Author: Marion Bouchetel

May 19: Trial in Kalamata – Criminalization against people on the move in Greece continues!

Common statement by Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe, Can’t Evict Solidarity, Iuventa-Crew, Legal Center Lesvos and Watch the Med Alarm Phone.

Source: watchthemed

Criminalization efforts in Greece continue: two migrants have to appear in front of the court in Kalamata, Greece, on May 19, 2022. Shortly after the trials against the Paros 3 and the Samos 2, two more people face trial in Greece. Over a year ago, in the evening hours of May 3rd, 2021, a group of around 180 people was brought to the Greek port of Kalamata after spending seven days at sea. On arrival, several people were arrested and accused of smuggling. Two of the accused have been imprisoned since the arrest and face trial next week. This is yet another story that shows the systematic attacks on people’s freedom by the Greek state. 

Ibrahim*, a Syrian man and one of the accused in Kalamata, defends himself with clear words against the accusation:

No, I did not try to repair the engine as I don’t know how to do it. I was not driving the boat. I got the money for the trip from my sons and friends. I spend six years in Turkey.  My children are all boys and grown up – I did not want them to go to war and get killed. In Syria I was a builder.” 

When the group of 180 was at sea, they reached out to the Alarm Phone as the motor stopped working. They were stuck in Greek waters on their way to Italy and had run out of water and food. For several days, however, the people refused help by the Greek Coast Guard as they were afraid of what would await them in Greece. They reported the following – (full report here): 

“The Greek Coast Guard – You will be shocked about the story you will hear about their aggression and inhumanity. Some people from our group were caught by them earlier, about two weeks ago. They tied them up with cable ties and threw them in the water, just like that. You might not believe this, but there are people with me here who can tell you the same story. We refuse any help from Greece, because they will torture us, they always play games on us.” 

This fear was justified: Several among the group had previously been pushed back and brutalized by the Hellenic Coast Guard, and several passengers said they would prefer to die at sea than to enter into the hands of the Hellenic Coast Guard again.

For Ibrahim, it was neither his first trip, nor his first traumatizing experience with Greek authorities:

I still feel dizzy from the previous boat trip and I can not see well, especially with my left eye. Four to five months ago, I had first tried to travel [to Europe] but they pushed us back. I had no life vest. Only a few had one. We sincerely risked to drown.” 

Until today, these systematic pushbacks and attacks against people on the move continue to happen, while the ones who are responsible for these crimes face no retribution.

On the contrary, Greek authorities systematically criminalize people on the move: For most boats that arrive in Greece, several people are arrested and afterwards legally prosecuted for steering the boat or for helping in other ways during the journey. The trials are often over very quickly, with decisions reached in a short time, and the sentences are draconic. Without sufficient evidence, people are usually arrested upon arrival and kept in pre-trial detention for months. When their case finally comes to court, their trials average only 38 minutes in length, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines over 370.000 Euro.

To us it is clear: boat driving and crossing borders can never be a crime. It’s a fundamental right – and one we will continue to uphold and support. The real crime is the border regime put in place by the EU and its partners along the different migration routes. 

WE DEMAND:

  • All charges against the accused to be dropped;
  • Freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” despite the fact that there is no alternative to reach the European Union;
  • An end to the criminalization of migration and the incarceration of people on the move.

For media requests write to media(att)alarmphone.org

* name has been changed

Cruel and unjustified postponement of Amir and Razuli appeal trial

Press statement of the initiatives Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean

#FreeAmirAndRazuli

The appeal trial of Amir Zahiri (27) and Akif Razuli (24) scheduled for today in Mytilene court, was, once again, postponed to a later date, 8 December 2022.

After being interrupted on 18 March due to the caseload of the court, the trial has now been postponed under the pretext that a witness, an officer from the Hellenic Coast Guard, was absent in court.

This witness was already absent from the first instance trial and had provided a written report which only related to charges of “causing a shipwreck”, for which both defendents were acquitted in the first instance. It is therefore highly questionable why his irrelevant testimony was a sufficient excuse to postpone the trial once again. Furthermore, the court had the authority to read his written testimony in court, rather than postpone the trial, as they had in the first trial.

Despite a request by the lawyers to free both men until their trial date in December,  with which the Public prosecutor agreed, the Court of three judges finally denied the petition, ordering that they remain in prison. 

Following today’s hearing, Amir and Razuli will thefore be forced back into prison for at least eight more months, away from their families and friends. To date they have already spent over two years behind bars, despite the lack of evidence against them. Razuli and Amir have already been transferred twice back and forth between Lesvos and detention centres in Serres and Chios respectively, each time with the hope of having a final decision in their case and being released. Causing extreme and uncessary distress, each postponement is an obstacle to the a fair and speedy administration of justice. This further delay is a denial of justice.

The repeated criminalisation of migrants, such as in this case, stands in stark contrast to the complete impunity for violence against migrants at Greece’s borders, despite the insurmountable evidence of systemic pushbacks carried out by the Hellenic Coast guard in coordination with the Greek police.

Vicky Angelidou, from the Legal Centre Lesvos, and one of the lawyers for the accused, stated “with shocking decisions such as today’s and the decision in the first trial, Greek courts are destroying the lives of people who only wanted a better future in Europe, showing their total detatchment from reality, and the lives of the people they are judging.”

A spokesperson for CPT-Aegean Migrant Solidarity said: “People charged with smuggling offences constitute the second largest prison population in Greece. We are glad that the spotlight is finally being put on these unjust procedures, but as today’s decision has shown, even this is not enough. On a regular basis migrants are swallowed into the prison system, convicted without anybody knowing or caring who they are.”

Annina Mullis, a representative of the Swiss Democratic Lawyers’ Association, who was observing today’s trial stated, “an 8 month postponement for no reason is a clear violation of procedural rights – based on the European Convention on Human Rights, courts are obliged to move procedures forward expeditiously, especially when defendants are in prison. What we have witnessed today was an arbitrary show of force in a politicised court room.”

Kim Schneider, spokesperson for the solidarity initiative You can`t evict Solidarity, pointed out: “It is unbelievable. Once again, the trial of Amir and Razuli has been postponed. We are so furious that we are speechless. We cannot explain this to the young men nor their families whose lives are being destroyed. We need to take political action now.”

The Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have closely followed the trial. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it will take to achieve justice for Amir and Razuli.

Press contacts:

  • Marion Bouchetel, Legal Centre Lesvos, marion@legalcentrelesvos.org, Phone: +30 697 761 9003, @Lesboslegal
  • Kim Schneider, You can’t evict Solidarity, cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net, Phone: +49 152 19255205, Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

National Transparency Authority should publish the full investigation regarding pushbacks in accordance with the principle of transparency / Να δημοσιευθεί η έρευνα της Εθνικής Αρχής Διαφάνειας για τις επαναπροωθήσεις σε συμμόρφωση με την αρχή της διαφάνειας

Logo of the Greek National transparency Authority, source: https://aead.gr/en/

7 April 2022

On the 29th of March, the Greek National Transparency Authority (NTA) issued a press release announcing the conclusion of a 3-month investigation on the management of migration flows to the Greek territory as well as the relevant international journalistic reports on informal forced returns (pushbacks).

It is recalled that NTA’s investigation was launched at the request of the Minister of Migration and Asylum, following the publication of an 8-month journalistic investigation by Lighthouse Reports and nine more European media platforms, which referred to a “system” of illegal forced returns in Greece and Croatia and the direct involvement of special units of security forces assigned with the task to “chase asylum applicants away from the E.U.”.

It is also recalled that the issue of pushbacks in Greece has caused multiple interventions by the European Commission, which, in September 2021, vetoed the release of a € 15,83 million emergency fund to Greece, setting as a prerequisite the establishment of an independent mechanism for the investigation of allegations on human rights violations at the country’s borders. More recently, the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) decided by a qualified majority to postpone the decision on the discharge of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) 2020 accounts. CONT’s decision invoked, inter alia, the failure of the Agency to create a serious incidents reporting mechanism, as well as the fact that the Agency’s management was aware but deliberately avoided to report violations of fundamental rights at the EU’s external borders and specifically in Greece, as per the summary of a report by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which was presented before the CONT on the 28th of February**.

In this context, it is deeply concerning that the NTA decided to announce the findings of its investigation through a press release, thus leaving a large amount of questions unanswered, such as if and to what extent it took into consideration the 540 cases of illegal pushbacks recorded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Greece, the range of actors that were approached for the purposes of the investigation, as well as the broader methodology used to corroborate its findings. On the contrary, unexpectedly, NTA conducted part of the investigation with “the support of the Forensic Science Division (FSD)”, i.e. with the support of a Central Office of the Hellenic Police, officers of which, similarly to the Coast Guard’s, are the alleged perpetrators of the illegal pushbacks at the borders and in the Greek territory. Furthermore, it should also be mentioned that dozens of illegal pushback cases against Greece are pending before the European Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Committee of the UN.

Consequently, the NTA failed to provide essential information which might have provided an answer on the issue of pushbacks in Greece, as required from an independent authority. It is also noted that NTA is not a constitutionally established independent authority, does not meet the ten requirements/points of the UN institutions and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) for the establishment of an independent and effective national border monitoring mechanism of fundamental rights at the Greek borders, while, as highlighted in a recent study, it does not have the required specialization on border issues.

In any case, while the NTA does not meet the criteria to conduct an independent investigation on the allegations regarding pushbacks, we request the publication of the full report of this investigation, in order for its methodology and conclusions to be available for evaluation, to ensure the accountability of the implicated actors and to preserve the public’s trust to national authorities*****.

** European Parliament, “MEPs withhold discharge of EU border control agency Frontex’ accounts”, 31 March 2022: https://bit.ly/3J8ZdGD and “EP committee asks for part of Frontex budget to be frozen”, 27 September 2021: https://bit.ly/38uSgTF; Marquardt, Question for written answer E-000861/2022 to the Commission, https://bit.ly/3uTGLfV; EfSyn, “They are hiding the findings on Frontex”, 2 April 2022, available (Greek): https://bit.ly/3j9J7C6; Der Spiegel, “Pressure Growing on Frontex Chief from Pushbacks Investigation”, 21 March 2022: https://bit.ly/37jdGT7

***** According to the relevant case-law of the ECtHR on the elements of an effective investigation,, “[t]here must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny of the investigation or its results to secure accountability in practice as well as in theory, maintain public confidence in the authorities’ adherence to the rule of law and prevent any appearance of collusion in or tolerance of unlawful acts” [Anguelova v. Bulgaria, no. 38361/97, § 140, ECHR 2002-IV]

Signatory Organizations

Action for Women

Amnesty International

Changemakers Lab

Diotima Centre

ECHO100PLUS 

Europe Must Act

Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

Greek Forum of Migrants

Greek Forum of Refugees

Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR)

HIAS Greece

HumanRights360

Human Rights Legal Project 

I HAVE RIGHTS (IHR)

International Rescue Committee Hellas (IRC)

Irida Women’s Center

Legal Centre Lesvos

Melissa Network of Migrant Women in Greece

Mobile Info Team

Refugee Legal Support (RLS) 

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)

Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece, Council of Europe Network

Still I Rise

The HOME Project

7 Απριλίου 2022

Με δελτίο τύπου της στις 29 Μαρτίου, η Εθνική Αρχή Διαφάνειας (ΕΑΔ) ανακοίνωσε την ολοκλήρωση 3μηνης έρευνας που διεξήγαγε ως προς τη διαχείριση των μεταναστευτικών ροών στην ελληνική επικράτεια και τα διαλαμβανόμενα σε διεθνή δημοσιογραφική έρευνα περί άτυπων αναγκαστικών επιστροφών (επαναπροωθήσεων).

Υπενθυμίζεται πως η έρευνα της ΕΑΔ ξεκίνησε με αίτημα του Υπουργού Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου, μετά τη δημοσίευση 8μηνης δημοσιογραφικής έρευνας της ομάδας Lighthouse Reports και 9 ακόμη ευρωπαϊκών μέσων ενημέρωσης, η οποία έκανε λόγο για ένα «σύστημα» παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων στην Ελλάδα και την Κροατία και για την άμεση εμπλοκή σε αυτό ειδικών μονάδων των υπηρεσιών ασφάλειας, επιφορτισμένων να «κυνηγούν αιτούντες άσυλο από την ΕΕ». 

