Author: Lorraine Leete

Joint Letter on the Situation for LGBTQI+ Asylum Seekers in Greece/ Κοινή επιστολή για την κατάσταση των ΛΟΑΤΚι+ αιτούντων άσυλο στην Ελλάδα.

Dear Manos Logothetis and Patroklos Georgiadis,

In light of information collected through input from numerous organizations and focus groups from the community, we are sending you this letter highlighting particular concerns relating to the situation of LGBTQI+ asylum seekers in Greece. We appreciate your reception to our feedback and hope we can continue to work with you on this matter further.

Shelter and Security

It is agreed that a specific dedicated area for LGBTQI+ people within the camps would not be appropriate as there is a risk of further isolation and stigmatization. Nonetheless, at present Greece is failing to provide appropriate reception conditions for LGBTQI+ applicants. Currently, LGBTQI+ asylum seekers are housed with non-LGBTQI+ people (hereafter ‘mixed housing’). It was widely agreed in the focus groups that mixed housing, particularly in camps, does not allow for the applicant to feel safe or comfortable to be open with their identity.  Resultantly, people who have fled their countries are still having to hide and conceal their identity at all times. The following quotes are from LGBTQI+ individuals living in mixed housing:

You just have to hide your real self, it’s like being a shadow of yourself.

Hiding in my country and hiding here, it’s no difference.

The accommodation offers no respite from the discrimination, threat or stigma, which has potentially severe mental health implications.

[B]eing compelled to conceal one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity may also result in significant psychological and other harms.” (European Court of Human Rights) 

Expecting people to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid harm is contrary to the applicants’ human rights, as recognized by the European Court of Human Rights, EU Court of Justice and the Greek Special Appeals Committee. It is therefore recommended that:

  1. Where the primary housing is a camp, there should be efforts to ensure that the relocation to a confidential and discreet LGBTQI+ specific housing in the local city or town is an available and accessible option. 
  2. In cases where it is not possible to relocate LGBTQI+ individuals to specific housing, improvements within the camp setting are needed. For example, ensuring increased privacy or creating safe spaces in camp would be extremely helpful. In addition, accommodation with less people cohabiting in the same space can reduce the risk. 
  3. Where the primary accomodation is shared housing in a town or city, it should be ensured discreet LGBTQI+ only housing should be available.

Services and Support

Through discussions with affected applicants, it has been revealed that very few of the LGBTQI+ asylum seekers know of, or have had the opportunity to speak with, an EODY psychologist. Those that have stated there were not enough psychologists for the number of applicants requiring support, and the support provided was not specialized in the issues that uniquely relate to LGBTQI+ persons. It has been further noted that a focal point in RIS, GAS or elsewhere who could be approached if there was a problem, would contribute towards a safer space. The focal point should be discreet and sensitized to LGBTQI+ issues. In line with these observations, it is recommended that:

  1. At minimum, training should be provided for all personnel working directly with asylum seekers on the particularities of LGBTQI+ asylum claims (including the Reception and Identification authorities and the designated EODY staff).
  2. Additionally, a dedicated focal point with information and referral services for psychosocial support for LGBTQI+ applicants be set up in each camp. 

Asylum Process

The detailed process required to assess asylum cases on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) can be undeniably difficult for the applicant, particularly where a person may have to relive trauma. It is recognized and understood that a thorough process is necessary to fully assess the claim. Nonetheless, it is possible to conduct such an assessment without causing further traumatization.

On account of the personal and sensitive nature of the claim, LGBTQI+ applicants are afforded special protections under European and Greek law. The European Union, through case law at the EU Court of Justice as well as the EU Directives, provide clear and comprehensive standards for these assessments. Unfortunately, it is currently being noted that these standards are not being adhered to. A review of the transcripts of LGBTQI+ applicants since 2021 has shown repeated examples of procedural violations and prohibited questions contrary to European Union law and international standards. The EUAA, European Commission, representatives of DG HOME and MEPs have also been contacted regarding these issues. 

Prohibited Questions

Firstly, LGBTQI+ applicants have been asked questions which are expressly prohibited under EU and Greek law, in particular with regards to questions relating to sexual practices and behavior.
Prohibited questions that have been asked include:

  1. “Did you have a sexual relationship with…?”
  2. “Did you get any stimuli to find out?”
  3. “Since you love it so much, what is the reason you haven’t practiced here in Greece?”
  4. “How did you feel when he was touching you?”

Training and competency

Secondly, the Asylum Procedures Directive states that applications should be examined and decisions taken, “individually, objectively and impartially”. Presumptive, collective decision making, often due to the application of the safe country of origin principle, combined with the potential vulnerabilities and trauma that prevent individuals from sharing certain details of their claim at first instance, prevents a proper individualized assessment from occurring. 

Caseworkers conducting the interviews should be sufficiently trained in assessing, and competent in relation to, sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the transcripts of LGBTQI+ applicants indicate they are routinely asked questions which demonstrate a lack of training or understanding with regards to sexual orientation and/or gender identity. LGBTQI+ applicants reported encountering skepticism and prejudice upon sharing their sexual orientation, to the extent it was described as similar to a “forced interrogation”. Questions that fail to adhere to European standards include:

  1. “Before proceeding to this sexual choice, have you been aware of the difficulties you’d have to face?”
  2. “Since you felt pain, why did you choose this lifestyle?”
  3. “You are an educated man. Weren’t you aware that homosexuality is a crime in [Country of origin]?”
  4. “Didn’t that [traumatic] event make you consider your choice?”

The use of stereotypes

Finally, the reliance on stereotypes is of serious concern. Following a judgment at the EU Court of Justice, decisions on credibility cannot be based on stereotypical notions. The judgment further clarified that a decision based on a person’s (lack of) knowledge of LGBTQI+ organizations suggests that the authorities have relied on stereotypes in making their decision. In addition, the UNHCR Guideline no. 9 on international protection states:

Interviewers and decision makers need to maintain an objective approach so that they do not reach conclusions based on stereotypical, inaccurate or inappropriate perceptions of LGBTI individuals… There are no universal characteristics or qualities that typify LGBTI individuals any more than heterosexual individuals. Their life experiences can vary greatly even if they are from the same country”.

Nonetheless, there are transcripts which are dominated with stereotypical questions, such as:

  1. “You have a daughter, can you explain that since you are a homosexual?”
  2. “Did you ever have a relationship with a [man/ woman]?”
  3. “Did you ever have a heterosexual relationship?”
  4. “LGBT stands for lesbians gay bisexual and transsexual people. How is it possible to be a homosexual and not being aware of how the community sexual minorities is called?”

