Tuesday, 03 October 2023 10:02

New PRAB VII is out: Surprisingly Surpirsed

Surprisingly surprised is the seventh report in the series published by Protecting Rights at Borders (PRAB)2, an initiative aiming to document evidence of the use of illegal pushbacks in the context of border management in Europe. The initiative, through its collaborative efforts, also serves to advance strategic litigation across borders for people affected by widespread and systematic pushbacks and other rights violations at Europe’s doorstep.
Data is gathered by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and grassroot initiatives across Europe who have joined forces in the PRAB initiative to create a solid evidence-base, anchored in direct observation and interviews with persons on the move.This report covers the period from 1 May to 31 August 2023. Data collected directly by PRAB partners or obtained from Government sources document a total of 9,515 pushback instances during the four-month reporting period. As part of the documentation, 2,030 persons were interviewed by PRAB partners to record the details of their demographics, migratory routes, and the rights violations they reported being exposed to. While the 9,515 pushbacks documented by PRAB during the past four months may seem a high number, it is evident that these represent only a small sample of the actual number of illegal pushbacks at European borders.
Read the full report here

Since July 2023, the Aegean islands have experienced a sharp increase in arriving asylum seekers crossing byboat from Türkiye. Between 1 July – 31 August 2023, over 4,000 people were brought to the Closed ControlledAccess Centres (CCACs) on Samos and Lesvos and placed into unlawful detention while awaiting registration oftheir asylum requests.

Read the Joint Statement here

Survivors demand an effective investigation

Athens, September 14, 2023: Forty survivors of the deadly shipwreck in Pylos filed yesterday a criminal complaint against all responsible parties before the Naval Court of Piraeus.


The survivors, represented by the Network for Refugee and Migrant Rights, the Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR), the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), the Initiative of Lawyers and Jurists for the shipwreck of Pylos, and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), denounce a series of violations of the Greek authorities' obligations to protect the lives of those on board and demand an effective investigation into the circumstances of the deadliest shipwreck to occur in the Mediterranean in recent years.


The survivors submit that the Greek authorities failed to immediately intervene and to organise a timely and adequate rescue operation despite their duty to rescue the passengers on board under International Law of the Sea, Human Rights Law, EU and domestic Law. This was especially due to the fact that they had been informed from the outset and subsequently ascertained at close distance the imminent threat to life facing passengers on board the manifestly unseaworthy and overcrowded trawler. The complainants allege that the Greek authorities not only refrained from taking the necessary rescue measures as soon as the vessel was sighted, but instead proceeded to an effort to tow the vessel that resulted in its capsizing and sinking.


The complainants demand an immediate, thorough and reliable investigation and the attribution of criminal responsibility for the acts and omissions of the Greek authorities. We recall that a number of international organisations and institutions, including the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament, have already urged Greece to carry out a full and effective investigation into the circumstances of the shipwreck.


The deadliest shipwreck of the Mediterranean has sparked global interest, a declared commitment of the Greek authorities to conduct a thorough investigation, and the launch of a preliminary examination by the Naval Court of Piraeus. Nevertheless, three months after the tragic event, none of the survivors of the shipwreck, witnesses of the events of 13/14 June 2023, has – to our knowledge – been called to testify on the circumstances of the shipwreck under that investigation or to provide any evidence.



Network for Refugee and Migrant Rights

Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR)

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

Initiative of Lawyers and Jurists for the shipwreck of Pylos

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)

After Europe’s biggest and most notorious refugee camp burned down in September 2020, promises were made never to let Moria happen again. Authorities guaranteed that state-of-the-art facilities in line with fundamental rights and European standards would be created - improving safety and security, protection for vulnerable people, access to healthcare and fast and effective asylum procedures.[1]


Exactly three years after the Moria fire, organisations warn that the EU-funded Closed Controlled Access Centre Mavrovouni (C.A.C.C.) on Lesvos, replacing Moria, has failed to live up to its promise. With a sharp increase in arrivals over the past few months, the situation at the C.C.A.C. has once again become unsustainable and endangers the health and well-being of people on the move.



After stating that the lack of access to health care in Moria was unacceptable in 2020 - a severe lack of medical staff, psychologists, psychiatrists and interpreters at the Mavrovouni C.C.A.C. persists.[2] Organisations report an increase in medical emergencies, suicidality, substance dependency and gender-based violence inside the C.C.A.C.