Υπενθυμίζεται, επίσης, πως το ζήτημα των επαναπροωθήσεων στην Ελλάδα έχει προκαλέσει επανειλημμένως τις παρεμβάσεις της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής, η οποία τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2021 έθεσε βέτο στην αποδέσμευση εκτάκτων κονδυλίων  ύψους € 15,83 εκατομμυρίων προς την Ελλάδα, θέτοντας ως προϋπόθεση την ίδρυση ενός ανεξάρτητου μηχανισμού διερεύνησης των καταγγελιών για παραβιάσεις ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων στα σύνορα της χώρας. Προσφάτως, δε, η Επιτροπή Ελέγχου του Προϋπολογισμού του Ευρωκοινοβουλίου (CONT) αποφάσισε με αυξημένη πλειοψηφία την αναβολή της απόφασης εκκαθάρισης των λογαριασμών του 2020 του Ευρωπαϊκού Οργανισμού Συνοριοφυλακής και Ακτοφυλακής (Frontex). Μεταξύ των επικαλούμενων λόγων για αυτή την απόφαση της CONT ήταν η αποτυχία του Οργανισμού να δημιουργήσει έναν μηχανισμό αναφοράς σοβαρών περιστατικών, αλλά και το ότι η Διοίκηση του Οργανισμού γνώριζε και σκοπίμως απέφυγε να αναφέρει τις παραβιάσεις των θεμελιωδών δικαιωμάτων στα εξωτερικά σύνορα της ΕΕ και δη στην Ελλάδα, σύμφωνα και με σύνοψη έκθεσης της  Ευρωπαϊκής Υπηρεσίας Καταπολέμησης της Απάτης (OLAF), η οποία παρουσιάσθηκε ενώπιον και της CONT στις 28 Φεβρουαρίου**.

Σε αυτό το πλαίσιο, προβληματισμό γεννά η επιλογή της ΕΑΔ να ανακοινώσει τα πορίσματα της έρευνάς της μέσω ενός δελτίου τύπου, αφήνοντας έτσι σωρεία αναπάντητων ερωτημάτων, όπως το αν και σε τι βαθμό έλαβε υπόψη τις 540 περιπτώσεις παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων που έχει καταγράψει η Ύπατη Αρμοστεία του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες στην Ελλάδα, το εύρος των δρώντων στους οποίους απευθύνθηκε για τους σκοπούς της έρευνας, όπως και την ευρύτερη μεθοδολογία που ακολουθήθηκε προς επίρρωση των πορισμάτων. Απεναντίας, εντύπωση προκαλεί ότι η ΕΑΔ διεξήγαγε μέρος της έρευνας «με τη συνδρομή της Διεύθυνσης Εγκληματολογικών Ερευνών (ΔΕΕ)», δηλαδή με Κεντρική Υπηρεσία της Ελληνικής Αστυνομίας, στελέχη της οποίας, όπως και του Λιμενικού, αποτελούν τους φερόμενους ως δράστες των παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων στα σύνορα και στο ελληνικό έδαφος. Σημειωτέον, δε, ότι δεκάδες υποθέσεις παράνομων επαναπροωθήσεων κατά της Ελλάδας εκκρεμούν ενώπιον του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων και της Επιτροπής Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων του ΟΗΕ.

Κατά συνέπεια η ΕΑΔ απέτυχε να παρέχει απαραίτητες πληροφορίες που ενδεχομένως να μπορούσαν να παρέχουν μια απάντηση επί του θέματος των επαναπροωθήσεων στην Ελλάδα, ως απαιτείται στις ανεξάρτητες αρχές. Επισημαίνεται, δε, πως η ΕΑΔ δεν είναι συνταγματικώς κατοχυρωμένη ανεξάρτητη αρχή, δεν πληροί τα δέκα σημεία/συστάσεις οργανισμών του ΟΗΕ και του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικτύου Εθνικών Θεσμών Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (ΕΝNHRI) για τη δημιουργία ενός ανεξάρτητου και αποτελεσματικού εθνικού μηχανισμού παρακολούθησης θεμελιωδών δικαιωμάτων στα σύνορα στην Ελλάδα, ενώ όπως επισημαίνεται και σε πρόσφατη μελέτη, δεν διαθέτει την απαραίτητη ειδίκευση σε θέματα συνόρων.

Σε κάθε περίπτωση, καίτοι η συγκεκριμένη Αρχή δεν πληροί τις προϋποθέσεις για έναν ανεξάρτητο έλεγχο των καταγγελιών σχετικά με τις επαναπροωθήσεις, αιτούμαστε τη δημοσίευση της εν λόγω έκθεσης έρευνας στο σύνολο της, προκειμένου να μπορεί να αξιολογηθεί η μεθοδολογία και τα αντίστοιχα πορίσματα αυτής, να διασφαλιστεί η λογοδοσία των εμπλεκόμενων φορέων αλλά και η διατήρηση της εμπιστοσύνης του κοινού στις αρχές****.

** Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο, “MEPs withhold discharge of EU border control agency Frontex’ accounts”, 31 Μαρτίου 2022: https://bit.ly/3J8ZdGD και “EP committee asks for part of Frontex budget to be frozen”, 27 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021: https://bit.ly/38uSgTF; Marquardt, Question for written answer E-000861/2022 to the Commission, https://bit.ly/3uTGLfV; ΕφΣυν, «Κρύβουν το πόρισμα για Frontex», 2 Απριλίου 2022: https://bit.ly/3j9J7C6; Der Spiegel, “Pressure Growing on Frontex Chief from Pushbacks Investigation”, 21 Μαρτίου 2022, διαθέσιμο (αγγλικά): https://bit.ly/37jdGT7.

*****  Σύμφωνα και με σχετική νομολογία του ΕΔΔΑ για τα στοιχεία μίας αποτελεσματικής έρευνας, “[t]here must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny of the investigation or its results to secure accountability in practice as well as in theory, maintain public confidence in the authorities’ adherence to the rule of law and prevent any appearance of collusion in or tolerance of unlawful acts” [Anguelova v. Bulgaria, no. 38361/97, § 140, ECHR 2002-IV]

Οι Υπογράφουσες Οργανώσεις

Διεθνής Αμνηστία

Ελληνική Ένωση για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου (ΕλΕΔΑ)

Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες (ΕΣΠ)

Ελληνικό Φόρουμ Μεταναστών

Ελληνικό Φόρουμ Προσφύγων

Ίριδα Κέντρο Γυναικών

Κέντρο Διοτίμα

Μέλισσα – Δίκτυο Μεταναστριών στην Ελλάδα

Συμβίωση-Σχολή Πολιτικών Σπουδών στην Ελλάδα, Δίκτυο Συμβουλίου της Ευρώπης

Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο (RSA)

Action for Women

Changemakers Lab

ECHO100PLUS 

Europe Must Act

Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid

HIAS Ελλάδος

HumanRights360

Human Rights Legal Project 

I HAVE RIGHTS (IHR)

International Rescue Committee Hellas (IRC)

Legal Centre Lesvos

Mobile Info Team

Refugee Legal Support (RLS) 

Still I Rise

The HOME Project

Appeal trial against Amir and Razuli interrupted until 7 April 2022 after two days of waiting / Το Εφετείο κατά των Amir και Razuli διακόπηκε για τις 7 Απριλίου 2022 μετά από δύο μέρες αναμονής

“Justice for Amir and Razuli, Free them now!”
Family members and supporters carrying a sign for the two defendants in front of the Mytilene Court, Lesvos

The appeal trial of the two young Afghan men convicted in first instance of “facilitating illegal entry” and “illegal entry” to Greece has been interrupted. The defendants Amir Zahiri (27) and Akif Razuli (24) were brought respectively from Chios and Serres prisons, to Mytilene on Lesvos and forced to wait for two days. In violation of the Greek criminal procedural law, they were seated  handcuffed in the court room while awaiting their own trial. They were not given any information about if or when the trial would happen, until it was finally opened today, 18 March at 2:30 pm- just to be halted immediately after. All witnesses and international trial observers who had travelled to Mytilene from different European countries and the Greek mainland were also forced to wait along with Amir and Razuli, among them Amir’s wife and their two children. Also three Members of European Parliament came to testify and observe the trial, as well as the sea rescuer Iasonas Apostolopoulos.

The trial will resume in 20 days, on 7 April 2022. Thereby, the chain of injustice that Amir and Razuli were confronted with over the last years continues: Amir and Razuli were arbitrarily arrested on 12 March 2020, kept in pre-trial detention for seven months and convicted in September 2020 to 50 years imprisonmment without any evidence against them. Now their appeal trial was interrupted.

A Greek trial observer from Aegean Migrant Solidarity stated:

“The last two days were very difficult, especially for the people who are in detention without any evidence for so long. For these two days nobody knew if the trial will start or not. The court decided to start the trial today and continue at 7 of April 2022, because they acknowledged the fact that the trial must start in a reasonable time. Lets all be there on 7th of April!”

Marco Aparicio, trial observer from the Spanish Observatori DESC (ESCR Observatory) noted:

“Prolonging the process is prolonging the suffering, Amir and Razuli, their relatives and friends have the right to know about their future. This trial, indeed, shows that Europe is used not to criminalize those who cause the suffering but the people who suffer.”

Lorraine Leete from Legal Centre Lesvos, who defended Akif Razuli, explains:

“Amir and Razuli should never have been arrested, let alone convicted and imprisoned, given the lack of evidence that they committed the crime they are accused of. While Amir and Razuli will never get back the two years they’ve spent in prison, we hope this miscarriage of justice is rectified at the continuance of their appeal trial next month.”

The Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline-europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean have closely followed the trial. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the defendants, no matter how long it will take to achieve justice for Amir and Razuli.


Press contacts:

Marion Bouchetel

Legal Centre Lesvos

marion@legalcentrelesvos.org Phone: +30 697 761 9003


Kim Schneider

You can’t evict Solidarity

cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net Phone: +49 152 19255205

Twitter: @cantevict; @lesboslegal #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Το Εφετείο κατά των Amir και Razuli διακόπηκε για τις 7 Απριλίου 2022 μετά από δύο μέρες αναμονής

#FreeAmirAndRazuli


Το Εφετείο των δύο νεαρών Αφγανών που είχαν καταδικαστεί σε πρώτο βαθμό με τις κατηγορίες περί «διευκόλυνσης παράνομης εισόδου» και «παράνομη είσοδο» στην Ελλάδα διακόπηκε. Οι κατηγορούμενοι Amir Zahiri (27 ετών) και Akif Razuli (24 ετών) μεταφέρθηκαν από τις φυλακές Χίου και Σερρών αντίστοιχα, στο Αστυνομικό Τμήμα Μυτιλήνης, όπου αναγκάστηκαν να περιμένουν επί δύο μέρες για την πραγματοποίηση της δίκης τους. Κατά παράβαση του ελληνικού ποινικού δικονομικού δικαίου, οι κατηγορούμενοι κάθισαν με χειροπέδες μέσα στην αίθουσα του δικαστηρίου, περιμένοντας την έλευση της δίκης τους. Δεν τους δόθηκε καμία ενημέρωση για το αν και πότε θα γίνει η δίκη τους, μέχρι που τελικά ξεκίνησε στις 18 Μαρτίου, στις 14:30 μ.μ και να διακοπεί αμέσως. Όλοι οι μάρτυρες όπως και οι διεθνείς παρατηρητές της δίκης που είχαν ταξιδέψει στη Μυτιλήνη από διάφορες ευρωπαϊκές χώρες όπως και διάφορα μέρη της Ελλάδας, αναγκάστηκαν επίσης να περιμένουν μαζί με τον Amir και τον Razuli, μεταξύ των οποίων και η σύζυγος του Amir μαζί με τα δύο ανήλικα παιδιά τους. Επίσης, στην δίκη ήρθαν τρία μέλη του Ευρωπαικού Κοινοβουλίου, καθώς και ο διασώστης Ιάσονας Αποστολόπουλος, για να καταθέσουν και να παρακολουθήσουν την διαδικασία.

Η δίκη θα συνεχιστεί σε 20 μέρες, στις 7 Απριλίου 2022. Με τον τρόπο αυτό, η αλυσίδα της αδικίας με την οποία ήρθαν αντιμέτωποι τα τελευταία χρόνια οι Amir και Razuli συνεχίζεται. Οι Amir και Razuli συνελήφθησαν αυθαίρετα στις 12 Μαρτίου 2020, προφυλακίστηκαν για επτά μήνες και καταδικάστηκαν τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020 σε 50 χρόνια φυλάκισης χωρίς κανένα στοιχείο εναντίον τους. Τώρα το Εφετείο τους διακόπηκε. 

Μια ελληνίδα παρατηρήτρια της δίκης από την οργάνωση Aegean Migrant Solidarity δήλωσε:

«Οι δύο τελευταίες μέρες ήταν πολύ δύσκολες, ιδιαίτερα για τους ανθρώπους που βρίσκονται υπό κράτηση χωρίς κανένα στοιχείο για τόσο πολύ καιρό. Δύο μέρες τώρα, κανείς δεν γνώριζε αν η δίκη θα ξεκινήσει ή όχι. Το δικαστήριο αποφάσισε να ξεκινήσει η δίκη σήμερα και να συνεχιστεί στις 7 Απριλίου 2022, επειδή αναγνώρισε το γεγονός ότι η δίκη πρέπει να ξεκινήσει σε ένα εύλογο χρονικό διάστημα. Ας είμαστε όλοι στις 7 Απρίλη!»

Ο Marco Aparicio, παρατηρητής δικών από το Ισπανικό Παρατηρητήριο DESC (ESCR Observatory) σημείωσε:

«Η παράταση της διαδικασίας παρατείνει τα βάσανα για τον Amir και των Razuli, των συγγενών και των φίλων τους που έχουν το δικαίωμα να γνωρίζουν για το μέλλον τους. Αυτή η δίκη, πράγματι, δείχνει ότι η Ευρώπη συνηθίζει όχι να ποινικοποιεί αυτούς που προκαλούν τον πόνο, αλλά τους ανθρώπους που υποφέρουν».