More worryingly, contrary to the ABC judgment, applicants have been rejected on the basis of stereotypical notions, including on the grounds of a lack of knowledge of LGBTQI+ organizations. On account of the above, it is recommended that:

  1. The Greek Asylum Service issues clear, updated, and publicly available internal guidelines on how to conduct personal interviews for applicants with LGBTQI+ asylum claims in line with European and Greek law to overcome institutionalized practices that result in procedural violations.
  • The guidelines should cover the standards set out by the ECHR, the CJEU and the EU Directives on assessing LGBTQI+ claims and should include a shift in the terminology that is respectful of the diversity and individuality of each person.
  • The guidelines should acknowledge the intersectional identity of SOGIESC applicants and provide a background understanding of SOGIESC identities in a cross-cultural context to avoid Eurocentric expectations and reliance on stereotypical notions.toga 
  1. The template of questions used by caseworkers in the credibility assessment should be updated to adhere to international, EU, and domestic standards and exclude prohibited or problematic questions such as those mentioned above.
  2. Caseworkers are provided regular and up-to-date training on the particularities and vulnerabilities of SOGIESC asylum claims (in line with the Asylum Procedures Directive), the legal standards, and practical information on conducting assessments with a respectful and well-informed approach.

We thank you for your continued attention to this matter. We remain at your disposal for any further clarifications and continued discussions. 

Signatures

  1. ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth
  2. Asylum Seekers Information Services Team (A.Ss.I.S.T.)
  3. Colour Youth – Athens LGBTQ Youth Community 
  4. Changemakers Lab
  5. Choose Love
  6. Danish Refugee Council, Greece
  7. Diotima Centre for Gender Rights & Equality
  8. ECHO100PLUS
  9. Emantes – International Lgbtqia+ Solidarity
  10. European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL)
  11. Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid
  12. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  13. HIAS Greece
  14. Human Rights Legal Project
  15. HumanRights360
  16. I HAVE RIGHTS. (IHR)
  17. International Rescue Committee (IRC) 
  18. INTERSOS
  19. Irida Women’s Center
  20. Jesuit Refugee Service Greece (JRS Greece)
  21. Just Action
  22. Legal Centre Lesvos
  23. Lesvos LGBTIQ+ Refugee Solidarity
  24. Lgbtqia+ Refugees Welcome
  25. Lighthouse Relief 
  26. Mobile Info Team
  27. Network for Children’s Rights
  28. Northern Lights Aid 
  29. Positive Voice 
  30. Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
  31. SafePlace International 
  32. SolidarityNow
  33. Samos Advocacy Collective
  34. Samos LGBTQI+ Group
  35. Samos Volunteers 
  36. Τerre des hommes Hellas
  37. Yoga and Sport With Refugees
Situation-for-LGBTQI-Asylum-Seekers-in-Greece-1

Κοινή επιστολή για την κατάσταση των ΛΟΑΤΚι+ αιτούντων άσυλο στην Ελλάδα.

Αγαπητοί κύριοι Λογοθέτη και Γεωργιάδη, 

Υπό το φως των πληροφοριών που συλλέγονται μέσω της συμβολής πολλών οργανισμών και ομάδων εστίασης από την κοινότητα, σας στέλνουμε αυτήν την επιστολή εγείροντας ιδιαίτερες ανησυχίες σχετικά με την κατάσταση των αιτούντων άσυλο ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+στην Ελλάδα. Εκτιμούμε την ανταπόκρισή σας στα σχόλιά μας και ελπίζουμε ότι μπορούμε να συνεχίσουμε να συνεργαζόμαστε μαζί σας για αυτό το θέμα περαιτέρω.

Καταφύγιο και Ασφάλεια

Έχει συμφωνηθεί ότι δεν ενδείκνυται η δημιουργία χώρου για ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα εντός των καταυλισμών, καθώς υπάρχει κίνδυνος περαιτέρω απομόνωσης και στιγματισμού. Ωστόσο, επί του παρόντος, η Ελλάδα αδυνατεί να παρέχει τις κατάλληλες συνθήκες υποδοχής για τα αιτούντα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα. Επί του παρόντος, τα αιτούντα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα στεγάζονται με μη ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα (εφεξής «μικτή στέγαση»). Συμφωνήθηκε ευρέως στις ομάδες εστίασης ότι η μικτή στέγαση, ιδιαίτερα σε καταυλισμούς, δεν επιτρέπει στους αιτούντες άσυλο να αισθάνονται ασφαλείς ή να είναι ανοιχτοί με την ταυτότητά τους. Κατά συνέπεια, οι άνθρωποι που έχουν εγκαταλείψει τις χώρες τους εξακολουθούν να πρέπει να κρύβονται και να κρύβουν την ταυτότητά τους ανά πάσα στιγμή. Τα ακόλουθα αποσπάσματα προέρχονται από άτομα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ που ζουν σε μικτές κατοικίες:

«Απλώς πρέπει να κρύψεις τον πραγματικό σου εαυτό, είναι σαν να είσαι σκιά του εαυτού σου».

«Το να κρύβομαι στη χώρα μου και να κρύβομαι εδώ, δεν έχει διαφορά».

Το κατάλυμα δεν προσφέρει ανάπαυλα από τις διακρίσεις, την απειλή ή το στίγμα, που έχει δυνητικά σοβαρές επιπτώσεις στην ψυχική υγεία.

«Ο εξαναγκασμός κάποιου να αποκρύψει τον σεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό και/ή την ταυτότητα φύλου μπορεί επίσης να οδηγήσει σε σημαντικές ψυχολογικές και άλλες βλάβες». (Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων)

Το να περιμένουμε από τους ανθρώπους να αποκρύψουν τον σεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό ή την ταυτότητα φύλου τους για να αποφύγουν τη ζημιά είναι αντίθετη με τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα των αιτούντων, όπως αναγνωρίζονται από το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων, το Δικαστήριο της ΕΕ και την Ανεξάρτητη Αρχή Προσφυγών.

Συνιστάται λοιπόν:

1. Όπου η κύρια στέγαση είναι σε καμπ, θα πρέπει να γίνονται προσπάθειες για να διασφαλιστεί ότι η μετεγκατάσταση σε στέγαση ειδική για ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ στην τοπική πόλη ή κωμόπολη, με τρόπο εμπιστευτικό και διακριτικό, είναι μια διαθέσιμη και προσβάσιμη επιλογή.

2. Σε περιπτώσεις όπου δεν είναι δυνατή η μετεγκατάσταση ατόμων ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ σε συγκεκριμένες κατοικίες, απαιτούνται βελτιώσεις στο πλαίσιο του καμπ. Για παράδειγμα, η διασφάλιση αυξημένης ιδιωτικότητας ή η δημιουργία ασφαλών χώρων στο καμπ  θα ήταν εξαιρετικά χρήσιμη. Επιπλέον, η διαμονή με λιγότερα άτομα που συγκατοικούν στον ίδιο χώρο μπορεί να μειώσει τον κίνδυνο.

3. Όταν το κύριο κατάλυμα είναι κοινόχρηστη κατοικία σε μια πόλη, θα πρέπει να διασφαλίζεται ότι θα πρέπει να διατίθεται διακριτική στέγαση μόνο για ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα.

Υπηρεσίες και Υποστήριξη

Μέσα από συζητήσεις με θιγόμενους αιτούντες, αποκαλύφθηκε ότι ελάχιστοι από τα αιτούντα άσυλο ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα γνωρίζουν ή είχαν την ευκαιρία να μιλήσουν με ψυχολόγο του ΕΟΔΥ. Όσοι δήλωσαν ότι δεν υπήρχαν αρκετοί ψυχολόγοι για τον αριθμό των αιτούντων που χρειάζονταν υποστήριξη επίσης δήλωσαν ότι η υποστήριξη που παρείχετο δεν ήταν εξειδικευμένη στα θέματα που αφορούν μοναδικά στα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα.

