Massive number of rejections in Greece deny people fair asylum process, Oxfam and GCR say

Publicado: 19th Mayo 2020

In reaction to the Greek Asylum Service issuing thousands of rejections to asylum-seekers while its public-facing services were closed for over two months, Oxfam European migration campaign lead Evelien van Roemburg said: 

“While efforts to accelerate the asylum process for thousands of the people trapped in inhumane 'hotspot' camps are to be welcomed, Oxfam and its partner the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) criticise the practise of issuing mass rejections, which undermines people’s right to a fair asylum procedure.  

The pandemic lockdown means access to lawyer is severely limited, the legal aid available is insufficient to cope with such a high number of cases, and recent amendments to Greek asylum law have made accessing any assistance harder still. This means rejected asylum-seekers, including families with young children, with hardly any chance to appeal the decisions, now face detention in unsafe and unsanitary conditions and then deportation. 

Natalia-Rafaella Kafkoutsou, refugee law expert at the Greek Council for Refugees, said: 

“These decisions have a massive impact on people who have fled violence and persecution. By rejecting thousands of asylum applications all of a sudden, Greek authorities are denying those people the chance to a fair asylum procedure. 

“People seeking asylum need support by a lawyer to navigate the highly complex procedure in Greece, and for appeals, the state is even obliged to offer legal support. However, only a fraction of them will have a chance to receive the support they need before the end of the 10-day deadline for submitting an appeal. 

“People who are unable to meet the deadline to appeal their asylum rejection will be put in detention to be deported when possible. In detention, they are even less protected from the coronavirus than they already are in the squalid refugee camps in Greece.  

“The Greek asylum service should suspend all deadlines now until people have access to effective legal support and authorities can protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Notas para editores

  • Spokespeople are available in Athens and Lesbos, Greece (for interviews in English or Greek). 
  • The Greek asylum service had closed its offices to the public for over two months and reopened yesterday. According to information provided by the asylum service to the Lesbos-based Legal Aid sub-Working Group, during the closure, the Greek Asylum Service rejected 1,789 asylum-seekers in Lesbos alone, and 11,000 in all of Greece, according to the minister of migration and asylum. Following the reopening of the asylum service, applicants on Lesbos and the other Greek islands have now 10 days to appeal the rejection. However, according to the regional office of the asylum service in Lesbos, the service will receive only 100 appeals per day.  
  • The Greek authorities are required to offer legal support to people seeking asylum in the appeals stage. This is to ensure that any mistakes in the first instance can be corrected and people entitled to international protection are not returned to places where their life or health could be in danger. The lack of legal support amounts to a fully-fledged failure of the Greek authorities to guarantee the rights of asylum-seekers.  
  • Oxfam has partnered with the Greek Council for Refugees to provide free legal aid to people seeking asylum in Greece and to advocate for a better protection of refugees. 
  • Read the latest ‘Lesbos Bulletin’, Oxfam’s and GCR’s 2-weekly update on the situation in the EU-sponsored ‘hotspot’ camp of Moria, Lesbos.

Información de contacto

Contact information: 

Florian Oel | Brussels | | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60 

For updates, please follow @Oxfam and @OxfamEU 

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