The pre-registration of asylum seekers on mainland Greece was declared completed on 1 August  in a joint press release by  the Greek Asylum Service, UNHCR and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The large-scale operation launched on June 8, 2016, resulted in the issuing of asylum seeker cards to thousands of people, allowing them to reside legally in Greece and have the right to access health and education services. Pre-registration was accessible to persons of all nationalities arriving in Greece before March 20.

According to UNHCR figures, in the time frame of June 9 to July 30 a total 27,592 persons have been pre-registered. Most people are from Syria (54%), followed by Afghanistan (27%), Iraq (13%), Pakistan (3%) and Palestine 2 (%). Among them a total of 1,225 unaccompanied minors who were mostly from Afghanistan (47%), followed by Syria (36%), Iraq (12%).

Those who have not been able to pre-register and want to apply for asylum can schedule a registration appointment through Skype. According to Alternate  Minister of Migration Policy, Ioannis Mouzalas, there are 4000 – 6000 people unaccounted for.

The Greek Asylum Service, UNHCR and EASO, clarify that those who pre-registered will receive a text message including the date and location of their appointment at the Asylum Service. Due to the high numbers of people pre-registered, the waiting time for the first appointment at the Asylum Office might take a few months. In case the first appointment is missed, asylum seekers will have to book a new appointment through skype.

In their report  on Greece, the AIRE Centre and ECRE have drawn attention to the fact that, while pre-registration has proven to be an efficient exercise, additional administrative layers to an already complex asylum procedure could risk creating more confusion among refugees.

Additionally, the absence of a deadline between pre-registration and the formal registration with the Asylum Service is problematic and could violate the obligation to register asylum applications within a maximum of 10 working days, according to Article 6 of the Recast Asylum Procedures Directive as well as Article 18 of the EU Charter. Further, despite ongoing steps to increase the Asylum Service’s staffing, there is still a considerable investment in human resources needed. Hence, large scale pre-registration without a parallel expansion of the Asylum Service will not effectively solve the situation in the long term.


Additional Information:

This article will appear in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 2 September 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.