Σημειώθηκε περαιτέρω ότι ένα εστιακό σημείο στην Υπηρεσία Υποδοχής και Ταυτοποίησης (ΥΠΥΤ), την Ελληνική Υπηρεσία Ασύλου ή αλλού που θα μπορούσε να προσεγγιστεί εάν υπήρχε πρόβλημα, θα συνέβαλε σε έναν ασφαλέστερο χώρο. Το σημείο εστίασης πρέπει να είναι διακριτικό και ευαισθητοποιημένο σε θέματα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+. 

Σύμφωνα με αυτές τις παρατηρήσεις, συνιστάται:

1. Τουλάχιστον, θα πρέπει να παρέχεται εκπαίδευση σε όλο το προσωπικό που εργάζεται απευθείας με αιτούντες άσυλο σχετικά με τις ιδιαιτερότητες των αιτημάτων ασύλου ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ (συμπεριλαμβανομένων της ΥΠΥΤ και του καθορισμένου προσωπικού του ΕΟΔΥ).

2. Επιπλέον, σε κάθε καμπ να δημιουργηθεί ειδικό σημείο εστίασης με υπηρεσίες πληροφόρησης και παραπομπής για ψυχοκοινωνική υποστήριξη για αιτούντες άσυλο ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+.

Διαδικασία Ασύλου

Η λεπτομερής διαδικασία που απαιτείται για την αξιολόγηση των υποθέσεων ασύλου με βάση τον σεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό, την ταυτότητα φύλου, την έκφραση φύλου ή τα χαρακτηριστικά του φύλου (SOGIESC) μπορεί να είναι αναμφισβήτητα δύσκολη για τους αιτούντες άσυλο, ιδιαίτερα όταν ένα άτομο μπορεί υποβάλλεται σε εκ νέου τραύμα. Αναγνωρίζεται και κατανοείται ότι είναι απαραίτητη μια διεξοδική διαδικασία για την πλήρη αξιολόγηση του αιτήματος. Ωστόσο, είναι δυνατό να διεξαχθεί μια τέτοια αξιολόγηση χωρίς να προκληθεί περαιτέρω τραυματισμός.

Λόγω της προσωπικής και ευαίσθητης φύσης του αιτήματος, παρέχεται στα αιτούντα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα ειδική προστασία βάσει της ευρωπαϊκής και της ελληνικής νομοθεσίας. Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, μέσω της νομολογίας του Δικαστηρίου της ΕΕ καθώς και των Οδηγιών της ΕΕ, παρέχει σαφή και ολοκληρωμένα πρότυπα για αυτές τις αξιολογήσεις.

Δυστυχώς, αυτή τη στιγμή διαπιστώνουμε ότι αυτά τα πρότυπα δεν τηρούνται. Μια ανασκόπηση αντίγραφων από συνεντεύξεις αιτούντων ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+από το 2021 έχει δείξει επανειλημμένα παραδείγματα διαδικαστικών παραβιάσεων και απαγορευμένων ερωτήσεων που αντίκεινται στο δίκαιο της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης και τα διεθνή πρότυπα. Ο Οργανισμός της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης για το Άσυλο, η Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, εκπρόσωποι της ΓΔ Εσωτερικών Υποθέσεων και ευρωβουλευτές έχουν επίσης έρθει σε επαφή σχετικά με αυτά τα θέματα.

Απαγορευμένες ερωτήσεις

Καταρχάς, τα αιτούντα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα έχουν υποβληθεί σε ερωτήσεις που απαγορεύονται ρητά από το δίκαιο της ΕΕ και την ελληνική νομοθεσία, ιδίως όσον αφορά σε ζητήματα που σχετίζονται με σεξουαλικές πρακτικές και συμπεριφορά.

Οι απαγορευμένες ερωτήσεις που έχουν τεθεί περιλαμβάνουν:

I. «Είχες σεξουαλική σχέση με…;»

II. «Πήρες κάποιο ερέθισμα για να το μάθεις;»

III. «Αφού το αγαπάς τόσο πολύ, ποιος είναι ο λόγος που δεν το έκανες εδώ στην Ελλάδα;»

IV. «Πώς ένιωσες όταν σε άγγιζε;»

Εκπαίδευση και ικανότητα

Δεύτερον, η οδηγία για τις διαδικασίες ασύλου ορίζει ότι οι αιτήσεις πρέπει να εξετάζονται και να λαμβάνονται αποφάσεις «ατομικά, αντικειμενικά και αμερόληπτα». Η υποθετική, συλλογική λήψη αποφάσεων, συχνά λόγω της εφαρμογής της αρχής της ασφαλούς χώρας προέλευσης, σε συνδυασμό με τις πιθανές ευπάθειες και τα τραύματα που εμποδίζουν τα άτομα να κοινοποιήσουν ορισμένες λεπτομέρειες του αιτήματός τους σε πρώτο βαθμό, εμποδίζει τη σωστή εξατομικευμένη αξιολόγηση.

Οι υπάλληλοι που διενεργούν τις συνεντεύξεις θα πρέπει να είναι επαρκώς εκπαιδευμένοι στην αξιολόγηση και ικανοί σε σχέση με τον σεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό και την ταυτότητα φύλου. Ωστόσο, αποσπάσματα συνεντεύξεων αιτούντων ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+υποδεικνύουν ότι είναι ερωτήσεις ρουτίνας που καταδεικνύουν έλλειψη εκπαίδευσης ή κατανόησης σχετικά με τον σεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό ή/και την ταυτότητα φύλου. Τα αιτούντα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα ανέφεραν ότι αντιμετώπισαν σκεπτικισμό και προκατάληψη όταν μοιράζονταν τον σεξουαλικό τους προσανατολισμό, στο βαθμό που περιγράφηκε ως παρόμοιο με μια «αναγκαστική ανάκριση». Οι ερωτήσεις που δεν τηρούν τα ευρωπαϊκά πρότυπα περιλαμβάνουν:

I. «Πριν προχωρήσετε σε αυτή τη σεξουαλική επιλογή, είχατε επίγνωση των δυσκολιών που θα έπρεπε να αντιμετωπίσετε;»

II. «Αφού ένιωθες πόνο, γιατί επέλεξες αυτόν τον τρόπο ζωής;»

III. «Είσαι ένας μορφωμένος άνθρωπος. Δεν γνωρίζατε ότι η ομοφυλοφιλία είναι έγκλημα στη [χώρα προέλευσης];»

IV. «Δεν σε έκανε αυτό το [τραυματικό] γεγονός να σκεφτείς την επιλογή σου;»

Η χρήση στερεοτύπων

Τέλος, η εξάρτηση από τα στερεότυπα προκαλεί σοβαρή ανησυχία. Μετά από απόφαση του Δικαστηρίου της ΕΕ, οι αποφάσεις για την αξιοπιστία δεν μπορούν να βασίζονται σε στερεότυπες έννοιες. Η απόφαση διευκρίνισε περαιτέρω ότι μια απόφαση που βασίζεται στην (έλλειψη) γνώσης ενός ατόμου για τις ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ οργανώσεις υποδηλώνει ότι οι αρχές έχουν βασιστεί σε στερεότυπα στη λήψη της απόφασής τους. Επιπλέον, η Οδηγία της Ύπατης Αρμοστείας του ΟΗΕ για τους Πρόσφυγες αρ. 9 για τη διεθνή προστασία αναφέρει:

