26 February 2016

ECRE has published comments on the European Commission’s Recommendation on the urgent measures to be taken in view of the resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece. Transfers to Greece have been suspended since 2011, following judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

ECRE draws on up-to-date information on the state of the Greek asylum system to express concerns about ongoing shortcomings in several areas. Access to the asylum procedure remains hampered by the limited presence of the Asylum Service across the Greek territory, as well as by persisting problems in the Skype pre-registration system at the Regional Asylum Office in Attica. For those who successfully lodge an asylum claim, the Greek government’s intention to declare Turkey a “safe third country”, and to reject claims as inadmissible so as to return applicants thereto, is liable to create real risks of refoulement. Risks of arbitrary detention in substandard conditions are also highlighted, particularly in respect of specific nationalities which have been systematically placed in pre-removal centres.

As regards the issue of reception conditions, ECRE is concerned by the Commission’s assessment of reception capacity in Greece. The general figure of 17,628 places communicated on 10 February 2016 not only misleadingly includes pre-removal detention places and other detention facilities (First Reception Centres), but also portrays temporary accommodation solutions (such as the Elliniko hockey stadium in Athens) as reception structures. Given that less than 1,500 places are available in second-line reception for persons applying for international protection, the Hotspot Progress Report misrepresents Greece’s capacity to host asylum seekers and underestimates palpable risks of destitution.

ECRE urges EU institutions and Member States to refrain from a reinstatement of transfers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation and recalls that the position of relevant monitoring bodies need be taken into account, in view of the ongoing supervision of the execution of the M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greeceruling of the European Court of Human Rights by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. ECRE also stresses that a state of affairs whereby international protection applicants are transferred out of Greece under the emergency relocation scheme (which is still implemented at very meagre rates), while others are returned to Greece under Dublin, would be highly counter-intuitive to the aim of alleviating pressure on the Greek asylum system. Quite to the contrary, it could result in placing Greek authorities under even more severe strain in view of the number of asylum seekers who are potentially returnable under the Dublin Regulation, recalling that 856,723 persons arrived by sea in the country in 2015.


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