Η Lorraine Leete από το Legal Centre Lesvos, η οποία υπερασπίζεται τον Akif Razuli, εξηγεί: 

«Οι Amir και Razuli δεν θα έπρεπε ποτέ να έχουν συλληφθεί, πόσο μάλλον να καταδικαστούν και να φυλακιστούν, δεδομένης της έλλειψης αποδεικτικών στοιχείων ότι διέπραξαν το έγκλημα για το οποίο κατηγορούνται. Παρόλο που ο Amir και ο Razuli δεν θα πάρουν ποτέ πίσω τα δύο χρόνια που πέρασαν στη φυλακή, ελπίζουμε ότι αυτή κακοδικία θα αποκατασταθεί κατά τη συνέχιση της δίκης τους τον επόμενο μήνα».

Οι οργανώσεις Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, borderline – europe e.V, You Can’t Evict Solidarity και η Deportation Monitoring Aegean παρακολούθησαν στενά τη δίκη. Θα συνεχίσουμε να στεκόμαστε αλληλέγγυοι στους κατηγορούμενους, ανεξάρτητα από το πόσος χρόνος θα χρειαστεί για να αποδοθεί δικαιοσύνη για τον Amir και τον Razuli.


Επικοινωνία:

Marion Bouchetel
Legal Centre Lesvos
marion@legalcentrelesvos.org Τηλ: +30 697 761 9003


Kim Schneider
You can’t evict Solidarity
cantevictsolidarity@riseup.net Τηλ: +49 152 19255205

Twitter: @cantevict; @lesboslegal #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Joint civil society letter to Yvla Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs

Greece’s implementation of the ‘safe third country’ concept is violating EU law and migrants’ rights

Download the joint letter here

Today a joint letter was sent by 27 civil society organisations to the European Commissioner Yvla Johansson denouncing the implementation by Greece of the “safe third country” concept and urging the Commissioner to promptly take the necessary measures against Greece.

Since the adoption on 7 June 2021 of a Joint Ministerial Decision 42799/2021 by the Minister of Migration and Asylum and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Greek asylum authorities arbitrarily and systematically consider that Turkey is safe for persons originating from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, without an examination of the merits of their asylum claim – i.e. the reason they left their home country. As further described in the joint letter, this led to a large number of claims for international protection being rejected as inadmissible on this ground, and applicants being ordered to return to Turkey, without any prospect for such readmission.

It should be recalled that Turkey is not a safe third country for migrants: most migrants are unable to access any form of protection in Turkey, owing to a geographic restriction that it imposed to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and migrants there are at grave risk of exploitation, inhumane detention, and deportation. Only Syrian nationals are able to obtain a form of temporary protection, which falls far short of refugee protection and, in practice, provides little protection against refoulement.  

This Joint Ministerial Decision exposes applicants for international protection to a legal limbo whereby they are never granted access to an examination of their asylum applications on the merits, contrary to the purpose of the Geneva Convention and of the Asylum Procedures Directive. It also leads to their exclusion from reception conditions and to cater for their basic subsistence needs, including health care and food.

Through this joint letter, the co-signatories request that asylum seekers to whom the ‘safe third country’ concept has been applied see their international protection applications promptly examined on the merits and be provided with respective legal status and adequate reception conditions.

It is not the first time that the legality of this Joint Ministerial Decision is being challenged: on 8 October 2021, the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) had already requested the judicial review and annulment of the Joint Ministerial Decision before the Greek Council of State.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM ? ΤΙ ΤΟΥΣ ΣΥΝΕΒΗ;

“Shipwrecks in the Aegean are not accidents” and “Shame on you EU”
Picture of messages and candles left in Sappho square, Mytilene, on 1 March 2022, in memory of the persons found dead on Lesvos shores
Photo Credits: Women in Solidarity House – WISH Lesvos
https://www.facebook.com/…/a.62161364…/1308474419663237/

In the morning of 1 March, Lesvos witnessed the shocking death of at least seven migrants, whose bodies without life jackets, were found by passersby, washed up on the beach of Epano Skala, a neighbourhood of Mytilene, just north of  the centre, on the way to Lesvos´s Reception and Identification Centre, where migrants have been housed in effective detention since the fire that destroyed the notorious Moria camp. While search and rescue operations and investigations have since been deployed over the last days at land and sea to find survivors or other victims, no official report has yet been published by the Greek authorities about the circumstances and cause of their death at sea which remain a mystery. 

Several media outlets already mentioned the hypothesis of another fatal shipwreck of a dinghy trying to reach the European shores in the hope to seek asylum, as the Greek islands have witnessed so often in the past years. However, no official explanations were yet provided and many questions remain unanswered: if those persons arrived on a dinghy from Turkey, where is their boat now ? Were those seven people accompanied by others, as is commonly the case for dinghies crossing from Turkey to Greece ? And if so, where are the others ? Who were these seven people whose lives were taken so unnecessarily?

These questions arise just after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, recently published a statement warning about the increased level of violence and human rights violations documented by their agency at European borders, and in particular at Greece’s land and sea borders with Turkey.

This statement which directly and specifically targets Greece also reveals that “UNHCR has interviewed thousands of people across Europe who were pushed back and reported a disturbing pattern of threats, intimidation, violence and humiliation. At sea, people report being left adrift in life rafts or sometimes even forced directly into the water, showing a callous lack of regard for human life. At least three people are reported to have died in such incidents since September 2021 in the Aegean Sea, including one in January.”

As highlighted by the UNHCR as well as recent major media reports, pushbacks are well documented and have already led to several fatal incidents over the last months. The policy of pushbacks is also shown in UNHCR official numbers: whereas in 2021 arrivals registered in the Greek islands have decreased by 93% compared to 2019, the number of deaths and missing persons have remained the same on average from 2019 to 2021. 

Although the exact circumstances of the death of the seven migrants found on the Lesvos shore this week remain uncertain for now, there is no doubt that their deaths are the direct consequence of the inhumane and dangerous border regime implemented by Greece and the European Union. No person would drown at sea attempting to reach Greece, if legal and safe routes would be available. 

The facility with which legal routes of migration can be established, if there is political will, has been demonstrated by the swiftness with which the Ministry of Migration established procedures for Ukrainian nationals to gain access to Greece via airport or road, who upon entry to Greece are eligible for Temporary Protection by the Asylum Service for one year, and the right to access accommodation, labour and medical care. The establishment of this procedure for Ukrainian nationals has also exposed underlying white supremacy defining European migration policies.

Instead of ensuring that people can safely and legally access refuge and asylum via the Turkish border, Greece has over the last six years focused its efforts on deterring migration of the largely non-white migrants from the global south, at any cost to human life or dignity, through the creation of “hotspots” on the Greek islands. Institutional violence and cruel disregard for the lives of migrants in border regions such as Lesvos have been silently tolerated in the European Union for years, if not directly caused by the European Union’s migration policies such as the EU-Turkey Deal. Given this tacit support, it is no surprise that Greece continues to escalate it’s cruel methods of maintaining its borders, through increased use of pushbacks. A radical reform to European migration policies, that would allow for nondiscriminatory legal and safe routes of migration for all, is needed if we hope to end the ongoing attack against migrants at Europe’s borders, which led to the tragedy we witnessed this week in Lesvos. 

ΤΙ ΤΟΥΣ ΣΥΝΕΒΗ;

Το πρωί της 1ης Μαρτίου, η Λέσβος έγινε μάρτυρας του σοκαριστικού θανάτου τουλάχιστον επτά μεταναστών, τα πτώματα των οποίων βρέθηκαν χωρίς σωσίβια από περαστικούς, ξεβρασμένα στην παραλία της Επάνω Σκάλας, κοντά στο κέντρο της πόλης, στο δρόμο προς το Κέντρο Υποδοχής και Ταυτοποίησης της Λέσβου, όπου οι μετανάστες διαμένουν στην ουσία σε καθεστώς κράτησης μετά την πυρκαγιά που κατέστρεψε τον περιβόητο καταυλισμό της Μόριας. Την ίδια στιγμή που επιχειρήσεις έρευνας και διάσωσης διενεργούνται έκτοτε σε στεριά και τη θάλασσα για τον εντοπισμό επιζώντων ή άλλων θυμάτων, δεν έχει ακόμη δημοσιευθεί καμία επίσημη έκθεση από τις ελληνικές αρχές σχετικά με τις συνθήκες και τα αίτια του θανάτου τους που παραμένουν μυστήριο. 

Αρκετά μέσα ενημέρωσης έχουν ήδη εκτιμήσει ότι πρόκειται για ένα ακόμη μοιραίο ναυάγιο λέμβου που προσπάθησε να προσεγγίσει τις ευρωπαϊκές ακτές, ένα συχνό φαινόμενο τα τελευταία χρόνια στα ελληνικά νησιά. Ωστόσο, δεν έχουν δοθεί ακόμη επίσημες εξηγήσεις και πολλά ερωτήματα παραμένουν αναπάντητα: Αν τα άτομα αυτά έφτασαν με λέμβο από την Τουρκία, πού βρίσκεται η λέμβος; Τα επτά αυτά άτομα συνοδεύονταν από άλλα άτομα, όπως συμβαίνει συνήθως σε λέμβους που περνούν από την Τουρκία στην Ελλάδα ; Και αν ναι, πού βρίσκονται; Ποιοι ήταν αυτοί οι επτά άνθρωποι των οποίων η ζωή αφαιρέθηκε τόσο άσκοπα;

Τα ερωτήματα αυτά ανακύπτουν λίγο αφότου ο  Ύπατος Αρμοστής των Ηνωμένων Εθνών για τους Πρόσφυγες, Filippo Grandi, εξέδωσε ανακοίνωση προειδοποιώντας για το αυξημένο επίπεδο βίας και παραβιάσεων των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων που καταγράφει η υπηρεσία του στα ευρωπαϊκά σύνορα, και ειδικότερα στα χερσαία και θαλάσσια σύνορα της Ελλάδας με την Τουρκία.

Αυτή η δήλωση που στοχεύει ευθέως και συγκεκριμένα την Ελλάδα αποκαλύπτει επίσης ότι “η Ύπατη Αρμοστεία του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες έχει καταγράψει τις μαρτυρίες χιλιάδων ανθρώπων σε όλη την Ευρώπη που απωθήθηκαν και έκαναν αναφορά σε ένα ανησυχητικό μοτίβο απειλών, εκφοβισμού, βίας και εξευτελισμού. Στη θάλασσα, οι άνθρωποι αναφέρουν ότι αφήνονται σε σωσίβιες σχεδίες ή μερικές φορές αναγκάζονται ακόμη και να πέσουν απευθείας στο νερό, κάτι που δείχνει παντελή έλλειψη σεβασμού για την ανθρώπινη ζωή. Τουλάχιστον τρεις άνθρωποι φέρονται να έχουν χάσει τη ζωή τους σε τέτοια περιστατικά από τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2021 στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος, εκ των οποίων ένας τον Ιανουάριο”.

Όπως τονίζεται τόσο από την Ύπατη Αρμοστεία του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες, όσο και σε  πρόσφατες αναφορές μεγάλων μέσων ενημέρωσης, η πολιτική των επαναπροωθήσεων είναι καλά τεκμηριωμένη και έχει ήδη οδηγήσει σε αρκετά θανατηφόρα περιστατικά τους τελευταίους μήνες. Η πολιτική των επαναπροωθήσεων αποτυπώνεται και στους επίσημους αριθμούς της Ύπατης Αρμοστείας του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες: ενώ το 2021 οι αφίξεις που καταγράφηκαν στα ελληνικά νησιά έχουν μειωθεί κατά 93% σε σύγκριση με το 2019, ο αριθμός των νεκρών και των αγνοουμένων παρέμεινε ο ίδιος κατά μέσο όρο από το 2019 έως το 2021. 

Παρόλο που οι ακριβείς συνθήκες θανάτου των επτά μεταναστών που βρέθηκαν στην ακτή της Λέσβου αυτή την εβδομάδα παραμένουν προς το παρόν αβέβαιες, δεν υπάρχει αμφιβολία ότι ο θάνατός τους είναι άμεση συνέπεια του απάνθρωπου και επικίνδυνου συνοριακού καθεστώτος που εφαρμόζουν η Ελλάδα και η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση. Κανείς άνθρωπος δεν θα πνιγόταν στη θάλασσα προσπαθώντας να φτάσει στην Ελλάδα, αν υπήρχαν νόμιμες και ασφαλείς διαδρομές

Η ευκολία με την οποία μπορούν να δημιουργηθούν νόμιμες οδοί μετανάστευσης, αν υπάρχει πολιτική βούληση, αποδείχθηκε από την ταχύτητα με την οποία το Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης καθιέρωσε διαδικασίες για την πρόσβαση Ουκρανών υπηκόων στην Ελλάδα αεροπορικώς ή οδικώς, οι οποίοι κατά την είσοδό τους στη χώρα δικαιούνται προσωρινή προστασία από την Υπηρεσία Ασύλου για ένα έτος και δικαίωμα πρόσβασης σε στέγαση, εργασία και ιατρική περίθαλψη. Η καθιέρωση αυτής της διαδικασίας για τους Ουκρανούς υπηκόους εξέθεσε επίσης τον τρόπο άσκησης πολιτικής ασύλου με βάση το εθνοτικό ή άλλο υπόβαθρο των αιτούντων άσυλο.

