαίου.

Το Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες μαζί με το Κέντρο Ευρωπαϊκού Συνταγματικού Δικαίου του Ιδρύματος Τσάτσου και το Παρατηρητήριο Συνταγματικών & Θεσμικών Εξελίξεων Syntagma Watch σας προσκαλούν στην ανοιχτή εκδήλωση με θέμα:
 
“Το νέο Ευρωπαϊκό Σύμφωνο για τη Μετανάστευση και το Άσυλο: Βήμα μπροστά ή οπισθοδρόμηση;”
 
? Δευτέρα 19 Φεβρουαρίου
⏲ 18.00 - 20.00
? ΔΣΑ (Ακαδημίας 60)
?  Ομιλητές:
- Λευτέρης Παπαγιαννάκης, Διευθυντής του Ελληνικού Συμβουλίου για τους Πρόσφυγες
- Μίνως Μουζουράκης, Δικηγόρος, Νομικός Σύμβουλος, Refugee Support Aegean - Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο
- Εμμανουέλα Τσαπούλη, Ύπατη Αρμοστεία του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες
- Χριστίνα Ψαρρά, Γενική Διευθύντρια, Γιατροί Χωρίς Σύνορα (MSF)
 
Την εκδήλωση θα χαιρετίσει ο Δημήτρης Καιρίδης, Υπουργός Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου
Συντονίζει ο Απόστολος Φωτιάδης, Δημοσιογράφος
ℹ Η εκδήλωση θα μεταδοθεί και ζωντανά μέσω live streaming
 
Δείτε αναλυτικά το Δελτίο Τύπου και την Πρόσκληση
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