The mandated public provider of healthcare inside the Mavrovouni C.C.A.C., the Greek National Public Health Organisation (EODY), is understaffed, with only one permanent doctor for a population of over 3,000 people. The lack of capacity is exacerbated by a considerable number of (medical) organisations ceasing operations or being forced to leave Mavrovouni.


Despite improvements made, the capacity to provide dignified up-to-standard reception conditions is lacking at the Mavrovouni C.C.A.C. People are put in rub halls with no privacy or partitions and forced to share rooms and containers with complete strangers, often without a mattress.


NGOs stress that a backlog and lack of capacity for registering people has delayed access to healthcare, vulnerability assessments and access to food or water and put people, already in a precarious situation, under additional pressure. Insecurity, delayed procedures and lack of efficient services at the C.C.A.C. often lead to tension and stress disorders.


The 2020 objective to create safe zones for vulnerable groups has not materialised. The “safe area” and shelters at the Mavrovouni C.C.A.C. on Lesvos cannot be considered safe due to a lack of appropriate protection measures that guarantee safety and security.


Vulnerable people, including unaccompanied children, single mothers and survivors of GBV are sheltered in the former “quarantine area” for long stretches of time and are not separated according to gender or vulnerability. Adults have unrestricted access and no permanent security is present in the area, increasing the risk of abuse.


Despite promises of fast and effective asylum procedures, several barriers to effective access to the right to seek asylum, e.g. illegal collective returns, bureaucratic obstacles, lack of interpreters, systematic use of accelerated and border procedures, the fallacious use of the safe country concept and lack of recognition of procedural guarantees, have been consistently experienced by people on the move on Lesvos.


Organisations report regular and prolonged delays in the registration of asylum applications on the island. These delays had led to an increase in the number of people under ‘restriction of freedom’ for up to 25 days in the C.C.A.C., amounting to de facto detention.[3]




Three years down the road the reception centres on the Greek islands were meant to be exemplary blueprints for living conditions in line with fundamental rights and European standards and swift procedures at all European borders. Instead, if no action is taken, Mavrovouni provides a stark warning of what is to come.


Supported by:


  1. Lighthouse Relief
  2. Yoga and Sport with Refugees
  3. Refugee Legal Support
  4. Yoga and sport with refugees
  5. I Have Rights
  6. Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid
  7. Better Days Greece
  8. Choose Love
  9. Equal Legal Aid
  10. Mobile Info Team
  11. Thalassa of Solidarity (Θάλασσα Αλληλεγγύης)
  12. #LeaveNoOneBehind
  13. Network for Children's Rights
  14. Samos Volunteers
  15. Europe Cares e.V. / Paréa Lesvos
  16. Diotima Centre for Gender Rights and Equality
  17. Ariadni Lesvos



[1] EU Commission, ‘Memorandum of Understanding on a Joint Pilot for the establishment and operation of a new Multi-Purpose Reception and Identification Centre on Lesvos’ (2020) 8657 final; European Commission ‘Migration: A European Taskforce to Resolve Emergency Situation on Lesvos’ (23 September 2020).

[2] RSA and PRO ASYL 'What's Happening Today in the Refugee Structures on the Aegean Islands’ (May 2023); Intersos ‘Trapped between Scylla and Charybdis’ (August 2023).

[3] Article 40(a) of Law 4939/2022, Government Gazette A’ 111/10.06.2022 (Asylum Code).

Ο Διευθυντής του ΕΣΠ, κος Λευτέρης Παπαγιαννάκης μιλώντας στο Euronews στο πλαίσιο εκτενούς ρεπορτάζ του ευρωπαϊκού ενημερωτικού δικτύου για τα πρόσφατα γεγονότα με την παράνομη σύλληψη και κράτηση μεταναστών από πολίτες στον Έβρο, αναφέρθηκε στην συνεχιζόμενη στοχοποίηση που δέχονται οι μετανάστες και οι πρόσφυγες στην Ελλάδα και εξέφρασε την ανησυχία του ότι οι πρακτικές αυτές γίνονται πολλές φορές με την ανοχή της αστυνομίας και του στρατού. 

Athens, 27 July 2023:

In a joint submission to the Prosecutors of the Piraeus Naval Court, the First Instance Court of Mytilene and the Supreme Court Prosecutor, 28 civil society organisations are calling for an effective investigation into potential criminal acts committed in relation to what was published on 19 May 2023 by the New York Times (NYT).