Αντί να διασφαλίσει ότι οι άνθρωποι μπορούν να βρουν ασφαλές καταφύγιο και να έχουν νόμιμη πρόσβαση στο άσυλο, η Ελλάδα τα τελευταία έξι χρόνια έχει επικεντρώσει τις προσπάθειές της στην αποτροπή της μετανάστευσης, με οποιοδήποτε κόστος για την ανθρώπινη ζωή ή αξιοπρέπεια, μέσω της δημιουργίας “hotspots” στα ελληνικά νησιά. Η θεσμική βία και η σκληρή αδιαφορία για τις ζωές των μεταναστών σε παραμεθόριες περιοχές, όπως η Λέσβος, έχουν γίνει σιωπηρά ανεκτές στην Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση εδώ και χρόνια, ή καλύτερα έχουν ενθαρρυνθεί με συγκεκριμένες μεταναστευτικές πολιτικές της, όπως η συμφωνία ΕΕ-Τουρκίας. Δεδομένης αυτής της σιωπηρής υποστήριξης, δεν αποτελεί έκπληξη το γεγονός ότι η Ελλάδα συνεχίζει να κλιμακώνει τις σκληρές μεθόδους επιτήρησης των συνόρων της, μέσω της αυξημένης εφαρμογής των επαναπροωθήσεων. Μια ριζική μεταρρύθμιση των ευρωπαϊκών μεταναστευτικών πολιτικών, που θα θεσπίζει νόμιμες και ασφαλείς μεταναστευτικές διαδρομές, χωρίς διακρίσεις, είναι απαραίτητη αν θέλουμε να ελπίζουμε ότι θα τερματιστεί η συνεχιζόμενη επίθεση κατά των μεταναστών στα σύνορα της Ευρώπης, η οποία οδήγησε στην τραγωδία που ζήσαμε αυτή την εβδομάδα στη Λέσβο. 

“Τα ναυάγια στο Αιγαίο δεν είναι ατυχήματα”, Φωτογραφία (Women in Solidarity House – WISH Lesvos): μηνύματα και κεριά στην πλατεία Σαπφούς, Μυτιλήνη, την 1η Μαρτίου 2022, στη μνήμη των ανθρώπων που βρέθηκαν νεκροί σε ακτή της Λεσβου.

Επιβολή παραβόλου ύψους 100 ευρώ για την πρόσβαση στο άσυλο από τη 2η και κάθε επόμενη μεταγενέστερη αίτηση στους/στις αιτούντες/ούσες διεθνούς προστασίας, συμπεριλαμβανομένων των ανηλίκων! / Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!

Μυτιλήνη, 2 Μαρτίου 2022

Κατόπιν επίσημης ενημέρωσης που λάβαμε ως  Ομάδα Εργασίας για τη Νομική Βοήθεια στο νησί της Λέσβου, το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου, ύστερα από πολύμηνη άρνησή του να καταγράψει 2ες και μετέπειτα μεταγενέστερες αιτήσεις διεθνούς προστασίας, την 7η Φεβρουαρίου 2022 ξεκίνησε να καταγράφει εκ νέου τις ανωτέρω αιτήσεις από αιτούντες/ες διεθνούς προστασίας που βρίσκονται τους τελευταίους 6 μήνες σε αδυναμία πρόσβασης στη διαδικασία διεθνούς προστασίας χωρίς υπαιτιότητα των ιδίων. Ωστόσο, η διαδικασία αυτή επανεκκινεί, υπό την απαραίτητη προϋπόθεση για την υποβολή της 2ης μεταγενέστερης αίτησης, της κατάθεσης παραβόλου ύψους 100 ευρώ ανά αίτηση(νομοθετική ρύθμιση της παρ. 10 του άρθρου 89 του Ν. 4636/2019). Μάλιστα βάσει της υπ’ αριθ. 472687/2021 ΚΥΑ, εφόσον η αίτηση υποβάλλεται και για λογαριασμό μελών της οικογένειας του αιτούντος, απαιτείται η κατάθεση παραβόλου ίσου ποσού, για κάθε μέλος ξεχωριστά συμπεριλαμβανομένων και των ανήλικων τέκνων. Αυτό μεταφράζεται στο γεγονός ότι για μία πενταμελή οικογένεια -δύο γονείς με τρία ανήλικα τέκνα- απαιτούνται παράβολα ύψους 500 ευρώ!

Υπενθυμίζουμε  ρητά και εμφατικά πως η απρόσκοπτη και αποτελεσματική πρόσβαση στις διαδικασίες ασύλου αποτελεί υποχρέωση του Ελληνικού κράτους και είναι απαραίτητη προϋπόθεση προκειμένου οι αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο να έχουν πραγματική και ουσιαστική πρόσβαση στις διαδικασίες και να μπορούν να ασκήσουν τα νόμιμα δικαιώματά τους. Καθίσταται σαφές ότι η νομοθετική ρύθμιση που ορίζει την καταβολή του παραβόλου ως αναγκαία προϋπόθεση για την υποβολή μεταγενέστερης αίτησης διεθνούς προστασίας σε έναν οικονομικά και όχι μόνο ευάλωτο πληθυσμό όπως οι αιτούντες/ες άσυλο και ειδικά σε πολυμελείς οικογένειες καθιστά απαγορευτική την κατάθεση του αιτήματος. Ως αποτέλεσμα η προϋπόθεση αυτή υπονομεύει το δικαίωμα πρόσβασης στο άσυλο, όπως κατοχυρώνεται στο άρθρο 18 του Χάρτη Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων, καθώς η ρύθμιση αντίκειται στα άρθρα 6 παρ.1 και 40-42 της οδηγίας 2013/32/Ε.Ε.

Ειδικότερα, το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου είχε αναστείλει τη διαδικασία καταγραφής 2ων και μετέπειτα μεταγενέστερων αιτήσεων διεθνούς προστασίας άτυπα και κατά παραβίαση της αρχής της ασφάλειας του Δικαίου από τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2021 και κατά παραβίαση του άρθρου 6 παρ.1 της οδηγίας 2013/32/Ε.Ε. Ως αποτέλεσμα όσοι/ες αιτούντες/σες έχουν απορριφθεί τελεσίδικα στην 1η μεταγενέστερη αίτησή τους έχουν περιέλθει επί μακρό χρονικό διάστημα, συνεπεία της αδυναμίας κατάθεσης νέας μεταγενέστερης αιτήσεως, σε καθεστώς νομικού κενού και πλήρους επισφάλειας. Επιπλέον οι συγκεκριμένοι/ες αιτούντες/σες διαβιούν ήδη εδώ και αρκετούς μήνες υπό απάνθρωπες και εξευτελιστικές συνθήκες, δεδομένου ότι μετά την τελεσίδικη απόρριψη της προηγούμενης αίτησης τους και την συνακόλουθη απενεργοποίηση του Π.Α.Α.Υ.Π.Α. στερούνται την πρόσβαση σε υγειονομική περίθαλψη και δεν λαμβάνουν το οικονομικό επίδομα που χορηγείται στους/ις αιτούντες/σες, ενώ παράλληλα στερούνται οποιωνδήποτε οικονομικών πόρων και κινδυνεύουν με σύλληψη, διοικητική κράτηση και απέλαση. Αρκετούς μήνες μετά, και χωρίς να έχει υπάρξει καμία ενημέρωση προς τους/τις αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο, το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου επανεκκινεί την καταγραφή των εν λόγω αιτημάτων.

Η έλλειψη δωρεάν και απρόσκοπτης πρόσβασης σε κάθε στάδιο της διαδικασίας αποβαίνει εις βάρος του δίκαιου και αποτελεσματικού χαρακτήρα που πρέπει να διακρίνει τη διαδικασία ασύλου στο σύνολό της. Από την από 25.1.2022 απάντηση της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής σε σχετικό ερώτηµα που της ετέθη µε τη διαδικασία του κατεπείγοντος από τον Γερµανό ευρωβουλευτή Erik Marquardt προκύπτει ότι η Επιτροπή έχει επισημάνει στις ελληνικές αρχές ότι η άνευ όρων υποβολή παραβόλου 100 ευρώ για τις δεύτερες μεταγενέστερες αιτήσεις εγείρει ζητήματα όσον αφορά στην αποτελεσματική πρόσβαση στη διαδικασία ασύλου.

Ιδιαίτερες προβληματικές δημιουργούνται για τις αιτήσεις διεθνούς προστασίας  που συμπεριλαμβάνονται στην ΚΥΑ που ορίζει την Τουρκία ως «ασφαλή τρίτη χώρα» για αιτούντες/σες με χώρα καταγωγής τη Συρία, το Αφγανιστάν, το Πακιστάν, το Μπαγκλαντές, τη Σομαλία, όπου, οι προγενέστερες αιτήσεις τους έχουν εξεταστεί μόνο ως προς το παραδεκτό βάσει του αρ. 86 παρ. 1 ν. 4636/2019 (Τουρκία ασφαλής τρίτη χώρα) και έχουν απορριφθεί ως απαράδεκτες,  χωρίς να  έχουν εξεταστεί ποτέ στην ουσία τους.  Μάλιστα οι αιτήσεις αυτές έχουν απορριφθεί ως απαράδεκτες, παρά το γεγονός ότι η Τουρκία έχει αναστείλει τις επανεισδοχές εδώ και σχεδόν 2 χρόνια,  λόγω της συνεχιζόμενης άρνησης των Ελληνικών Αρχών να εφαρμόσουν το άρθρο 86 (5) του Ν. 4636/2019, σύμφωνα με το οποίο όταν η τρίτη χώρα δεν επιτρέπει στον αιτούντα να εισέλθει στο έδαφός της, η αίτησή του εξετάζεται επί της ουσίας από τις Αρμόδιες Αρχές Απόφασης. Στο σημείο αυτό πρέπει να αναφερθεί ότι ειδικά για τους πολίτες Συρίας η ανωτέρω συνθήκη ίσχυε και πριν την εφαρμογή της ΚΥΑ που ορίζει την Τουρκία ως «ασφαλή τρίτη χώρα» με αποτέλεσμα να υπάρχουν περιπτώσεις αιτούντων/σών που επί 3 χρόνια δεν έχουν καταφέρει να έχουν πρόσβαση σε ασφαλές νομικό καθεστώς, καθώς απορρίπτονται διαρκώς επί του παραδεκτού. Για τους αιτούντες/σες , των οποίων η αίτηση για παροχή διεθνούς προστασίας ουδέποτε έχει εξεταστεί στην ουσία της, η Διοίκηση οφείλει από μόνη της να τους/τις καλέσει σε προφορική ακρόαση επί της ουσίας βάσει του άρθρου 86 παρ. 5 ν. 4636/2019 και όχι να τους/τις οδηγήσει στο να αιτηθούν για τρίτη φορά διεθνή προστασία, υποχρεώνοντας τους/τες ταυτόχρονα να καταβάλουν παράβολο ύψους 100 ευρώ προς τούτο. Επιπλέον στη διάταξη αυτή εμπίπτουν και αιτούντες/ούσες άσυλο από χώρες όπου έχει λάβει χώρα ουσιαστική μεταβολή των συνθηκών, όπως το Αφγανιστάν, παρά το γεγονός ότι η ύπαρξη νέων και ουσιωδών στοιχείων και η μη καταχρηστικότητα της αίτησης είναι δεδομένη. 

Καλούμε το Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου να καταργήσει τη νομοθετική ρύθμιση της παρ.10 του άρθρου 89 του Ν.4636/2019 και την υπ’ αριθ. 472687/2021 ΚΥΑ, καθώς το περιεχόμενο τους εισάγει κανόνα µη επιτρεπτό από τις διατάξεις των άρ. 6παρ.1 και 40-42 της Οδηγίας 2013/32/ΕΕ και, µάλιστα, δεν περιλαµβάνει εξαιρέσεις από την υποχρέωση καταβολής του παραβόλου. Επιπλέον, προσκρούει στις διατάξεις των άρθρων 25 παρ. 2 και 20 παρ. 1 του Συντάγµατος της Ελλάδος, στα άρθρα  18, 47 και 52 του Χάρτη Θεµελιωδών Δικαιωµάτων της ΕΕ και τη σχετική νοµολογία του ΕΔΔΑ αναφορικά µε τις διατάξεις των άρθρων 3,8 και 13 της ΕΣΔΑ, καθότι ουσιαστικά καθιστά αδύνατη την πρόσβαση στη διαδικασία ασύλου σε όσους πρόσφυγες δεν έχουν  την οικονομική δυνατότητα να καταβάλουν το παράβολο των 100 ευρώ για κάθε άτομο/μέλος της οικογένειας.

