Asylum Seekers Struggle in Greece
Mark Schwenk reports from Thessaloniki on the situation for asylum seekers in Greece.
I am now in my third week in Thessaloniki where I am volunteering with the Mobile Info Team.
The Mobile Info Team provides information and assistance for people caught in the European asylum system.
In 2016, the EU-Turkey agreement provided for the return of those irregularly arriving on the Greek Islands to Turkey. In fact, very few returns were made.
However, the Greek asylum service has subjected Syrians arriving on the islands to an admissibility procedure designed to determine whether applicants have a sufficient ‘connection' with Turkey and whether it can be considered a safe third country for them.
The Greek asylum service admissibility procedure results in thousands of Syrian asylum seekers having their claims deemed inadmissible on the basis that Turkey is a safe third country.
Syrian asylum seekers are excluded from the asylum determination process. They are consequently left stranded on the islands, usually in appalling conditions, without the merits of their claim for asylum being considered.
Indeed, there have been no returns from Greece to Turkey since the Covid pandemic erupted in March 2020. Article 86(5) of the Greek asylum law implementing Article 38 of EU Directive 2103/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, would appear to prohibit the application of this procedure where the applicant is denied entry to the third country concerned. But no matter, the practise continues.
According to the Greek Council for Refugees 2020 report (p.23):
"Since mid-2016, the same template decision is issued to dismiss claims of Syrians applicants as inadmissible on the basis that Turkey is a safe third country for them. Accordingly, negative first instance decisions qualifying Turkey as a safe third country for Syrians are not only identical and repetitive - failing to provide an individualised assessment - but also outdated insofar as they do not take into account developments after that period."
On 7 June 2021 a ministerial decision designated Turkey a safe third country for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia as well as Syria and, as a result, the applications lodged by nationals of those countries can also be rejected as "inadmissible" without being examined on the merits.
Presumably we can now look forward to similar poor-quality decisions for Afghans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Somalis.
Article by Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Barrister Mark Schwenk.
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