«Οι συνεντευκτές και οι υπεύθυνοι λήψης αποφάσεων οφείλουν να διατηρούν μια αντικειμενική προσέγγιση ώστε να μην καταλήγουν σε συμπεράσματα που βασίζονται σε στερεότυπες, ανακριβείς ή ακατάλληλες αντιλήψεις για τα ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ άτομα… Δεν υπάρχουν καθολικά χαρακτηριστικά ή ιδιότητες που χαρακτηρίζουν τα LGBTI άτομα περισσότερο από τα ετεροφυλόφιλα άτομα. Οι εμπειρίες της ζωής τους μπορεί να διαφέρουν πολύ ακόμα κι αν είναι από την ίδια χώρα».

Ωστόσο, υπάρχουν αποσπάσματα συνεντεύξεων στα οποία κυριαρχούν στερεότυπες ερωτήσεις, όπως:

Ι. «Έχεις κόρη, μπορείς να το εξηγήσεις αφού είσαι ομοφυλόφιλος;»

II. «Είχες ποτέ σχέση με [άνδρα/γυναίκα];»

III. «Είχες ποτέ ετεροφυλόφιλη σχέση;»

IV. «ΛΟΑΤΚΙ σημαίνει λεσβίες ομοφυλόφιλοι αμφιφυλόφιλοι και τρανσέξουαλ. Πώς είναι δυνατόν να είσαι ομοφυλόφιλος και να μην γνωρίζεις πώς λέγονται οι σεξουαλικές μειονότητες της κοινότητας;»

Το πιο ανησυχητικό είναι ότι, σε αντίθεση με την απόφαση ABC, οι αιτούντες απορρίφθηκαν με βάση στερεότυπες έννοιες, μεταξύ άλλων λόγω έλλειψης γνώσης των ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+οργανώσεων.

Με βάση τα παραπάνω, προτείνεται:

1. Η Ελληνική Υπηρεσία Ασύλου να εκδίδει σαφείς, ενημερωμένες και διαθέσιμες στο κοινό εσωτερικές κατευθυντήριες γραμμές σχετικά με τον τρόπο διεξαγωγής προσωπικών συνεντεύξεων για αιτούντες με αιτήματα ασύλου ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+ σύμφωνα με την ευρωπαϊκή και ελληνική νομοθεσία για να ξεπεραστούν θεσμοθετημένες πρακτικές που οδηγούν σε διαδικαστικές παραβιάσεις.

● Οι κατευθυντήριες γραμμές θα πρέπει να καλύπτουν τα πρότυπα που ορίζονται από την Ευρωπαϊκή Σύμβαση Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου (ΕΣΔΑ), το Δικαστήριο της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης (ΔΕΕ) και τις Οδηγίες της ΕΕ σχετικά με την αξιολόγηση των αιτημάτων ΛΟΑΤΚΙ και θα πρέπει να περιλαμβάνουν μια αλλαγή στην ορολογία που θα σέβεται τη διαφορετικότητα και την ατομικότητα κάθε ατόμου.

● Οι κατευθυντήριες γραμμές θα πρέπει να αναγνωρίζουν τη διατομεακή ταυτότητα των αιτούντων SOGIESC και να παρέχουν μια βασική κατανόηση των ταυτοτήτων SOGIESC σε ένα διαπολιτισμικό πλαίσιο για να αποφεύγονται οι ευρωκεντρικές προσδοκίες και η εξάρτηση από στερεότυπες έννοιες.

2. Το υπόδειγμα ερωτήσεων που χρησιμοποιείται από τους υπαλλήλους κατά την αξιολόγηση αξιοπιστίας θα πρέπει να ενημερωθεί ώστε να συμμορφώνεται με τα διεθνή, τα ευρωπαϊκά και τα εγχώρια πρότυπα και να αποκλείει απαγορευμένες ή προβληματικές ερωτήσεις όπως αυτές που αναφέρονται παραπάνω.

3. Θα πρέπει να παρέχεται στους υπαλλήλους τακτική και ενημερωμένη εκπαίδευση σχετικά με τις ιδιαιτερότητες, τα τρωτά σημεία των αιτημάτων ασύλου SOGIESC (σύμφωνα με την οδηγία για τις διαδικασίες ασύλου), και τα νομικά πρότυπα. Επίσης, πρακτικές πληροφορίες για τη διεξαγωγή αξιολογήσεων με σεβασμό και καλά ενημερωμένη προσέγγιση .

Σας ευχαριστούμε για τη συνεχή προσοχή σας σε αυτό το θέμα. Παραμένουμε στη διάθεσή σας για οποιεσδήποτε περαιτέρω διευκρινίσεις και συνεχείς συζητήσεις.

Συνυπογράφουν: 

  1. ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth
  2. Asylum Seekers Information Services Team (A.Ss.I.S.T.)
  3. Colour Youth – Athens LGBTQ Youth Community 
  4. Changemakers Lab
  5. Choose Love
  6. Danish Refugee Council, Greece
  7. Diotima Centre for Gender Rights & Equality
  8. ECHO100PLUS
  9. Emantes – International Lgbtqia+ Solidarity
  10. European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL)
  11. Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid
  12. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  13. HIAS Greece
  14. Human Rights Legal Project
  15. HumanRights360
  16. I HAVE RIGHTS. (IHR)
  17. International Rescue Committee (IRC) 
  18. INTERSOS
  19. Irida Women’s Center
  20. Jesuit Refugee Service Greece (JRS Greece)
  21. Just Action
  22. Legal Centre Lesvos
  23. Lesvos LGBTIQ+ Refugee Solidarity
  24. Lgbtqia+ Refugees Welcome
  25. Lighthouse Relief 
  26. Mobile Info Team
  27. Network for Children’s Rights
  28. Northern Lights Aid 
  29. Positive Voice 
  30. Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
  31. SafePlace International 
  32. SolidarityNow
  33. Samos Advocacy Collective
  34. Samos ΛΟΑΤΚΙ+Group
  35. Samos Volunteers 
  36. Τerre des hommes Hellas
  37. Yoga and Sport With Refugees
GR_Situation-for-LGBTQI-Asylum-Seekers-in-Greece.docx

April – June 2022 Quarterly Newsletter

Since the spring, Legal Centre Lesvos’ work continued to be instrumental in preventing illegal pushbacks of unregistered asylum seekers newly arrived on Lesvos through the provision of Emergency Legal Assistance. Thanks to coordination with other international actors, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and non profit organisations defending migrants’ rights, including Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Alarm Phone, this work ensured that asylum seekers who have arrived on Lesvos – sometimes for a few days already, without access to food, water or shelter in extreme weather conditions – have eventually had access to international protection procedures in Greece as well as other critical services such as urgent medical support. This work has been increasingly critical given the persistent, violent, and illegal practice of summary pushbacks at sea carried out by the Greek authorities, to expel and abandon at sea those who manage to arrive to the Greek waters and those who reach the Greek islands. 