Καλούμε τις αρμόδιες αρχές και το ΠΓΑ Λέσβου να σεβαστούν το θεμελιώδες για το ευρωπαϊκό κεκτημένο δικαίωμα στο άσυλο και να απόσχουν από ενέργειες που καταστρατηγούν τα δικαιώματα των αιτούντων/ουσών άσυλο και αντίκεινται στην αρχή της αναλογικότητας. Αυτές οι ενέργειες δεν συνάδουν με το νομικό μας κεκτημένο, παραβιάζουν το εθνικό και ενωσιακό δίκαιο και δύνανται να προκαλέσουν σοβαρή και ανεπανόρθωτη βλάβη σε αιτούντες/ουσες άσυλο, οδηγώντας στην παραβίαση της θεμελιώδους για το διεθνές δίκαιο αρχής της μη επαναπροώθησης.

Υπογράφουσες Οργανώσεις

ΔΙΟΤΙΜΑ – Κέντρο για τα Έμφυλα Δικαιώματα και την Ισότητα

Defence for Children International Greece

Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες (ΕΣΠ)

European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL)

FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid

HIAS Ελλάδος

Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL)

ΜΕΤΑδραση – ΔΡΑΣΗ ΓΙΑ ΤΗ ΜΕΤΑΝΑΣΤΕΥΣΗ ΚΑΙ ΤΗΝ ΑΝΑΠΤΥΞΗ

PRAKSIS

Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο (RSA)

Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!

Mytilene, 2 March 2022

Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!

Following an official  information we received as a Working Group on Legal Aid on the island of Lesvos, RAO of Lesvos after many months of refusal  to register 2nd and following subsequent applications for international protection, on 7 February 2022  started to re-register the aforementioned applications of asylum seekers who have been unable to access the international protection procedure for the last 6 months without their own fault. However, this procedure restarts with a necessary condition for the submission of the second and subsequent application, the deposit of a fee of 100 euros per application  (legislative regulation of par. 10 of article 89 of Law 4636/2019). In fact, based on JMD no. 472687/2021, if the application is submitted on behalf of several members of the applicant’s family, the deposit of an equal amount for each member separately is required, including   minor children. This translates to the fact that for a five member’s family – two parents with three minor children – a fee of 500 euros is required!

We explicitly and emphatically remind  that the unhindered and effective access to asylum procedures is an obligation of the Greek state and is a necessary condition for asylum seekers to have real and effective access to the (asylum) procedures and to be able to exercise their legal rights. It is clear that the legislative provision based on which  the payment of the fee constitutes a prerequisite for the submission  of a subsequent application for international protection for a financially deprived and vulnerable population, such as asylum seekers and especially for  big families, constitutes the submission of the asylum application prohibitive. As a result, this condition undermines the right of access to asylum, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights [1], as the provision  is contrary to articles 6 par. 1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU[2,3].

In particular,   RAO Lesvos in violation of the principle of legal certainty from September 2021 and in violation of article 6 par. 1 of Directive 2013/32 / ΕU, had informally suspended the registration process of 2nd  and following subsequent applications for international protection and iU. As a result, those applicants who had their 1st subsequent application rejected have found themselves for a long time, as a result of the inability to submit a new subsequent application, in a legal limbo  and extremely  precarious situation. In addition, the aforementioned applicants have been living in inhuman and degrading conditions for several months now given that after the final rejection of their previous application and the consequent deactivation of PA.A.Y.P.A. they are deprived of access to health care and they are not receiving the financial benefits granted to the applicants, while at the same time they are deprived of any other financial resources and are at risk of arrest, administrative detention and deportation. Several months later, and without any information provided to the asylum seekers,  RAO Lesvos resumes the registration of the aforementioned applications.

The lack of free and unhindered access  at every stage of the  procedure is to the detriment of the fair and effective nature that must characterize the asylum procedure as a whole. From the  European Commission’s reply of 25.1.2022[4] to a relevant question  put  under the urgent procedure by the German MEP Erik Marquardt,  it appears that the Commission has pointed out to the Greek authorities that the unconditional submission of a fee of EUR 100 for the second subsequent applications raises  issues regarding the effective access to the asylum procedure.

Particular concerns  arise in relation to applications for  international protection falling under the JMD which defines  Turkey as a “safe third country” for applicants  whose country of origin is  Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, where their  previous  applications have been examined only on admissibility under Article 86 par. 1 Law no 4636/2019 (Turkey safe third country) and have been rejected as inadmissible, without ever  having been examined on their merits. Moreover, despite the fact that Turkey has suspended readmission for almost 2 years, these applications have been rejected as inadmissible due to the continued refusal of the Greek authorities to enforce Article 86 (5) of Law 4636/2019, according to which when the third country does not allow the applicant to enter its territory, his/her application shall be examined on the merits by the Competent Authorities. At this point it should be mentioned that especially for  Syrian citizens the above procedure was in force  even before the implementation of the JMD which defines Turkey as a “safe third country”  and as a result  there are cases of applicants who for 3 years have not been able to access  a safe legal status, as they are constantly rejected on admissibility. For the applicants whose application for international protection has never been examined on its merits , the Administration must according to article 86 par. 5 of law 4636/2019 invite them to an oral hearing on the merits   on the basis of  and not to lead them to apply for international protection for a third time, while obliging them to pay a fee of 100 euros for this purpose . Moreover, this provision also includes asylum seekers from countries where a substantial change of circumstances has taken place, such as Afghanistan, despite the fact that the existence of new and essential elements and the non-abusability  of the application  are  given.

We call on the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum to abolish the legislative regulation of par. 10 of article 89 of Law no 4636/2019 and JMD No. 472687/2021, as their content introduces a not permitted rule   by  the provisions of article. 6 par.1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU and, in fact, does not include any exceptions to the obligation to pay the fee. In addition, it conflicts with the provisions of articles 25 par. 2 and 20 par. 1 of the Constitution of Greece, articles 18, 47 and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of EU law and the relevant case law of the ECtHR regarding the provisions of Articles 3, 8 and 13 of the ECHR,  since it effectively makes it impossible for those refugees who do not have the financial means to pay the fee of  EUR 100 per person/family member.

We call on the competent authorities and  the RAO Lesvos to respect the European fundamental  right to seek asylum and to refrain from actions that violate the rights of asylum seekers and  contradict the principle of proportionality. These actions are not in line with our legal acquis, violate national and EU law and may cause serious and irreparable harm to asylum seekers, violating the principle of non- refoulement fundamental to international law.

English translation: Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid

Signatories

DΙΟΤΙΜΑ

Defence for Children International Greece

Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)

European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL)

FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid

HIAS Greece

Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL)

ΜΕΤΑdrasi

PRAKSIS

Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)

Prison quarantine and dangerous fires: Updates from the Lesvos camp

Children inside one of the prefabricated shelter structures of the “health quarantine” in the Lesvos RIC.
February 2022, Photograph by a camp resident.

Given the persistent and established practice of pushbacks carried out by the Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea for nearly two years now, only a limited number of migrants have successfully managed to effectively exercise their right to seek asylum after arriving in Greece by sea. 

In Lesvos, the “lucky ones” – that is the few asylum seekers who are not illegally pushed back to Turkey – are brought to the Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) by the authorities, where they are first detained in a so-called “health quarantine area” of the camp.

I. The “COVID-19 quarantine” area or the shameful jail of the Lesvos RIC

This zone of the camp which is meant to be the medical quarantine for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, is casually called by other residents of the RIC “zendan”, Farsi for jail, describing best the actual conditions imposed on people in this prison quarantine.

Until today, the quarantine area of the camp remains under police and camera surveillance, surrounded by double fences with barbed wire. New arrivals on the island are normally held in this closed area for at least 10 days, in deplorable conditions, sharing prefabricated units together with unrelated individuals, who are living in the Lesvos RIC and are suspected to be infected with COVID-19.

This month, at least 19 unaccompanied minor children also remained detained in the quarantine area for around 20 days – together with unrelated adults – despite the fact that they had completed their quarantine period and did not have COVID-19 – with the excuse that there is no space for them in either the “Safe Area” of the RIC or housing for unaccompanied minors provided by the NGO Iliaktida.

The prison quarantine of the Lesvos RIC is exposing people forced to stay there to deplorable living conditions which are in no way compliant with COVID-19 preventive measures and unfit for medical isolation.

The fenced quarantine area counts around 15 prefabricated shelters which are usually shared between 5 to 8 persons, sometimes even unrelated individuals (see picture on the right).

Various clients of the LCL who were themselves detained in this quarantine area explained that they were forced to sleep on the floor with their children, without a mattress or bed, and that they suffered from the cold, especially at night (see picture above). In fact, at the start of the winter of 2021-2022, no heating system was installed in those units, leaving their residents only the option to use individual heating systems. Many of LCL clients explained that there were no individual heaters available for them while they were detained there in December 2021. 

Moreover, whereas the winter temperatures have reached as low as 0 degrees celsius the last months in Lesvos, the prefabricated units hosting people in quarantine are not adequately winterised and unsuitable to protect people from the cold temperatures and the harsh weather conditions. People detained there have been forced to use blankets to hang around the walls in an effort to insulate as much as possible their otherwise non-winterised shelter (see picture above).

Picture of the prefabricated shelters of the quarantine prison in the Lesvos RIC, February 2022, Photograph by a camp resident.

Similarly, apart from one week during the month of January, no hot water was available during the whole winter for people to shower in the shower cabins – which are outside – despite the near-freezing temperatures. Recent quarantine detainees explained to the LCL that those shower cabins were even removed (and not replaced) since the start of February leaving them with the only option to wash themselves, their hands or their clothes, either inside the toilets cabins (see picture) or in front of everyone with the one and only outdoor water tap available in the whole area (see picture). 

People detained in this area also explained that no hygiene packs, no soap, shampoo or protective masks were distributed to them during their time in quarantine. As a result, while in the COVID-19 quarantine area, people have no possibility to access adequate hygiene and sanitation nor to effectively protect themselves and others from the virus while being detained there.

Given the awful conditions of the quarantine area, clients of the LCL revealed that many residents of the camp were deterred from mentioning that they are sick or present symptoms of the COVID-19 to the health services available in the camp, out of fear of being detained again in such conditions. In the past, police officers operating in the camp have been escorting families by force from their containers to the quarantine area, where they are held in the circumstances described above. 

During their time in quarantine, new arrivals have officially no legal status in Greece and are not in a position to access support from the outside.

Even before their registration as asylum seekers by the Regional Asylum Service, new arrivals to the island are locked up in the quarantine area, without being able to leave, and without access to any information, to the exterior, nor to adequate basic services, including for hygiene or health services. Apart from the one employee of the RIC and public health agency EODY, no one is allowed access to this zone, not even the UNHCR protection and detention officers, NGOs medical staff, or authorised lawyers wishing to visit their clients.

Until recently, the authorities were also refusing to provide people detained there with the list of lawyers and legal organisations available in Lesvos to support them in the asylum procedure. At the same time, people released from quarantine are commonly rushed within a few days through a registration and asylum interviews, impeding them de facto to access legal support or information about their basic rights. Even now that quarantined people have access to the list of lawyers and legal NGOs to contact on the island, the access to legal support remains in practice extremely limited or nearly impossible, as people have only a few days to arrange an appointment, for many leaving time only for a group session about basic information instead of the option of an individual consultation with a lawyer about their specific case, and representation in the interview. 

The detention of asylum seekers in quarantine added to the over-acceleration of the asylum procedure just after their release, is highly problematic and unfair because it de facto denies asylum seekers a real option to access individual information or advice before a final decision is taken in their case by the Regional Asylum Service.

Such measures have been implemented in Lesvos since the creation of the Lesvos Temporary Reception and Identification Centers and have already violated the rights of thousands of asylum seekers unable to access legal aid and exercise their right to consult a lawyer, let alone the time needed to gather the necessary documentation, and physical and mental health assessments (including certifications that they are victims of torture), which could be determinative when assessing their asylum claims. It is unfortunately part of a broader tactic by the Greek authorities to reject as fast as possible a maximum number of asylum applications, over unfair procedures, without any procedural safeguards available.

II. In other parts of the Lesvos RIC: dangerous fires are destroying one rubhall after the other

On 14 and 28 January 2022, important fires broke out, once again, destroying entirely and in a matter of minutes, several of the rubhall shelters accommodating hundreds of asylum seekers in the “yellow zone”of the Lesvos RIC. Just like in the former camp of Moria, which was ultimately destroyed by fires, such  incidents have become routine in the unsafe Lesvos RIC since its construction in October 2020. 

Despite the repetition of those dangerous fires, neither the Greek nor the European Union authorities have taken any measures to host people in safe and dignified places, continuing to tolerate the fatal risk that camps like the Lesvos RIC represent for migrants. 

