Oxfam and GCR applaud Council of State for ending containment policy and condemn Greek Government’s attempts to defy Court’s ruling

With an April 17, 2018, ruling, the Greek Council of State (Greece’s highest administrative court) prevented the systematic and indiscriminate use of geographic restrictions on asylum seekers in the Greek “hotspots”. The decision was not retroactive and would not have changed the desperate situation of over 15,500 people already confined to the islands while waiting for their asylum cases to be processed. It was, however, supposed to reinstate basic rights of freedom of movement for asylum seekers arriving in Greece after the 16th of April 2018, thus sparing countless more from exposure to degrading “hotspot” conditions.

Despite this, rather than implementing the ruling, on April 19 the Government introduced a draft law attempting to restore the containement policy on the islands, and on April 20, the new Director of the Asylum Service (appointed on April 18) reissued a containment decision.

Previously, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) had successfully filed an annulment of the administrative decision imposing geographical restrictions on asylum seekers applying for protection on the Greek Islands. GCR and Oxfam cooperate in assisting refugees and asylum seekers in Lesvos and are partners in the campaign demanding that the Greek government and European leaders open the islands.  

Vasileios Papadopoulos, Coordinator of Legal Services at GCR said: “The Greek Government and the new Asylum Service Director are joining their efforts to overturn the rule of law and reinstating the containment policy to prop up the EU-Turkey Deal at all costs. This and many other policies being pursued by the European Union and implemented in Greece are detrimental to asylum seekers, local communities and European values and future.” 

Nicola Bay, Oxfam Head of Mission in Greece stated: “Confining people on the islands has proven to be inefficient, inhumane, and is now officially unlawful. Oxfam believes that Greece and Europe should actively support and respect the Council of State’s ruling which is a strong and powerful message against the current EU migration policies”. 

Since the entry into force of the EU-Turkey Deal in March 2016, the police and the asylum service have issued systematically and indiscriminately restrictions of movement against newly arrived asylum seekers on the Greek islands, impeding them from moving freely within the Greek territory and forcing them to reside on the islands for unknown and extensive periods of time until their asylum claim is processed. Currently, more than 15,500 people are already subject to this fate, forced to endure inhumane living conditions while lacking access to critical services. In light of the Government’s defiance of the Court’s ruling, thousands more will be exposed to the same conditions, further exacerbating this humanitarian tragedy.

Contact information: 

Renata Rendón | Deputy Head of Mission | Oxfam in Greece | email:  renata.rendon@oxfam.org | Mobile: +30 69 78 83 95 16 

Danae Leivada | Communications Manager | Greek Council for Refugees | email: d.leivada@gcr.gr | Mobile: +30 210 380 09 90