Over the last three months, denunciation of pushbacks in the Aegean Sea and across the Evros River has intensified – with the extensive documentation and wide publication of cases where people seeking protection in Greece have instead been hunted down, captured, and taken out to sea where they were abandoned in motorless life rafts or the damaged dinghies they had travelled on, and in some documented cases thrown directly into the sea in a murderous and calous disregard for their lives. As denunciation efforts increased, NGOs and solidarity actors across Greece are also facing increasing pressure, intimidation and criminalisation for their reporting, denouncing and advocating work against these human rights violations. Indeed, officials of the  Greek government, and media platforms continue to tacitly accuse those who advocate against pushbacks of being involved in smuggling networks themselves. 

The efforts of organisations reporting on and advocating against those illegal pushbacks, however, have undoubtedly contributed to a shift in public discourse regarding pushbacks during this period: FRONTEX executive director resigned after a long investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office and media reports revealing how FRONTEX actively covered up pushbacks of the Greek authorities; the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner issued recommendations denouncing pushbacks in different Council of Europe member states, including Greece; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defender published a press statement after her official visit in Greece expressing her concerns about the escalation of criminalisation of actors involved in the advocacy again pushbacks.

Further information on updates from Lesvos and our work can be found in our latest Newsletter, available for download here, and below.

April-June-2022-Quarterly-Report

Another miscarriage of justice from Mytilene’s Courts: Guilty verdict confirmed for the two children arrested following the Moria fire

PRESS RELEASE (στα ελληνικά)

Once again, the courts of Mytilene flouted the basic rules of a fair trial and the rights of the accused, by affirming the conviction of A.A. and M.H. on appeal. The two were minors when they were arrested, and among the six who were accused of the fire that destroyed Moria’s Reception and Identification Centre in 2020. Twenty-six prosecution witnesses paraded through the court today, and none of them identified the two defendants. The court nevertheless decided to confirm the conviction of the two on appeal, without credible evidence.

The only evidence against A.A. was based on the testimony of a “ghost” witness – who was neither summoned by the investigating magistrate nor appeared before the trial court – who named A.A.only by his first name and identified him when his specific photograph was arbitrarily shown to him by the police. As for M.H., the only identifying evidence was a video, which the Athens forensic laboratory said was of such poor quality that no forensic conclusions could be drawn.

The Mytilene Juvenile Court of Appeal finally recognised the defendants’ mitigating circumstances, reducing their sentence because of good behaviour during their time in prison. However, contrary to the usual judicial practice, which is to reduce the sentence by half, the court reduced their sentence by only one year, from five years to four years imprisonment. 

Fortunately, the Athens Juvenile Court of Appeal – which was in parallel deciding on a petition for the two teenagers’ provisional release from prison – today decided in favour of A.A., who will finally be released from prison, following the Kafkaesque suffering he has endured since his arrival in Greece. The same court will decide on 5 July on the petition for the release of M.H.

“The court of Mytilene considers that they can make decisions with no accountability. Fortunately there is the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights” said Vicky Angelidou who, together with Vasilis Psomos and Natasha Dailiani, represent the two minors as lawyers of the Legal Centre Lesvos.

Further information on the trials of the six accused of the Moria fire can be found at: 

ΔΕΛΤIΟ ΤYΠΟΥ: AΛΛΗ ΜΙΑ ΑΤΥΧHΣ ΣΤΙΓΜH ΓΙΑ ΤΑ ΔΙΚΑΣΤHΡΙΑ ΤΗΣ ΜΥΤΙΛHΝΗΣ: EΝΟΧΟΙ ΚΑΙ ΣΤΟ ΕΦΕΤEIΟ ΟΙ ΔYΟ ΑΝHΛΙΚΟΙ ΠΟΥ ΣΥΝΕΛHΦΘΗΣΑΝ ΓΙΑ ΤOΝ ΕΜΠΡΗΣΜO ΤΟΥ ΚΥΤ ΜOΡΙΑΣ.

Ακόμα μια φορά τα δικαστήρια της Μυτιλήνης επέλεξαν να κινηθούν πέρα από κάθε έννοια νομιμότητας καταστρατηγώντας με ευκολία τόσο τους κανόνες μιας δίκαιης δίκης όσο και τα δικαιώματα των κατηγορουμένων, καταδικάζοντας σε δεύτερο βαθμό τους δύο ανήλικους, Α.Α. και Μ.Χ., που είχαν κατηγορηθεί για τον εμπρησμό του ΚΥΤ Μόριας το 2020. Είκοσι έξι μάρτυρες κατηγορίας παρέλασαν σήμερα από το δικαστήριο, και κανένας από αυτούς δεν αναγνώρισε τους δύο κατηγορούμενους. Το δικαστήριο παρ’όλα αυτά αποφάσισε να τους καταδικάσει χωρίς στοιχεία και σε δεύτερο βαθμό. 

Όσον αφορά τον Α.Α, βασίστηκε στη κατάθεση ενός μάρτυρα “φαντάσματος” -που ούτε κλήθηκε από τον ανακριτή ούτε εμφανίστηκε στο πρωτοβάθμιο δικαστήριο- ο οποίος τον κατονόμασε  μόνο με το μικρό του όνομα και τον αναγνώρισε, όταν ως δια μαγείας του επιδείχθηκε από την αστυνομία η φωτογραφία του. Όσον αφορά δε τον Μ.Χ, στηρίχθηκε σε ένα βίντεο, για το οποίο το εγκληματολογικό εργαστήριο της Αθήνας ανέφερε ότι είναι τόσο κακής ποιότητας ώστε δεν μπορούν να εξαχθούν εγκληματολογικά συμπεράσματα. 

Το Τριμελές Εφετείο Ανηλίκων Μυτιλήνης, εντέλει, αναγνώρισε στους κατηγορούμενους το ελαφρυντικό της καλής συμπεριφοράς για μεγάλο διάστημα μετά την πράξη, αν και, παρά την συνήθη δικαστηριακή πρακτική, μείωσε την ποινή τους κατά ένα μόνο χρόνο. Περαιτέρω, το Τριμελές Δικαστήριο Ανηλίκων Αθηνών αποφάσισε θετικά σήμερα, μετά από αίτηση, για την υφ’ όρον απόλυση του Α.Α, ο οποίος επιτέλους θα βρεθεί σύντομα εκτός φυλακής μετά την καφκικού τύπου ταλαιπωρία που υπέστη από την στιγμή της άφιξης του στην Ελλάδα. Το ίδιο δικαστήριο θα αποφασίσει στις 5 Ιουλίου για την υφ’ όρον απόλυση του Μ.Χ.

“Τα δικαστήρια της Μυτιλήνης θεωρούν ότι η κρίση τους είναι ανέλεγκτη. Ευτυχώς υπάρχει ο Άρειος Πάγος και το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων” δήλωσε η Βίκυ Αγγελίδου που μαζί με τον Βασίλη Ψώμο και τη Νατάσα Νταϊλιάνη εκπροσωπούν τους δύο ανηλίκους, ως δικηγόροι του Legal Centre Lesvos. 