The fires which took place in January 2022, just like the November 2021 fires happened in the yellow zone of the camp, where single men who (for most of them) have had their asylum claim rejected, are forced to live. As of today, it also is the zone of the Lesvos RIC where living conditions remain most miserable and precarious, given that most of the shelters there are rubhalls – metallic structures covered by a polyester skin – which only offer a very rudimentary living conditions, without isolation from the winter’s near-freezing cold temperatures or heavy rains. 

As the last series of fires have shown, rubhalls also constitutes an unsafe and hazardous shelter, in particular given that electricity is provided through cables passing along the metallic structure, hanging from the roof, and that the lack of centralised heating system is forcing people living under such structures to use individual heaters under an highly inflammable polyester roof.

In case of fire, the material covering those rubhalls is capable of melting very rapidly, leaving only a very short amount of time for the 50 to 100 people living there to exit through one of the two openings at each end of the rubhall central corridor. In all cases, the causes of the fires seemed to be linked to the use of individual heaters as well as repeated and unprompted cuts of electricity due to the insufficient electricity generators of the camp. 

Luckily, in those recent fires, no one was reported to have been hurt or harmed, except in the incident of 14 January where at least one resident was brought to the hospital due to the inhalation of toxic smoke during the fire. Until now, the men living in those rubhalls have managed to escape in extremis, leaving however most of their belongings behind them, including some of their personal documents which are crucial for their asylum claims. In most instances, people who were hosted in the destroyed rubhalls were not immediately offered alternative housing by the camp authorities but were told to find a place in someone else’s container.

As for the fires of 15 and 18 of November which destroyed two rubhalls of the yellow zone in a matter of minutes, the rapidity of the January fires forced its residents and the residents of the neighbouring rubhalls to intervene with water buckets and fire extinguishers to control the flames, as well as with the duty to save and evacuate others. The pictures and videos of the fires also appear to show how police push people away who are trying to extinguish the fire, and shout and kick buckets over to impede people from coming nearer. 

Those fires are not new phenomena and have already in the past threatened or cost the lives of migrants forced to live in the Greek “hotspots” camps, be it in the present camp, or in the former Moria where since March 2016 at least 6 persons had died in container or tents fires or from carbon monoxide poisoning. Those incidents are a reminder that migrants arriving to Greece to seek asylum continue to be forced to live in miserable conditions and kept in unadapted and dangerous RIC structures which put their lives at risk and expose them to repeated and indelible traumas, including to the many children forced to live there. As per UNHCR data, children currently constitute a fourth of the population in the Lesvos RIC, out of whom nearly 4 out of 5 are younger than 12 years old. Many of the residents of Lesvos RIC previously resided in Moria camp and were displaced by the massive fires that destroyed the site in September 2020. These people have already experienced the fear and psychological trauma arising from the blaze and its aftermath, and families have reported how their children’s repeated exposure to such dangers has had a deleterious effect on their mental health.

Instead of taking into account this reality, the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum has continued to concentrate its efforts on the closure of all existing alternative and safe accommodations available in Lesvos, including for minors, families and people with vulnerabilities or medical conditions. As a result, people seeking asylum are concentrated in undignified and dangerous camps, under a cruel policy of geographic restriction impeding them from leaving the island irrespective of their situation or potential vulnerabilities. 

The Greek authorities have been using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to expland detention-like conditions in refugee camps throughout Greece, including discriminatory restrictions of movement and unjustified curfews, be it in the quarantine area or for the wider camp population impeding its residents to enter and leave when they want. The opening and management of the Lesvos RIC have so far been sponsored and praised by the European Commission, which sees the camp as a positive alternative to Moria’s notorious camp, disregarding the reality of the living conditions for the people forced to stay in there, and the danger that this entails for them, which remained vastly unreported.

It should be recalled that the Ministry of Migration and Asylum has received at the end of 2020 an additional 5.36 million euros in emergency funding from the EU to upgrade the “Installations and infrastructures of temporary reception facility in the region of Kara Tepe – Mavrovouni, Municipality of Mytilene” in 2021. Yet, at the same time, the European Court of Human Rights has in 2021 repeatedly found that the living conditions in the Lesvos TRIC were “not compatible with article 3 of the Convention”, that is to say not guaranteeing the European standards on the prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, for over 25 clients of the LCL with health conditions or in need of specific healthcare. 

The lack of political reactions in Greece and in the European Union to change the realities described above shows, once more, the complicit and silent tolerance for the fatal risk to which migrants are deliberately exposed to serve the sole purpose of upholding Europe’s violent borders.

Joint statement by 19 organisations active on refugee issues in Greece

On the rejection of RSA from the NGO registry

The undersigned non-governmental organisations active on refugee issues in Greece were surprised to be informed that the Ministry of Migration and Asylum denied the registration of non-profit civil society organisation “Refugee Support Aegean” (RSA) on its NGO Registry, despite a positive opinion from competent services.

We are particularly concerned by the substantive ground for such rejection, citing that the “development of activity” “in support of persons under deportation” is contrary to Greek legislation.

The provision of mainly legal support to persons facing deportation is part of the daily work of civil society organisations active inter alia in free legal assistance, including several organisations already registered on the NGO Registry. We all consider persons under deportation who are in need of protection in the wider sense as persons of concern, in particular in light of international law provisions prohibiting deportation of foreigners such as Articles 31 and 33 of the Refugee Convention, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture, as well as other provisions mandating assistance to vulnerable cases on humanitarian grounds. Even rejected asylum seekers are persons to whom we are required to provide assistance under EU and domestic legislation, namely Articles 28(3)-(4) and 31(4)-(5) of Law 3907/2011 and the provisions of Directive 2008/115/EC. Activities in support of persons facing deportation are fully in line with applicable legislation, as they ensure the safeguards and rights of persons at risk of deportation and return.

The Ministry of Migration and Asylum rejection decision sets a major negative precedent calling into question our own activity. We also believe that it causes reputational damage to Greece for poor implementation of refugee law, as well as international, EU and domestic law more broadly. For those reasons, we express our concern and expect the administration to take the necessary steps to correct the aforementioned decision in line with the law.

The signatory organisations

  1. CRWI Diotima
  2. Danish Refugee Council
  3. Equal Rights Beyond Borders
  4. Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
  5. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  6. Hellenic League for Human Rights
  7. HIAS Greece
  8. HIGGS |Higher Incubator Giving Growth & Sustainability
  9. HumanRights360
  10. International Rescue Committee
  11. Legal Centre Lesvos
  12. Lesvos Solidarity
  13. Médecins Sans Frontières Greece
  14. Network for Children’s Rights
  15. Refugee Legal Support
  16. Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)
  17. SolidarityNow
  18. Symbiosis – School of Political Studies, Council of Europe Network
  19. Terre des hommes Hellas

Κοινη δηλωση 19 οργανωσεων που δραστηριοποιουνται στο προσφυγικο

Σχετικα με την απορριψη της RSA απο το μητρωο ΜΚΟ

Οι Μη Κυβερνητικές Οργανώσεις που υπογράφουμε το ακόλουθο κείμενο πληροφορηθήκαμε με κατάπληξη την απόρριψη εγγραφής στο Μητρώο ΜΚΟ του Υπουργείου Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου της ΑΜΚΕ «Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο» (RSA) παρά την αντίθετη εισήγηση της αρμόδιας υπηρεσίας.

Μας προκαλεί ιδιαίτερη ανησυχία ο ουσιώδης λόγος της απόρριψης ότι η «[…]ανάπτυξη δραστηριότητας[…]» «[…]υπέρ των υπό απέλαση προσώπων[…]» έρχεται σε αντίθεση με την ελληνική κείμενη νομοθεσία.

Για τις οργανώσεις της κοινωνίας των πολιτών που δραστηριοποιούμαστε μεταξύ άλλων στην παροχή δωρεάν νομικής συνδρομής – και πολλές από εμάς που υπογράφουμε το κείμενο έχουμε ολοκληρώσει την εγγραφή μας στο Μητρώο ΜΚΟ –  είναι μέρος της καθημερινής μας ενασχόλησης η παροχή νομικής κυρίως βοήθειας σε πρόσωπα που βρίσκονται αντιμέτωπα με την απέλαση. Όλοι γνωρίζουμε ότι πρόσωπα τα οποία δικαιούνται προστασίας, υπό την γενικότερη έννοια αυτής, αποτελούν πρόσωπα ενδιαφέροντος όλων μας, ιδίως εν όψει διατάξεων του διεθνούς δικαίου που απαγορεύουν την απέλαση αλλοδαπών, όπως κατεξοχήν τα άρθρα 31 και 33 της Σύμβασης της Γενεύης για τους Πρόσφυγες, το άρθρο 3 της ΕΣΔΑ, του άρθρο 7 του Διεθνούς Συμφώνου για τα Ατομικά και Πολιτικά Δικαιώματα, όσο και το άρθρο 3 της Διεθνούς Σύμβασης για την Απαγόρευση των Βασανιστηρίων, πέραν βέβαια όλων των λοιπών διατάξεων που επιβάλλουν την παροχή συνδρομής σε ευάλωτες περιπτώσεις, για σοβαρούς ανθρωπιστικούς λόγους. Ακόμη και απορριφθέντες διεθνούς προστασίας αποτελούν πρόσωπα προς τα οποία υποχρεούμαστε να παράσχουμε συνδρομή, με βάση νομοθετικές προβλέψεις τόσο του ενωσιακού όσο και του εθνικού δικαίου, όπως ενδεικτικά τα άρθρα 28 παρ. 3 και 4 και 31 παρ. 4 και 5 του Ν. 3907/2011, και οι διατάξεις της Οδηγίας 2008/115/ΕΚ. Οι σχετικές δράσεις υποστήριξης υπέρ των υπό απέλαση προσώπων είναι απολύτως σύμφωνες και υλοποιούν την κείμενη νομοθεσία, κατοχυρώνοντας τις εγγυήσεις και τα δικαιώματα όσων αντιμετωπίζουν τον κίνδυνο απέλασης και επιστροφής.

Η απορριπτική απόφαση του Υπουργείου Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου δημιουργεί μείζον αρνητικό προηγούμενο το οποίο θέτει σε αμφισβήτηση και την δική μας δραστηριότητα, ενώ παράλληλα εκτιμούμε ότι εκθέτει και τη χώρα λόγω κακής εφαρμογής των διατάξεων του προσφυγικού, αλλά και γενικότερα του διεθνούς, ενωσιακού όσο και εθνικού δικαίου. Για τον λόγο αυτό εκφράζουμε την ανησυχία μας και αναμένουμε τις αναγκαίες ενέργειες της Διοίκησης για τη διόρθωση της ως άνω απόφασης σύμφωνα με το νόμο.

Οι Υπογράφουσες Οργανώσεις

  1. Αλληλεγγύη Λέσβου – Lesvos Solidarity
  2. Γιατροί Χωρίς Σύνορα
  3. Δανικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες
  4. Δίκτυο για τα Δικαιώματα του Παιδιού
  5. Ελληνική Ένωση για τα Δικαιώματα του Ανθρώπου (ΕλΕΔΑ)
  6. Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες (ΕΣΠ)
  7. Equal Rights Beyond Borders
  8. Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
  9. HIAS Ελλάδος
  10. HIGGS |Higher Incubator Giving Growth & Sustainability
  11. HumanRights360
  12. International Rescue Committee
  13. Κέντρο Διοτίμα
  14. Legal Centre Lesvos
  15. Refugee Legal Support
  16. SolidarityNow
  17. Συμβίωση-Σχολή Πολιτικών Σπουδών στην Ελλάδα, Δίκτυο Σχολών Πολιτικών Σπουδών του Συμβουλίου της Ευρώπης
  18. Terre des hommes Hellas
  19. Υποστήριξη Προσφύγων στο Αιγαίο (RSA)

Legal Centre Lesvos Quarterly Report July – September 2021

Tents in the Lesvos “Temporary” Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), where unrelated families share the same tents and sleep on the floor, August 2021, Picture taken by a camp resident.

(1) Living conditions

  • August 2021 – The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) persistently recognises Greek authorities’ disregard for migrants’ health and lives in Lesvos RIC.
  • September 2021 – One year after the Moria fires: No lessons learnt and no responsibility taken.

(2) Asylum procedures

  • Legal aid provided by Legal Centre Lesvos between July and September 2021.
  • Greece continuously rejects asylum claims of Afghans as inadmissible despite the situation in Afghanistan.
  • Discriminatory exclusion from all social rights for migrants rejected on appeal.
  • 15 September – Effective termination of UNHCR cash assistance for migrants without any announced plans of replacement.

(3) Collective expulsions and other human rights violations

  • 14 July – Publication of the report of Frontex Scrutiny Working Group concludes on Frontex’s negligence to address evidence of fundamental rights violations.
  • August 2021 – Visit of British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to Greece to observe the country’s methods to stop the arrival of migrants’ boats.
  • September 2021 – Successful relocation of 27-year-old M.M. to Germany after 7 months’ efforts.

Download the full report here

(1) Living conditions

  • August 2021 – The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) persistently recognises Greek authorities’ disregard for migrants’ health and lives in Lesvos RIC

Inside a tent of the Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre, August 2021. Picture taken by a camp resident.

