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.

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