Περισσότερες λεπτομέρειες σχετικά με τις δίκες:

Press Release: We demand justice and freedom for the Moria 6!

Ελληνικά

On Tuesday 7 June 2022, A.A. and M.H, two of the six Afghan teenagers who were accused and convicted for the fires that destroyed Moria refugee camp in September 2020, will have their conviction and sentence re-examined before the Juvenile Appeal Court of Mytilene.

At the time of their arrest in September 2020, the two teenagers, now 18 and 19 years old, were both unaccompanied minors – i.e. children alone without their parents or other caretakers.  On 9 March 2021, in a trial that flouted basic procedural standards, they were found guilty of “arson with risk to human life” by the Three Judge Juvenile Court of Mytilene, despite a blatant lack of credible evidence presented against them. Both were convicted to 5 years in prison, with no recognition of mitigating factors, and have already spent nearly two years in Korinthos Minors prison and later Avlona prison for minors and young adults. Further details on their initial trial can be found in the Legal Centre’s previous publication following the trial. 

A petition for the release of the two young men was submitted by the Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers at the beginning of March 2022, since both are eligible for release due to time earned through working and attending school in prison, and both have a confirmed place to live and a support network outside prison when released.  However, in yet another cruel twist of fate, the hearing to decide on their eligibility to be released from prison based on these petitions was scheduled for the same day as their appeal trial, on 7 June 2022, in an Athens three-judge Juvenile Court, stretching the capacity of the Legal Centre Lesvos team, who will provide legal representation and defense to the two teenagers in both courts.

To further burden the teenagers and their lawyers from the Legal Centre Lesvos, the appeal trial was scheduled with less than 3 weeks notice, due to an error by the court secretary, who apparently forgot to send the first instance decision to the appeal court’s secretary until recently.

As a reminder, the fires that destroyed Moria camp in September 2020 came four and half years after the EU-Turkey Deal turned the Aegean islands into prison islands for those forced to cross the border from Turkey, and Moria camp became the notorious symbol of the EU’s migration policies. The destruction of Moria camp was the inevitable outcome of the cruel policies of dehumanisation and exclusion that created it. In September 2020, the number of people living in the camp had reached over 12,000 persons (despite an official capacity of 3,100), when movement restrictions had been in place for almost six months, and a growing fear of COVID-19 was spreading inside the camp – with government policies exacerbating these fears rather than providing any measures to protect people forced to live there from contracting the virus. The Greek authorities had violently cracked down on camp residents’ protests against the lack of public health measures by blocking the roads around the camp, isolating its residents, and firing tear gas and smoke bombs. Just one week prior to the fires, on 2 September 2020, the first person in the camp tested positive for the virus. Instead of moving infected people out of the camp, deploying medical staff or adopting hygiene measures for the people trapped inside, the Greek authorities announced the total lockdown of the camp, and the very next day signed a contract with a construction company to turn Moria Camp into a detention centre.

The inhumane living conditions in the hell of Moria – otherwise recognised by all participants in the trial – were ignored by the court to reduce the defendants’ sentence. Rather than recognising that the fires of Moria camp were the inevitable consequence of the “hotspot approach” and of the clear mismanagement of those deadly camp infrastructures, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemia crisis, the Greek state conveniently arrested six young Afghan teenagers, the “Moria 6” and presented them as the sole culprits of the fires. 

All six Afghans accused of the fire which destroyed Moria camp in September 2020 had been arrested arbitrarily and declared guilty by the Greek authorities, before their trials even took place, in full disregard of the fundamental principle of presumption of innocence. The Minister of Migration and Asylum himself announced on 15 September 2020, that “Moria arsonists are detained” the day before the arrest warrant was executed for the two minors, and the next day stated in an interview that “the camp was burned by six Afghani refugees who have been arrested”.  In addition to representing the two young minors accused of starting the fire, Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers were among the lawyers that represented the other 4 teenagers who were tried and convicted by the Mixed Jury Court of Chios in June 2021, and sentenced to ten years of imprisonment, despite extensive evidence that mitigated against their guilt. Both trials constituted  gross miscarriages of justice

The lawyers of Legal Centre Lesvos representing both young men hope that despite the complete disregard to basic principles of justice for any of the six young men of the Moria 6 up until now, the two men will finally receive a fair trial next week, and that the two will be released, so that one can join his family in Finland, and the other can continue his asylum procedure in Greece.

**

Δελτιο Τυπου: Απαιτουμε δικαιοσυνη και ελευθερια για τους 6 της Μοριας!

Την Τρίτη 7 Ιουνίου 2022, οι Α.Α. και Μ.Χ., δύο από τους έξι Αφγανούς εφήβους που κατηγορήθηκαν και καταδικάστηκαν για τις πυρκαγιές που κατέστρεψαν τον προσφυγικό καταυλισμό της Μόριας τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020, θα εμφανιστούν ενώπιον του Εφετείου Ανηλίκων Μυτιλήνης όπου θα επανεξεταστεί η καταδίκη και η ποινή που τους επιβλήθηκε στον πρώτο βαθμό.

Κατά τη σύλληψή τους τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020, οι δύο έφηβοι, ηλικίας σήμερα 18 και 19 ετών, ήταν ασυνόδευτοι ανήλικοι, δηλαδή παιδιά μόνα τους χωρίς τους γονείς τους ή άλλον κηδεμόνα. Στις 9 Μαρτίου 2021, σε μια “άδικη” δίκη που περιφρόνησε βασικές διαδικαστικές και ουσιαστικές εγγυήσεις, κρίθηκαν ένοχοι για “εμπρησμό με κίνδυνο για ανθρώπινη ζωή” από το Τριμελές Δικαστήριο Ανηλίκων Μυτιλήνης, παρά την παντελή έλλειψη αξιόπιστων στοιχείων εναντίον τους. Και οι δύο καταδικάστηκαν σε 5 χρόνια περιορισμό σε κατάστημα κράτησης ανηλίκων, χωρίς να τους αναγνωριστούν ελαφρυντικά, και έχουν εκτίσει σχεδόν δύο χρόνια, αρχικά στις φυλακές ανηλίκων Κορίνθου και αργότερα στις φυλακές Αυλώνας για ανηλίκους και νεαρούς ενήλικες. Περισσότερες λεπτομέρειες σχετικά με την δίκη του πρώτου βαθμού μπορείτε να βρείτε σε προηγούμενη δημοσίευση του Legal Centre Lesvos, που ακολούθησε μετά την δίκη.