Over the summer, the Legal Centre Lesvos (LCL) continued to seek redress before the ECtHR for people forced to live in the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Kara Tepe, Lesvos (also known as Mavrovouni RIC or Moria 2.0), despite their critical state of health. 

Between July and September, LCL submitted 9 applications for interim measures to the ECtHR requesting the urgent transfer of individuals and their families out of the Lesvos’ RIC into safer accommodation and their immediate access to urgently needed health care on mainland Greece. In 8 of these cases, the ECtHR granted an interim measure within 48 hours of submission, instructing Greece to fulfill its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and ensure that the applicants’ living conditions be compatible with Article 3 ECHR, the prohibition on torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and to provide them with adequate healthcare, having regard to their state of health. In response to the ninth case, the Court ultimately refused the interim measure, as Greece scheduled the individual’s transfer to Athens while the case was pending. 

These applications for interim measures followed months of inaction by the Greek authorities and fruitless communication between LCL and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Head of Lesvos’ Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), and the Vulnerability Focal Point (VFP) of the Lesvos RIC – all of whom are responsible for the identification and transfer outside of the camp of people with vulnerabilities and specific medical needs as provided under Greek law. 

Those applications also constitute another damning indictment on the immiserating reception conditions imposed on migrants effectively contained in the RIC of Lesvos and a reiterated recognition by the ECtHR that people with severe health situations left to live there for months without attention are at imminent risk of irreparable harm. This cruel and unfair policy prioritises immigration control and containment of migrants over all else, irrespective of the severity of people’s medical conditions. It also ignores the fact that a person’s right to health and life are fundamental rights that must be guaranteed for all, regardless of legal status.

Out of the total of eight applications granted by the ECtHR between July and September, five applicants were officially transferred out of the RIC of Lesvos with their close relatives by the Greek authorities. Two applicants are still awaiting their transfer to Athens and one family decided to leave the island on their own.

Since filing this latest set of interim measure applications, LCL observed a shift in the Greek authorities’ policy who started to allow individuals with severe medical conditions to leave the island by their own means, if those individuals are able to show medical documentation referring them for treatment unavailable on Lesvos and obtain permission to leave the island from the Greek police – regardless of their legal status. Although this unofficial decongestion is an improvement, it is not being applied in a consistent manner, with many still denied permission to leave the island despite being issued with medical documents from the General Hospital of Mytilene recommending transfer to and treatment on the mainland. 

Moreover, these are not ‘official’ transfers and do not ensure that vulnerable people will ultimately access safe accommodation or health care on the mainland. For many, this could result in homelessness, destitution and continued lack of access to medical treatment. This also means that only those people who have the financial means and are in a physical and psychological state allowing them to move and travel can risk leaving the island on their own. Consequently, the approximately 3, 500 people who are currently stuck in Lesvos RIC are increasingly those whose personal situation makes it difficult for them to travel easily – for example because they have physical disabilities, are older, have large families or do not have the financial means to support themselves. 

The situations of the people LCL has represented before the ECtHR are unfortunately not unique, but illustrative of the dire situation faced by everyone trapped in the detention-like conditions of Lesvos RIC and on Lesvos in general.  

For more information read the full report here.

  • September 2021 – One year after the Moria fires: No lessons learnt and no responsibility taken

Picture of the Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre taken from a hill, showing tents by the sea and the ongoing and constant re-construction work behind the barbed wire fences, August 2021. Credits: Fellipe Lopes.

September 2021 marked the “anniversary” of one year after the fires that destroyed the infamous Moria hotspot camp in Lesvos, and the various political promises that followed – including that there would be “No more Morias”. Instead, the immiserating living conditions forced on migrants arriving to Lesvos continue as before, if not worse, in the “temporary” RIC of Lesvos (see below).

The EU and Greek authorities have failed to recognise their clear responsibility for the creation, extension and ultimate destruction of the deadly hotspot camp of Moria. Rather than recognising that the fires of Moria were the inevitable product of the hotspot approach and its deadly camp infrastructures which should – in no circumstances – be reproduced, the Greek authorities have continued to concentrate their efforts on the progressive closure of all existing alternative and safe accommodations available in Lesvos, including for minors, families and people with vulnerabilities or medical conditions

In September of 2020, the Greek state arrested six young Afghan migrants, most of whom were minors, presenting them as the sole culprits of the fires. All were unsurprisingly condemned to long prison sentences without recognition of any mitigating factors, after undergoing unfair and unjust trials, reinforcing the impression of a premeditated decision. 

In the meantime, there has been no justice for most of the families of those who died within the camp in five years of operation of Moria RIC, or for the tens of thousands of people subjected to the camp’s institutional disregard for their lives. There has been no redress for those whose health deteriorated due to their prolonged containment in inhumane and unsanitary conditions; for those who were subjected to violence, insecurity, sexual and other forms of abuse; for the children denied access to education, safe shelter, or adequate nutrition, refused access to support, or otherwise left to fend for themselves; for those who still live with the post-traumatic disorders resulting from their containment in this hell on earth. There has been no recognition, by responsible authorities, of their role in causing and compounding the trauma of those already subjected to persecution and insecurity, of their deliberate subjection of thousands of people to torturous and degrading treatment to serve the sole purpose of upholding Europe’s violent borders. 

Quite the opposite: “no more Morias,” as expected, was an empty promise. Far from reconsidering the containment approach and the confinement of people to camps on the islands, Greece and the European Union (EU) have agreed the extension and entrenchment of this deadly model through the construction of new closed “multi-purpose” camps on the Eastern Aegean islands, which the Greek Government proudly presents as a big achievement, and where migrants will be concentrated in the future. The construction of these camps continues Greek and European authorities’ violent crimes towards migrants, intertwined with their practices of expulsion, deportation, and externalisation. But the Moria fires one year ago demonstrated that these policies are doomed to failure, and will inevitably meet the same result.

For more details read our full publication.

* September 2021 – One year of Moria 2.0: When the temporary becomes permanent

The anniversary of the Moria fires also marks the first year of existence of Lesvos “temporary” RIC, hastily established in Kara Tepe in September 2020 on land that was leased for five years, calling in to question the camp’s alleged temporariness (see here, here, and here). Since then, the “temporary” RIC (also known as Mavrovouni camp) has seen constant construction works, despite knowledge that the site is contaminated with lead which therefore poses an acute health risk to all contained there. Some families told the Legal Centre Lesvos that they were forcibly moved from their tents or containers, at least once per month, due to the constant and disorientating re-shaping of the camp’s infrastructure. They also complained about the frequent presence of dust in the air created by the permanent construction works and movement of trucks passing through the camp, which also contaminates their food and water.

Mavrovouni’s neatly aligned rows of nearly 500 UNHCR-branded tents, containers, and rub-halls might appear, at first glance, better organised than the olive groves that sprawled around the former Moria RIC. But this image, satisfactory only for politicians’ brief visits or organisations’ promotional videos, belies a fundamentally different reality: the effective detention of migrants in shelters battered by extreme weather conditions, with scarce and inaccessible sanitation facilities, and under ever-increasing police surveillance – yet facing chronic insecurity. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Mavrovouni RIC (and other camps across Greece) have been subjected to disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions such as curfews, restricted number of exits per week, and ongoing movement certification requirements. In August, exit and entrance restrictions were finally lifted for the Mavrovouni camp residents, but every person leaving the camp was forced to undergo a rapid COVID test each time they want to leave – even vaccinated persons who could present a COVID vaccine certificate. 

Since 11 September however, harsh police controls and movement restrictions have been reimposed under the justification of “protection measures of public health from the spread of COVID-19”, whereas the rest of the local population on the island is not subjected to any restriction – let alone an enhanced restriction – through the end of September 2021. As a consequence, the camp management has resumed the publication of daily notices listing residents’ file numbers, which allow camp residents to to leave the camp only once per week “for the cover of basic needs”, with the exception of scheduled and documented appointments – such as medical appointments, asylum interviews, appointment with lawyers or public services. This means that with the exception of less than a month in August 2021, residents of Lesvos’ RICs have been in de facto detention since March 2020.

Inside the RIC, families with children whose asylum claims have been rejected on appeal are being concentrated in large rubhalls hosting 80 to 100 persons of the “green zone”, which is also the most remote and one of the dirtiest areas of the camp (see picture below). Families hosted there complain about the lack of space and safety for their children, given the absence of an escape route in case of fire of the rubhall and the dirt, rats and bed bugs which they are exposed to. 

Vulnerable persons (including among others people with physical disabilities, chronic health conditions, single parents with minor children and pregnant women) are mostly hosted in the “blue zone” of Mavrovouni camp, which alternates between tents shared among eight persons and ISO box containers. However, at present, this part of the camp lacks sufficient capacity to host all persons with vulnerabilities. Some of the Legal Centre Lesvos’ clients with severe medical conditions and physical disabilities are forced to live in other zones, where they sleep on the floor of tents shared with unrelated persons. Furthermore, the shower facilities adapted for persons with disabilities (which have running water, as opposed to the bucket showers found across the rest of the camp) were built outside of the blue zone – and at approximately five minutes’ walking distance. This means that they are in practice very difficult to access for people with limited mobility or in wheelchairs.

The inhumane living conditions imposed on people in Lesvos RIC are coupled with pervasive anxiety and uncertainty created by de facto detention, mass rejections and accelerated assessments of residents’ claims. (see below on the asylum procedures). For a full year now, people have been forced to live in the “temporary” RIC of Lesvos in horrendous conditions, with the poor excuse that people’s stay there would be temporary. However, as confirmed by the Greek proverb, “there is nothing more permanent than the temporary” (Ουδέν μονιμότερον του προσωρινού).

For more information read our publication here.

(2) Asylum procedures

Group information session by a trained caseworker at the Legal Centre Lesvos office, September 2021

As of 26 August, the population registered as living in the RIC of Lesvos amounted to 3654 persons as per the camp management internal statistics, including:

  • 64% of the camp population being from Afghanistan;
  • 40% of the camp population being either rejected on appeal or having filed a subsequent application; and
  • Only 386 persons officially recognised as “vulnerable,” according to the camp authorities.

As described above, the Legal Centre noted a change in practice over the course of the summer in which the Greek authorities have let people leave the island of Lesvos by their own means, if they had been rejected from the asylum procedure and had medical documents indicating that they need medical treatment in Athens, or when the Appeals Committees have ordered people to leave Greece by their own means after having their asylum claim rejected on appeal. 

Furthermore, those who have been fortunate enough to have been granted international protection, have also been able to leave the island if they have the financial means to purchase tickets and pay the fees to obtain their identification documents. The resultant “unofficial decongestion” has led to a significant decrease of the Lesvos RIC population, to around 3200 persons registered in the camp as of the start of September. 

  • Legal aid provided by Legal Centre Lesvos between July and September 2021
Legal Centre Lesvos’ Greek lawyers represented:

55 individuals in the asylum procedure, including cases of family reunification;

5 individuals on appeal of their asylum claims;

2 cases before the Greek Administrative Court for annulment proceedings (i.e. last resort administrative appeal);

1 case before the Greek civil court to obtain the custody of a minor by his adult brother;

2 individuals in detention.

Among those successfully represented in their asylum procedures was an individual from Mali, who entered Greece in 2017, was violently attacked and arrested by Greek police following protests in Moria camp in July 2017. As one of the “Moria 35”, he was unjustly imprisoned for Greek prison before being transferred to Pre-Removal Detention Centre following a trial and conviction in a kangaroo court for supposedly causing bodily injury to police officers. Meanwhile, his asylum claim had been rejected on appeal, and he faced deportation. Following the registration of a subsequent application for asylum, filed with representation of the Legal Centre Lesvos, he was finally released. Now, approximately three years after his release from detention, and more than four years since he first arrived in Lesvos from Turkey, he has finally been granted refugee status.  
Volunteer caseworkers with the Legal Centre Lesvos carried out:

298 individual legal consultations;

20 interview preparations;

58 referrals to alternative housing services or protection services;

2 group information sessions to 15 individuals.
Legal Centre Lesvos:

Filed 9 petitions for interim measures before the European Court of Human Rights (see above);

Published 2 “Know your rights” information sheets, available online, providing information about people’s rights when interacting with the police in Greece as well as during the asylum interview. 

Over the last months, people who have arrived on the island of Lesvos have systematically been kept in health quarantines for at least a full week following their arrival, in which the Greek authorities do not provide any information regarding the asylum procedure or legal assistance, and those in quarantine are not allowed to access lawyers. The Greek authorities then schedule people for their substantive asylum interview on the day following their release from health quarantine or a few days after that, leaving them no time to access legal information in relation to their rights or legal support in relation to their asylum claim before their crucial asylum interview and consequently before the examination of their case

These accelerated procedures, added to the severe restrictions of movement in and out of the camp (described above), have made it increasingly challenging, if not impossible, for people to access the Legal Centre Lesvos office in town – or at any other NGO providing free legal assistance – before their asylum claim is assessed and decided upon. In response, the Legal Centre Lesvos has resumed its group information sessions (see picture above) so as to provide legal assistance to more people before their asylum interview. 