In mid-May the NYT published video footage of an alleged pushback from the island of Lesvos, which allegedly took place in the midday hours of 11 April 2023.[1] Amongst others, the publication had provoked the reaction of the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Ms. Ylva Johansson, who had called on the Greek authorities to conduct a full and independent investigation into the reported incident, while the Greek Prime Minister, in an interview to CNN, had committed to investigating the incident, describing it as an "completely unacceptable practice"[2].

However, apart from referring the case to the National Transparency Authority,[3] an authority that has been repeatedly criticised for its ineffectiveness in investigating similar incidents,[4] no other investigation into the incident has been made public.

To this day, despite the significant number of reliable and consistent reports on alleged pushbacks at the Greece’s borders, which have been systematically reported in recent years by UN and EU bodies, and more recently by the Recording Mechanism of Informal Forced Returns, which has been established and operates within the framework of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR),[5] no known case has been examined beyond the preliminary stage by the Greek judiciary or effectively investigated.[6]

The lack of an effective investigation by the Greek judiciary was one of the reasons for which the European Court of Human Rights found a violation from the side of the Greek Authorities, in the landmark ruling issued last year on the Farmakonisi shipwreck case.

The joint submission (Greek), alongside the list of signatory organisations is available here


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/19/world/europe/greece-migrants-abandoned.html

[2] https://www.primeminister.gr/en/2023/05/23/31878

[3] https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/562438798/metanasteytiko-ereyna-apo-tin-ethniki-archi-diafaneias-gia-to-vinteo-apo-ti-lesvo/

[4] https://rsaegean.org/el/michanismoi-dierevnisis/

[5] The NCHR constitutes the independent consultative body of the Greek state on matters of protection and promotion of human rights as per L. 4780/2021.

[6] https://www.gcr.gr/media/k2/attachments/GCR_HLHR_letter_final.pdf

Όχι περαιτέρω ολίσθηση: Να αποσυρθεί το καθεστώς παρεκκλίσεων από τη μεταρρύθμιση του ενωσιακού δικαίου για το άσυλο

Ιούλιος 2023

Τα κράτη μέλη και το Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο, οι ενωσιακοί συννομοθέτες, προχωρούν στη μεταρρύθμιση του ενωσιακού δικαίου για το άσυλο, υπό τη μορφή του Συμφώνου για τη Μετανάστευση και το Άσυλο, το οποίο υποβαθμίζει το επίπεδο προστασίας και υπονομεύει τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα των αιτούντων άσυλο στην Ευρώπη. Αλλά όχι μόνο.

Ορισμένα κράτη μέλη της ΕΕ επιθυμούν την αναβίωση της πρόσθετης από 2021 πρότασης για την «εργαλειοποίηση». Η πρόταση επιτρέπει παρεκκλίσεις από τις υποχρεώσεις τους σε συνθήκες φερόμενης «εργαλειοποίησης μεταναστών», κατά τρόπο που υπονομεύει την εναρμόνιση και την επίτευξη κοινού συστήματος. Για περισσότερες λεπτομέρειες, διαβάστε την ακόλουθη ανάλυση και δήλωση.

The new issue of the Greek Asylum Case Law Report released today provides excerpts from 99 decisions by administrative, civil and criminal courts, the Independent Appeals Committees and the Asylum Service, exclusively issued in the first half of 2023.

This issue covers topics such as the interpretation of the “safe third country” concept, evidence assessment and refugee status determination, procedural safeguards in the asylum procedure, the workings of administrative appeals and of judicial protection of asylum seekers, the right to family reunification, immigration detention, as well as the treatment of refugees in criminal law.

In addition to the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), HIAS Greece and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), Issue 1/2023 of Greek Asylum Case Law Report received contributions from civil society organisations METAdrasi, Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid, Equal Rights Beyond Borders, I Have Rights and European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL), as well as an increasing number of lawyers of the Legal Aid Registry of the Asylum Service, selected from their respective casework.

You can access Issue 1/2023 of the Greek Asylum Case Law Report (Greek) here.

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

HIAS Greece

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)

Athens, 21 June 2023: Greece must guarantee independent and effective monitoring of violations of the human rights of refugees and migrants to restore the rule of law, following the European Commission request to the Greek authorities for an investigation of a push back of refugees by the Hellenic Coast Guard on Lesvos island, documented by the New York Times. The Greek authorities have entrusted the National Transparency Authority (NTA) with the investigation.

On 26 June, on the occasion of Spain's forthcoming assumption of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, 23 civil society organisations, including GCR, sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Spain, Mr. Pedro Sánchez.


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