Στις αρχές Μαρτίου 2022, οι δικηγόροι του Legal Centre Lesvos υπέβαλαν αίτηση αποφυλάκισης των δύο νεαρών ανδρών, δεδομένου ότι υπήρχε αυτή η δυνατότητα, καθόσον είχαν εκτίσει ήδη τον απαιτούμενο χρόνο προσαυξημένο από την εργασία και τη φοίτηση τους στο σχολείο εντός της φυλακής, ενώ και οι δύο έχουν επιβεβαιωμένο τόπο μόνιμης διαμονής και δίκτυο υποστήριξης εκτός φυλακής, όταν αποφυλακιστούν. Ωστόσο, κατά περίεργη σύμπτωση, η ακρόαση για να αποφασιστεί αν θα αποφυλακιστούν βάσει των ανωτέρω αιτήσεων προγραμματίστηκε για την ίδια ημέρα με τη δίκη της έφεσής τους, στις 7 Ιουνίου 2022, σε δικαστήριο της Αθήνας (Τριμελές Δικαστήριο Ανηλίκων), δυσχεραίνοντας το έργο των δικηγόρων του Legal Centre Lesvos, το οποίο θα παρέχει νομική εκπροσώπηση και υπεράσπιση στους δύο εφήβους και στα δύο δικαστήρια.

Προς περαιτέρω επιβάρυνση των εφήβων και των δικηγόρων τους, η δευτεροβάθμια δίκη ορίστηκε μέσα σε λιγότερο από 3 εβδομάδες, κατόπιν κραυγαλέας κωλυσιεργίας της γραμματείας του πρωτοβάθμιου δικαστηρίου, η οποία καθυστέρησε να στείλει την πρωτοβάθμια απόφαση στη γραμματεία του εφετείου, ώστε να προσδιοριστεί η εφετειακή δίκη.

Υπενθυμίζεται ότι οι πυρκαγιές που κατέστρεψαν το καμπ της Μόριας τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020 συνέβησαν τεσσεράμισι χρόνια αφότου η συμφωνία ΕΕ-Τουρκίας μετέτρεψε τα νησιά του Αιγαίου σε νησιά-φυλακές για όσους αναγκάζονται να περάσουν τα σύνορα από την Τουρκία και το καμπ της Μόριας έγινε το διαβόητο σύμβολο της απάνθρωπης μεταναστευτικής πολιτικής της ΕΕ. Η πυρκαγιά στο καμπ ήταν το αναπόφευκτο αποτέλεσμα των σκληρών πολιτικών αποκλεισμού που το δημιούργησαν. Τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020, ο αριθμός των ανθρώπων που ζούσαν σε αυτό ξεπερνούσε τους 12.000 (παρά την επίσημα δηλωμένη χωρητικότητα των 3.100 ατόμων), όταν οι περιορισμοί μετακίνησης είχαν τεθεί σε ισχύ για σχεδόν έξι μήνες, και ένας αυξανόμενος φόβος για τον νέο κορωνοϊό εξαπλωνόταν (κυρίως λόγω έλλειψης ενημέρωσης και προστατευτικών μέτρων) με τις κυβερνητικές πολιτικές να επιτείνουν αυτούς τους φόβους. Οι ελληνικές αρχές είχαν καταστείλει βίαια τις διαμαρτυρίες των κατοίκων του καταυλισμού ενάντια στην έλλειψη μέτρων δημόσιας υγείας, αποκλείοντας τους δρόμους γύρω από αυτό, απομονώνοντας τους κατοίκους του και ρίχνοντας δακρυγόνα και χειροβομβίδες κρότου λάμψης. Μόλις μία εβδομάδα πριν από τις πυρκαγιές, στις 2 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020, επιβεβαιώθηκε το πρώτο θετικό κρούσμα στο καμπ. Αντί να μετακινήσουν, στο επόμενο χρονικό διάστημα, τα επιβεβαιωμένα κρούσματα από τον χώρο, να αναπτύξουν ιατρικό προσωπικό ή να υιοθετήσουν μέτρα υγιεινής για τους εγκλωβισμένους μέσα στο καμπ, οι ελληνικές αρχές ανακοίνωσαν τον πλήρη αποκλεισμό του χώρου και την επόμενη κιόλας ημέρα υπέγραψαν σύμβαση με κατασκευαστική εταιρεία για την περίκλειση του καμπ και  τη μετατροπή του σε κέντρο κράτησης.

Οι απάνθρωπες συνθήκες διαβίωσης στην κόλαση της Μόριας  -που κατά τα άλλα αναγνωρίστηκαν από όλους τους συμμετέχοντες στις δίκες- αγνοήθηκαν από το δικαστήριο με αποτέλεσμα να μη μειωθεί η ποινή των κατηγορουμένων. Το ελληνικό κράτος θα έπρεπε να αναγνωρίσει ότι οι πυρκαγιές στο καμπ της Μόριας (οι οποίες προφανώς δεν προκλήθηκαν από τους έξι κατηγορούμενους) προέκυψαν ως αναπόφευκτη συνέπεια των χαωδών συνθηκών που επικρατούσαν, ιδίως κατά τη διάρκεια της κρίσης της πανδημίας COVID-19. Αντ’ αυτού, συνελήφθησαν βολικά έξι νεαροί Αφγανοί, οι οποίοι κατηγορήθηκαν ως οι υπαίτιοι των πυρκαγιών.

Και οι έξι Αφγανοί που κατηγορήθηκαν για την πυρκαγιά που κατέστρεψε τον καταυλισμό της Μόριας τον Σεπτέμβριο του 2020 είχαν συλληφθεί αυθαίρετα και είχαν κηρυχθεί ένοχοι από τις ελληνικές αρχές, πριν καν διεξαχθούν οι δίκες τους, κατά πλήρη καταστρατήγηση της θεμελιώδους αρχής του τεκμηρίου της αθωότητας. Ο ίδιος ο Υπουργός Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου ανακοίνωσε στις 15 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020 ότι “οι εμπρηστές της Μόριας κρατούνται”, μία ημέρα πριν από την εκτέλεση του εντάλματος σύλληψης των δύο ανηλίκων, ενώ την επόμενη ημέρα δήλωσε σε συνέντευξή του ότι “το καμπ κάηκε από έξι Αφγανούς πρόσφυγες που έχουν συλληφθεί”.  Εκτός από την εκπροσώπηση των δύο νεαρών ανηλίκων που κατηγορήθηκαν για την έναρξη της πυρκαγιάς, οι δικηγόροι του Legal Centre Lesvos ήταν μεταξύ των δικηγόρων που εκπροσώπησαν τους άλλους τέσσερις εφήβους που δικάστηκαν ως ενήλικοι και καταδικάστηκαν από το Μικτό Ορκωτό Δικαστήριο Χίου τον Ιούνιο του 2021 σε δεκαετή κάθειρξη, παρά την προσκόμιση από μέρους τους ενώπιον του Δικαστηρίου πληθώρας στοιχείων που κατέρριπταν τα περί ενοχής τους. Και οι δύο δίκες κινήθηκαν στο όριο της κακοδικίας και παραβίασαν κατάφωρα τα δικαιώματα των κατηγορουμένων. 

Οι δικηγόροι του Legal Centre Lesvos που εκπροσωπούν και τους δύο νεαρούς ελπίζουν ότι παρά την πλήρη καταστρατήγηση των βασικών αρχών της νομιμότητας στον πρώτο βαθμό για τους “6 της Μόριας” μέχρι τώρα, οι δύο έφηβοι θα τύχουν επιτέλους δίκαιης δίκης την επόμενη εβδομάδα και θα αφεθούν ελεύθεροι, ώστε ο ένας να μπορέσει να συναντήσει την οικογένειά του στη Φινλανδία και ο άλλος να συνεχίσει τη διαδικασία ασύλου του στην Ελλάδα.

