Review of the blacklist of EU tax havens
In the report Decreased, Derogated, Denied, released today (July 2), the organizations show how Greece’s reformed asylum law, which entered into force on January 1, 2020 and was later amended in May, exposes people to abuse and operation. This situation is further compounded by the inhumane living conditions in refugee camps in Greece, where people now risk a devastating health crisis if COVID-19 reaches the camps.
Evelien van Roemburg, Head of Oxfam’s Europe Migration Campaign, said: “The new Greek law is a blatant attack on Europe’s humanitarian commitment to protect people fleeing conflict and persecution. The European Union is complicit in these abuses, because it has used Greece for years as a testing ground for new migration policies. We are extremely concerned that the EU is now using Greece’s asylum system as a model for the next asylum reform in Europe.
The organizations’ analysis revealed that many particularly vulnerable people – such as children, pregnant women and people with disabilities – were detained upon their arrival on the islands of the “hotspot”., without sufficient access to the necessary care or protection. The asylum system also makes it extremely difficult for asylum seekers to correctly present the reasons for their flight from their country of origin, such as conflict or persecution, to the Greek asylum service.
“If Greece has the sovereign right to manage its borders, it must protect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. The EU and Greece have made the political choice to endanger the lives and futures of the people they are responsible for protecting, ”added van Roemburg.
In the center of the EU “hotspot” of Moria on the Greek island of Lesvos, people are crowded into a camp, which is currently at six times its capacity. They do not have sufficient access to basic health care, clean toilets or hand washing facilities, and overcrowding makes social distancing – which is essential to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – impossible.
The testimonies gathered by the Greek Council for Refugees reveal these harsh living conditions in Moria.
Rawan * from Afghanistan came to Greece with her two minor children to seek refuge in Europe. A single mother with children and a survivor of gender-based violence, she needs special support and care. Instead, she was forced to live for six months in a camping tent, in the Moria camp overflow area, where even basic facilities such as toilets are not always accessible.
“The situation in Moria was appalling. During the pandemic, everyone was afraid that if the virus got to us, then they would dig a mass grave to bury us. They only gave us two masks and soap. But how are you supposed to wash your hands without water? In the queue it was so crowded that we couldn’t keep a distance. We weren’t protected, ”says Rawan.
The reformed law effectively prohibits many people who lack legal support from appealing a refusal of asylum. The deadlines have been dramatically shortened and, in many cases, expire before people are made aware of the decision. Asylum seekers can only appeal through a lawyer – but in Lesvos there is only one state-sponsored lawyer.
Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou, Advocacy Manager at GCR, said: “When the Greek authorities reject an asylum request, it does not necessarily mean that people do not need international protection. This is often a consequence of the accelerated asylum procedure applied in border procedures. Short deadlines increase the possibility of errors. In addition, people do not have the time and the right environment to prepare for their asylum interview, in which they can talk about the horrors they have fled.
“It puts people’s lives in danger: rejected people risk being immediately detained for deportation to Turkey or their country of origin.
“The Greek government must restore a fair asylum system that fully respects human rights. The European Commission must review Greece’s asylum practices and assess their compliance with EU law.
While the authorities sometimes rule in a few days on the asylum applications of people who arrived in 2020, those who arrived in 2019 must wait months or even years for their first interview to take place. During this period, most are not allowed to leave the EU-sponsored inhumane camps on the Greek islands.
For many already traumatized people, living conditions in places like Moria expose them to further damage. In recent months, during the lockdown linked to COVID-19, there has been a worrying increase in cases of sexual harassment and reports of rape and domestic violence in the camp.
Barlin *, a Somali refugee, described the lack of protection for single women: “The men threatened them, they took their cellphones, they came to their tents, they had no support or protection to use the toilets and toilets. bathrooms. during the night they had to defend themselves because there was no police or security.
Oxfam and GCR call on the Greek government and the EU to immediately review the new Greek asylum law and give all those seeking asylum in Greece access to a fair and efficient asylum procedure. They also call on EU Member States to honor the principle of solidarity that underpins the very fabric of the EU and to share responsibility with Greece in the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.
* All names of asylum seekers have been changed to protect their identity.
- The Greek government also illegally asylum applications suspended for the month of March.
- The Greek authorities are required to provide legal support to asylum seekers at the appeals stage. This is to ensure that any mistakes in the first place can be corrected and that those entitled to international protection are not returned to potentially dangerous places. However, the number of state-funded lawyers is very limited and in 2019 only 33% of appeals benefited from the state-funded legal aid scheme. The majority of people are referred to NGO-funded lawyers, but NGOs have limited capacity and restricted movement in the camps also makes it difficult for people to find an NGO lawyer.
- The European Commission will soon publish a new pact on migration and asylum, which will set the direction for the EU and Member States to reform the EU asylum system and the bloc’s migration policies. The new Pact will most likely suggest using more development aid to curb migration, and it risks perpetuating the humanitarian catastrophe that has unfolded in Greece in recent years.