On 25 August the Greek government tabled a Bill amending deportation and return procedures, residence permits and asylum procedures. The bill has been met with severe criticism for eroding protection and introducing new fees and fines imposed on asylum seekers and the organisations supporting them. Further, Greek Police are imposing fines of 5,000 euro for people on the move arriving by sea without Corona tests.

In their extensive comments, ECRE members the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), and HIAS along with Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) raise severe criticism of the legislative proposals tabled by the Greek government. In light of “systematic and indiscriminate” deportation decisions by police against asylum seekers and the failure of administrative courts to ensure legal scrutiny, the law lacks sufficient clarifications of procedures prior to return or deportation and fails to ensure the right of applicants to remain on Greek territory until the end of the asylum procedure. The organisations identify a risk of refoulement given the lack of assessment of the merits and limited appeal options in such discontinued cases. The bill suspends safeguards for people at risk of non-refoulement and does not reinstate humanitarian protection in the asylum process. The reduction of the maximum time limit for voluntary departure from one year to 120 days prevents “safeguarding ties and schooling of children,” with the organisations underlining that “the abrupt severance of those ties amounts to difficultly reparable harm”. Further, the introduction of a 150 euro fine against beneficiaries of international protection submitting a late application for renewal of their residency permit, and a 100 euro fee for every subsequent asylum application violates EU law.

In a statement published on 26 August, Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) urges the rejection of the “unlawful Deportations Bill” as it “fully disregards the positions and concerns put forward by civil society and the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) regarding compliance with international and EU law on asylum and migration”. Further, the bill continues the ongoing crack-down on NGOs supporting asylum seekers and refugees as it introduces “restrictions and conditions on organisations active in competence areas of the Hellenic Coast Guard, flouts Law of the Sea obligations towards persons in distress and imposes strict criminal sanctions and fines of up to 2,000 € per person and 12,000 € per institution”. Legal and Advocacy Officer for RSA Minos Mouzourakis stated: “The proliferation of fees and fines against refugees and those who assist them in Greece goes beyond deterrence. Charging money for an asylum claim to be heard perverts the very nature of refugee protection.”

According to local media, the Greek police have introduced yet another punitive measure against asylum seekers arriving by sea. Under the pretext of a protocol introduced for tourists and visitors during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Greek police are handing out fines of 5000 euro to asylum seekers arriving by sea without negative tests. At the beginning of August, the Chios Police Department fined 25 asylum seekers a total of 125,000 euro. The validity of such fines is set to be judged in court following an appeal by one victim of this practice.

For further information: 

Photo: ECRE

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.