Over the past three weeks, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) has represented the Syrian refugees, including 44 children, before the ECtHR, by filing 5 applications for interim measures (R 39), requesting for the Syrian refugees to be granted humanitarian assistance and access to the asylum procedure.

The Court granted the requested interim measures for all cases and ordered the Greek government not to remove the refugees from the country’s territory and to provide them with food, water and proper medical care. The ECtHR also requested to be informed by the Greek government, amongst others, on whether the Syrian refugees have submitted an asylum application and whether they have access to the asylum procedure and to legal assistance.

Two of these five groups of refugees have been collected by the Greek authorities, two other groups of Syrian refugees complain they have been pushed back to Turkey. The last group has been on the islet since the day before yesterday and comprises of refugees who were previously pushed back to Turkey while their request for interim measures was pending before the ECtHR, alongside a new group of 12 Syrian refugees who were granted interim measures yesterday.

The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) represented the Syrian refugees before the ECtHR, requesting humanitarian assistance and access to the asylum procedure. The ECtHR last night granted the interim measures (R 39) and ordered the Greek government not to remove the refugees from the country and to provide them with food, water and proper medical care. The ECtHR also requests information from the Greek government, including whether the Syrian refugees have submitted an asylum application and whether they have access to the asylum procedure and to legal assistance.

 

The Syrian refugees, among them 26 young children, patients and a pregnant woman, were stranded for several days on two islets in Evros, without access to water, food, medical assistance, exposed to the cold and weather conditions.

Athens, 7 April 2022: On the 29th of March, the Greek National Transparency Authority (NTA) issued a press release announcing the conclusion of a 3-month investigation on the management of migration flows to the Greek territory as well as the relevant international journalistic reports on informal forced returns (pushbacks)[1].

It is recalled that NTA’s investigation was launched at the request of the Minister of Migration and Asylum, following the publication of an 8-month journalistic investigation by Lighthouse Reports and nine more European media platforms, which referred to a “system” of illegal forced returns in Greece and Croatia and the direct involvement of special units of security forces assigned with the task to “chase asylum applicants away from the E.U.[2].

 

Press release

Athens, Friday March 18th

The Greek Council for Refugees and the HumanRights360 organisation express their contentment for the rescue of the 30 Syrian refugees that have been confined on the islet of Evros’ river.

The refugees, amongst whom two pregnant women and seven minor children, did not have access to the necessary means for their survival. They did not have access to water, food, medical care, or any means to keep warm, and they were exposed to the cold and humidity on the small islet in the Evros’ river for six days. In the video sent to our organisations, it is reported that they were eating garbage leftovers on the islet by those who had previously crossed this path, while they reported the tragic drowning of the 4-year-old son of one of the refugees.

March 2022 marks six years since the launch of the EU-Turkey Statement, which stipulated that people crossing irregularly to the Greek islands from Turkey would be returned there without having their asylum claims considered on merits in Greece. The Statement has become a hallmark of the EU shirking its responsibility to protect refugees, and continues to cause significant harm to people seeking protection in Greece. The impact of the EU-Turkey Statement was worsened in June 2021 by the Greek government’s own decision to designate Turkey as a ‘safe third country’ of asylum to which it would return people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria– the five nationalities that represented the majority of asylum applications in Greece last year.

In a new briefing, eight NGOs are calling on Greece and the EU to retract the EU-Turkey Statement and abandon the safe third country concept.

8 NGOs warn that policies implemented in Greece keep displaced people from accessing asylum procedures, despite clear need of protection

Read the Statement here

Α joint letter to the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, by 27 civil society organizations, regarding the use of the “safe third country” concept in Greece.

Read the letter here

Published: 6th March 2022

De facto detention, revenge tactics and despair for people in Samos closed refugee center 

New report from the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam sheds light on the inside of the new 43-million-euro migration center on the Greek island of Samos. The report comes ahead of the 6-year anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal, and in the midst of already more than a million people fleeing conflict in Ukraine to seek asylum in EU countries. If ever there was a time to learn from the failures made in Greece, it is now.

The report found: 

  • Approximately 1 in 5 people have been in de facto detention for two months. This is despite a Greek court finding this practice illegal in the ruling on a case of an Afghan resident in the Samos center last December. The Greek administration continues to deny this illegal practice. Yet, testimonies gathered by the Greek Council for Refugees and Oxfam show this practice remains very much a reality. 
     
  • The use of “revenge tactics” in response to NGO reports, media coverage, and legal action by asylum seekers on illegal detention measures. This has included early morning raids, unexplained transfers to the police station, and oral eviction notices to residents appealing a negative asylum decision. 
     
  • The excessive use of security. There is constant CCTV monitoring of all residents and an 8pm curfew. To exit and enter the camp, residents need an “asylum applicant” card. Some people - like the newly arrived, those who can’t afford the second subsequent asylum application fee, or those waiting for the Greek authorities to examine their subsequent asylum application - do not have this card. In the future, not having these cards may keep people from getting food and clothes. 
     

Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!

Following an official information we received as a Working Group on Legal Aid on the island of Lesvos, the Regional Asylum Office (RAO) of Lesvos after many months of refusal to register 2nd and following subsequent applications for international protection, on 7 February 2022 started to re-register the aforementioned applications of asylum seekers who have been unable to access the international protection procedure for the last 6 months without their own fault. However, this procedure restarts with a necessary condition for the submission of the second and subsequent application, the deposit of a fee of 100 euros per application (legislative regulation of par. 10 of article 89 of Law 4636/2019). In fact, based on JMD no. 472687/2021, if the application is submitted on behalf of several members of the applicant's family, the deposit of an equal amount for each member separately is required, including   minor children. This translates to the fact that for a five member’s family - two parents with three minor children - a fee of 500 euros is required!

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