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Greek asylum procedure violates EU-law

European refugee organisations file complaint with the European Commission.

Brussels, November 10, 2009 – The Greek asylum system is failing and
inhuman. Asylum seekers are detained in overcrowded, dirty prisons or forced
to live on the streets where many of them face harassment and violence. Some
of them are sent back to Turkey in unseaworthy boats. The Dutch Council for
Refugees, the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre, PRO ASYL and the British
Refugee and Migrant Justice are ringing the alarm bell in a complaint that
is filed today with the European Commission. ECRE and 20 other refugee
organisations in Europe support the complaint.

Greece is in clear violation of EU asylum law. Nonetheless, other European
countries continue to transfer asylum seekers back to Greece. As Greece is
the first country they entered, that is where they have to apply for asylum.
“Outrageous”, says Edwin Huizing, director of The Dutch Council for Refugees
“As long as the situation in Greece is not improving, asylum seekers should
not be sent back.” ECRE’s Secretary-General, Bjarte Vandvik says, “It is
deeply disappointing to see that situations such as these continue to be
tolerated in Europe. By continuing the practice of transferrals to
dysfunctional asylum systems within the EU, other Member States only serve
to condone such flagrant violations of EU asylum law”.

No protection
Upon return in Greece, asylum seekers end up in a deplorable situation. The
possibility of receiving adequate protection in Greece is practically
non-existent. An asylum application can only be filed on Saturdays at only
one police station in Athens. Every week thousands of asylum seekers queue
outside the station. Only 50 people are allowed to file their asylum
applications; the others have to come back to try it a week later. Asylum
seekers receive no information whatsoever, there are no interpreters
present, and legal aid is difficult to find. There is a serious lack of
reception facilities: men, women, children and the elderly, who might be in
need of protection on the basis of the EU’s and international asylum laws
and treaties, roam the streets or build little sheds themselves.

Infringement procedure
In the recent past the Greek government has repeatedly been addressed by,
among others, the European Commission. The Greek government promised to
improve the situation by changing its laws. However, in practice only minor
and insufficient improvements have been made. The Dutch Council for Refugees
urges the European Commission to start an infringement procedure against
Greece before the European Court of Justice due to violations of EU asylum

High influx
Each year tens of thousands of asylum seekers arrive in Greece and currently
there is a backlog of 30,000 applications. The new Greek government has
expressed its intention to improve the situation for asylum seekers in the
country. However, there is an urgent need to move from expressions of
goodwill into concrete action. In the meantime, asylum seekers should not be
returned back to Greece.

More information:
Dutch Council for Refugees
Persvoorlichting VluchtelingenWerk Nederland

+31 (0)20 346 72 08
+31 (0)20 346 72 06
+31 (0)65 185 01 91

Source: http://www.ecre.org/

You may find the complaint here.

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