Decision declaring Turkey a “safe third country” brought before Greek Council of State

Athens, 7 October 2021 – Today, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) filed judicial review applications before the Greek Council of State for the annulment of the Joint Ministerial Decision of the Minister of Migration and Asylum and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of 7 June 2021. The Decision designated Turkey as a safe third country for nationals of Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 

The Joint Ministerial Decision attempts to dismantle Greece’s obligation to assess asylum applications from refugees originating from said countries on their merits, in stark contravention of the rule of law, of the Constitution and of its international obligations, under a procedure contrary to EU law standards.

 

This Decision has already resulted in mass, rapid rejection of asylum seekers from the above five countries, who account for over 67% of asylum applicants in the country. The policy has not been revisited in light of recent developments in Afghanistan and the reinstatement of the Taliban regime.

We recall that:

  • Turkey is not fully bound by the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees, since it has ratified the Convention subject to a geographical restriction concerning non-European asylum seekers.
  • All official reports document systematic and longstanding severe violations of human rights and the rule of law in Turkey. Moreover, Turkey has invaded Syria and has itself contributed to forced displacement of people.

 

We also highlight the establishment on 17 November 2020 of a Working Group comprising of academics and reputable experts on the matter. Nevertheless, no position from the Working Group was published or taken into consideration. On the contrary, the Recommendation from services, requested by the government, relies on sources not only dispelling the two Ministers’ position on Turkey being a safe third country, but in fact leading to the opposite conclusion. In light of this, the note prepared by the Asylum Service – in English – was only made available following a prosecutor’s order. Furthermore, relevant research from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) dated 2019 was fully disregarded, since it not only differed from the two Ministers’ position but precisely substantiated that Turkey does not constitute a safe third country for refugees.

 

The Decision has evidently been published as part of the broader context of deterrence policy put forward by Greece and the European Union, from the EU-Turkey Statement of 2016 and particularly from March 2020 to present. The policy aims at stripping people fleeing their country to seek refuge in a safe country from documents and protection.

 

Our organisations, following a rapid reaction through announcements and a public event on the issue, will continue to support the rights of refugees and the rule of law, which are infringed by the contested Decision.

Photo:

From left to right : Vassileios Papadopoulos, Eleni Spathana, Vasilis Papastergiou

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