Moreover the Legal Centre Lesvos has started to publish a set of information sheets, named “Know your rights”, which are available online and in our office in four languages. These provide information on matters ranging from aspects of the asylum process as implemented in Lesvos, to interacting with the police. The info sheets are not intended to be a replacement for direct and in-person legal assistance, they – in the present circumstances – represent an additional opportunity to reach out and provide information to more people in need of legal assistance.  The Legal Centre Lesvos will continue to publish additional info sheets over the next months.  

Download and read our info sheets here

  • Greece continuously rejects asylum claims of Afghans as inadmissible despite the situation in Afghanistan

Despite the recent developments in Afghanistan, with the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021, the Greek Asylum Service continued to implement the Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) adopted on 7 June 2021, through September, declaring that Turkey is a safe country for Afghan, Somali, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Syrian nationals. 

Consequently, the Greek authorities have refused to examine the substance of many asylum applications, including those made by many Afghan citizens, who were rejected on admissibility. Several Legal Centre Lesvos clients from Afghanistan were subjected to expedited interviews, which lasted approximately fifteen minutes and included only questions about their experience in Turkey – with no word about Afghanistan. 

This, in itself, is unacceptable. It  amounts to an effective denial of the right to seek asylum and of the responsibility for the protection of people from several of the least safe countries in the world. Moreover, it puts people at grave risk, as Turkey is not a safe third country for migrants and does not offer for asylum seekers the potential of being recognised as refugees or to be protected against refoulement. 

However, this practice is not surprising. Five days before the fall of Kabul, Greece and five other EU countries were calling the European Commission to allow those states to resume deportations to Afghanistan of all Afghans who have been refused asylum, despite the worsening situation in their country and the advance of the Taliban. 

After the news of the Taliban takeover of Kabul became official, the Minister of Migration and Asylum in Greece, Notis Mitarakis, publicly announced that Greece cannot become a “gateway for a new wave of refugees.” He further reiterated that Greece would apply the safe third country concept to Afghans, essentially blocking their access to international protection in Europe. 

Greece’s position is also consistent with its increased efforts over the last years to practically restrict people’s access to asylum, such as through its reform of the asylum legislation’s vulnerability provisions, the acceleration of procedures, the restriction of access to legal assistance, and the State’s widespread and systematic practice of collective expulsions, as well as the country’s reiterated request on 28 July to the European Commission to immediately return about 2,000 migrants to Turkey in application of the EU-Turkey deal.

Legal Centre Lesvos joined other civil society organisations calling for solidarity with Afghan people, instead of the EU member states’ focus on measures of deterrence and return. The publication can be read here in Greek. The statement reaffirmed that every person at risk of persecution on grounds of their identity or conscience has the right to be protected under international refugee protection law and that every person seeking asylum has the right to have his or her claim examined individually, as provided for under international and EU law.  

A solidarity gathering was also organised by Afghans in Lesvos, as well as in several other places in Greece. 

Gathering in solidarity with Afghanistan in Sappho square, Lesvos, 16 August 2021, Credits: Fellipe Lopes.

  • Discriminatory exclusion from all social rights for migrants rejected on appeal

As of August 2021, almost half of the camp population of the Lesvos RIC had already had their asylum claim rejected on appeal and were therefore considered under Greek law as “outside of the asylum procedure”. This means that they also no longer have any right to cash assistance, legal aid from state lawyers, or social security services in Greece, such as health care including appointments with doctors (with the exception of emergency services). 

The National Public Health Organisation (EODY), which operates a clinic in the Lesvos RIC also announced in the last week of August that the State would no longer proceed with the COVID-19 vaccinations of people outside of the asylum procedure, under the pretext that the State could not issue a vaccine certificate for those without an active social security number. People who already had appointments for their vaccination with EODY in the camp, but had since received a second instance rejection on their asylum claim, were also refused vaccination when they came to their appointments. 

Such discrimination has severe consequences on people’s lives. Not only does it exclude their prospect of vaccination, but also, without an active social security number (as is the case for those outside of the procedure), they are unable to obtain a certified COVID-19 rapid test from pharmacies or public health authorities. Without either a vaccine or such a certificate, they are excluded from some shops, restaurants, as well as public services and spaces with COVID-19 entry requirements – including, for example, the police station of Mytilene, which some people with rejections need to access to authorised a lawyer through a power of attorney, or to report any offences against them. 

Legal status has no bearing on public health imperatives, and the exclusion of migrants from the vaccination programme on this basis is a violation of the fundamental principle of non-discrimination. It also constitutes an unjustifiable and major public health risk. 

  • 15 September – Effective termination of UNHCR cash assistance for migrants without any announced plans of replacement

Even the minimal and inadequate assistance provided to those recognised as asylum seekers has been further cut. In September, UNHCR announced the termination of its cash assistance programme as of 15 September 2021, the date in which all persons eligible were requested to withdraw their last cash allowance. There has been no official announcement by the Greek State confirming that this programme will in fact be continued by the State services or some other entities, or if so, under which eligibility criteria. 

Clients of the Legal Centre Lesvos have expressed desperation as to how they will be able to cover their basic needs from now on, particularly while being forced to live in the Lesvos RIC, unable to leave the island due to geographic restrictions, and not having access to any work – as asylum seekers do not have permission to work for the first six months after they register their application for asylum. 

Some clients stated that they are “working” three shifts for different non-governmental organisations operating inside the camp and survive on the 20 Euro supermarket coupons and 12 Euros mobile top up cards given to them by different organisations in exchange for their services, such as interpreting, helping to move tents, or building ISO box containers, cleaning the bins, or gathering empty bottles. 

(3) Collective expulsions and other human rights violations

  • 14 July – Publication of the report of Frontex Scrutiny Working Group concludes on Frontex’s negligence to address evidence of fundamental rights violations

Frontex vessel stationed in front of a terrasse in Molyvos in the of Lesvos, September 2021.

In July, the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group (FSWG) established by the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs published a final report on the fact-finding investigation of Frontex concerning alleged fundamental rights violations.

 Legal Centre Lesvos contributed to the fact-finding mission of the Frontex Scrutiny Working Group, held meetings with and hearings before European Parliament members regarding the responsibility of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Frontex, and other EU institutions in carrying out pushbacks, and submitted relevant evidence to the European Parliament on documented pushbacks carried out by the Hellenic Coast Guard in the Aegean Sea, and on the connection between collective expulsions and Frontex’s operations. 

The FSWG “did not find conclusive evidence on the direct performance of pushbacks and/or collective expulsions by Frontex in the serious incident cases that could be examined by the FSWG,” despite numerous media reports evincing Frontex’s involvement in such incidents. 

However, the FSWG concluded that Frontex “found evidence in support of allegations of fundamental rights violations in Member States with which it had a joint operation, but failed to address and follow-up on these violations promptly, vigilantly and effectively. As a result, Frontex did not prevent these violations, nor reduced the risk of future fundamental rights violations,” in violation of its supervisory obligations under EU Regulation 2019/1896. 

This recognition of Frontex’s failure to act supports the Legal Centre Lesvos and Front-lex’s pre-legal action against Frontex and its Executive Director, initiated in February 2021, which requested the suspension or termination of Frontex activities in the Aegean region owing to Frontex’s failure to comply with its supervisory obligations. Since then, a legal action concerning this same failure has been brought before the European Court of Justice against Frontex. Nonetheless, Frontex continues to operate in the Aegean Sea, and none of its directors or operatives have been held to account for their failures to act to prevent life-threatening, and ongoing, collective expulsions and the human rights abuses that they entail. 

Furthermore, the FSWG “found deficiencies in Frontex’s mechanisms to monitor, report and assess fundamental rights situations and developments (…) [but also] identified gaps in the framework of cooperation with Member States, which may hamper the fulfilment of Frontex’s fundamental rights obligations. The FSWG is concerned about the lack of cooperation of the Executive Director to ensure compliance with some of the provisions of the EBCG Regulation, notably on fundamental rights, which led to significant delays in the implementation of the Regulation. In this context, the FSWG regrets [the Executive Director’s] recurrent refusal to implement the recommendations of the Commission to ensure compliance with the newly adopted Regulation. (…) Moreover, the FSWG takes the position that the Management Board should have played a much more proactive role in acknowledging the serious risk of fundamental rights violations and in taking action to ensure that Frontex fulfils its negative and positive fundamental rights obligations as enshrined in the Regulation.”

The final report of the FSWG is, ultimately, a disappointment. Despite recognising Frontex’s failure to act to prevent human rights abuses, it glosses over the active role that the agency has played in collective expulsions, in sustaining the Greek authorities’ systematic practice thereof, and in perpetuating European and Member State officials’ impunity for the torturous and often fatal consequences of these incidents. Moreover, it fails to adequately identify – let alone redress – Frontex’s inherent defects, insofar as it suggests that were an effective human rights monitoring system in place, the agency could act in a manner compliant with international human rights standards. This is not the case. 


The survivors and victims of these expulsions are legally entitled to remedy and reparations for the abuses that they have suffered, but the FSWG takes no steps to identify how such redress could be achieved. Frontex’s operations have repeatedly proven violent and have run roughshod over individuals’ procedural and substantive human rights, and yet the agency is yet to be called to account before a judiciary. Tinkering with the Agency’s internal structures falls far short of what is necessary: the urgent defunding and abolition of Frontex. 

  • August 2021 – Visit of British Priti Patel to Greece to observe the country’s methods to stop the arrival of migrants’ boats.

Picture of ΛΣ050 one of the five Hellenic Coast Guard patrol vessels currently on active duty in the Aegean Sea.

In August, the United Kingdom’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, visited Samos. Patel oversees the UK’s hostile immigration policies, and in recent months, has entered in to discussions regarding the construction of offshore migrant processing centres, the use of wave machines to inhibit migrants attempting to cross the English channel in small boats, and the potential exclusion of UK border officials from prosecution if illegal pushbacks result in migrants’ deaths. 

Media reported that during her trip to Samos, the UK Home office went on patrol with the Hellenic Coast Guard to observe the methods being used in the country to prevent boat crossings from Turkey. This is particularly interesting given the amount of public evidence available demonstrating that the Hellenic Coast Guard has been systematically expelling migrants back to Turkey in illegal and violent “pushbacks” for more than a year now. 

This visit should be a call to alarm to those in solidarity with migrants on both sides of the Channel, to ensure that the violent practices of Greek authorities are not replicated there. Greece’s expanded use of detention to control people at its borders should be nothing new to Ms. Patel. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers are detained each year in the UK, and the UK is one of the only countries in Europe that allows for the indefinite detention of asylum seekers – meaning that some people have been imprisoned for decades in the UK awaiting resolution of their cases. Nor are the horrible, inhumane conditions of the Greek islands new for Ms. Patel. The number of people dying in government run accommodation in the UK is alarmingly increasing in the last year. 

Furthermore, just as the EU has paid billions to Turkey to prevent people from crossing the border from Turkey to Greece, the UK has also paid France to prevent people from crossing the Channel, and has recently agreed to pay a new £54m deal to France to increase patrols and stem the rising number of migrants crossing to the UK. This adds to the millions already dispersed to fortify the UK-France border, particularly since 2015. 

Greek and UK border policies go hand in hand to serve the same policy goals of deterrence, externalisation, and violent border fortification regardless of the human lives lost. 

  • September 2021 – Successful relocation of 27-year-old M.M. to Germany after 7 months’ efforts

M.M, a 27-year-old Afghan beneficiary of subsidiary protection, who attempted to self-immolate in the Mavrovouni Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) of Lesvos on February 21, 2021, has been safely relocated to Germany with her family. The transfer to Germany was made possible by a new order of the Investigating Judge of the First Instance Court of Mytilene, which allowed for her exit from the country, under the condition that M.M. reports at a Greek consular authority in Germany once a month, until a final ruling on the criminal charges pending against her is made.

In February, M.M. – then pregnant – attempted to take her life inside Mavrovouni Temporary Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), in Lesvos. As a result of the attempted self-immolation, M.M. sustained injuries on several parts of her body, including her head, both hands, back, and legs, and inhaled smoke that caused her to lose consciousness for a short period of time. M.M. was rescued by the residents of the neighbouring tents and was transferred to the hospital immediately after.

M.M. and her family had lived for more than a year in the inhuman conditions of Moria and Mavrovouni RICs before she attempted to take her life. For this act of desperation, she was later charged with “arson with intent, endangering life and the objects of others”, as well as with “damage of an object of common utility by means of fire.” Τhe case is still pending at the pre-trial-stage.

HIAS Greece and Legal Centre Lesvos expressed their satisfaction with the positive outcome regarding the family’s relocation. The decisions taken by the Judicial Authorities as well as those of the Central Asylum Service were instrumental in making the family’s transfer possible. At the same time, we hope that the Judicial Authorities will recognize M.M.’s act of desperation as self-harm, which is not punishable according to the Greek penal code. This criminal case constitutes another example of misguided use of criminal law mechanism against refugees, and simultaneously reveals the failure of the state to provide adequate living conditions for persons seeking international protection in Greece.