Press release: Justice for Amir and Razuli!

Ελληνικό κείμενο

The organizations Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, Borderline Europe e.V., You can’t evict Solidarity and Deportation Monitoring Aegean demand freedom for two young refugees.

The two men from Afghanistan were seeking safety in Europe, but were instead arbitrarily convicted to 50 years imprisonment. The Appeal Trial will take place on 17 March 2022 in Lesvos.

Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Amir and Razuli tried to reach Greece on a rubber boat in March 2020. They testified that the Greek coast guard attacked them and tried to push them back to Turkey by force. The attack caused the boat to sink and the coast guard had to take them on board. Amir and Razuli were arbitrarily charged with “facilitating illegal entry” and “provoking a shipwreck”, in addition to their own entry. On the 8th of September 2020 they were sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Amir and Razuli, 25 and 23, fled from Afghanistan trying to reach Europe in search of a life in safety. With Europe’s ever-increasing closure of borders and the lack of safe and legal ways to enter Europe and claim asylum, they were forced to embark on the dangerous journey on a rubber boat across the Aegean Sea. Amongst the other people in the boat was also Amir’s young daughter and his heavily pregnant wife.1

They made their journey in March 2020, the month in which the Greek government announced the suspension of one of the most fundamental human rights – the right to apply for asylum, and consequently charged people seeking protection with their own “illegal entry”, blatantly contradicting EU law and the Geneva Convention.

In their first trial, Razuli and Amir testified that the Greek coast guard attacked the boat as soon as they had entered Greek waters and tried to push it back into Turkish waters using metal poles. In doing so, they punctured the boat, causing water to enter and putting the life of the people onboard at risk.2 As the boat was about to sink, the coast guard eventually took them on board.

Following this deeply traumatizing experience, the coast guard proceeded with heavily beating up Amir and Razuli, arbitrarily accusing the two of being the smugglers. According to Amir’s wife who had to witness all of this together with her daughter, they only stopped when she held up their young child in front of her husband begging the men to stop.

As soon as they arrived at the Greek island of Lesvos, Amir and Razuli were separated from the rest of the group and brought to the police station. The coast guard accused them of their own entry, of facilitating the unauthorized entry of the other people on the boat and of having endangered the people’s lives.

They were since held in pre-trial detention and sentenced to 50 years in prison on 8th of September 2020. Although there is no evidence against them except for the statement of the coast guards, they were only acquitted of the accusation of “provoking a shipwreck”.

The Appeal Trial will take place on 17 March 2022 on Lesvos and lawyers from the Legal Centre Lesvos and the Human Rights Legal Project on Samos will defend Amir and Razuli in the upcoming trial.

Almost every day, people seeking protection are criminalized for their own flight and arbitrarily sentenced to lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. Recently, a survivor of a shipwreck has even been criminalized for the death of his six-year-old son, who died when they tried to cross from Turkey to Greece (see the campaign Free the #Samos2). Suspects, or what we would deem ‘victims’ of this unjust legislation, usually have limited access to legal assistance. Judgments are often pronounced despite lack of evidence and poor quality of translation. In Greece, the average trial in these cases lasts only around 30 minutes, leading to an average sentence of 44 years and fines over 370.000 Euro. According to official numbers by the Greek ministry of justice, almost 2.000 people are currently in Greek prisons for this reason. However, the fates of these people are seldom known. Arrested immediately upon arrival, most of them are locked away unnoticed, without their names known and no access to support from outside.

  • We demand a thorough investigation, justice and the release of Amir and Razuli, as well as the dropping of all charges against them!
  • We demand freedom for all those imprisoned for “boat driving” and the end of criminalization of people on the move!
  • The European Union must stop the arbitrary incarceration of refugees and migrants!

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

1 Amir’s wife has meanwhile given birth to their second child. After the trial, Amir met his two-month-old baby for the first time and as he held his child for the first time in his arms, the police shouted at him to give the infant back to the mother, causing his family extreme distress.

2 In the past months, numerous reports emerged bearing testimony to the Greek coast guard’s illegal and cruel practice of violent pushbacks, destroying the engine of refugee boats, disabling the boats, and then leaving the people to their fate in the middle of the sea. Read more about this in the New York Times, the Deutsche Welle and the Spiegel.

**********

Δελτιου Τυπου: Δικαιοσυνη για τους Amir και Razuli!

Οι οργανώσεις Legal Centre Lesvos, Aegean Migrant Solidarity, Borderline Europe e.V, You can’t evict solidarity και Deportation Monitoring Aegean απαιτούμε ελευθερία για δύο νέους πρόσφυγες.

Οι δύο άνδρες από το Αφγανιστάν αναζητούσαν ασφάλεια στην Ευρώπη, αλλά αντιθέτως καταδικαστήκαν αυθαιρέτως σε 50 χρόνια φυλάκιση. Το Εφετείο θα διεξαχθεί στις 17 Μαρτίου 2022.

Twitter: @cantevict; #FreeAmirAndRazuli

Όταν οι Amir και Razuli προσπάθησαν να φτάσουν στην Ελλάδα με πλαστική βάρκα, το Μάρτιο του 2020, δέχθηκαν επίθεση από την ελληνική ακτοφυλακή που προσπάθησε να τους ωθήσει βίαια πίσω στην Τουρκία. Η επίθεση είχε ως αποτέλεσμα τη βύθιση της βάρκας και η ακτοφυλακή αναγκάστηκε να πάρει τους επιβαίνοντες στο δικό της σκάφος. Εκτός από τις δικές τους κατηγορίες για παράνομη είσοδο στη χώρα, ο Amir και ο Razuli κατηγορήθηκαν επιπλέον και αυθαίρετα για “διευκόλυνση παράνομης εισόδου” και “πρόκληση ναυαγίου”. Στις 8 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020 καταδικάστηκαν σε 50 χρόνια φυλάκισης.

Ο Amir και ο Razuli, 25 και 23 χρονών αντίστοιχα, έφυγαν από το Αφγανιστάν προσπαθώντας να φτάσουν στην Ευρώπη αναζητώντας μια ζωή με ασφάλεια. Με το συνεχώς αυξανόμενο κλείσιμο των συνόρων της Ευρώπης και την έλλειψη ασφαλών και νόμιμων τρόπων εισόδου στην Ευρώπη και αναζήτησης ασύλου, αναγκάστηκαν να ξεκινήσουν το επικίνδυνο ταξίδι με πλαστική βάρκα στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος. Μεταξύ των άλλων ανθρώπων στη βάρκα ήταν επίσης η μικρή κόρη του Amir και η γυναίκα του σε προχωρημένη εγκυμοσύνη1.

Έκαναν το ταξίδι τους τον Μάρτιο του 2020, τον μήνα κατά τον οποίο η ελληνική κυβέρνηση ανακοίνωσε την αναστολή ενός από τα πλέον θεμελιώδη ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα – το δικαίωμα να υποβάλει κανείς αίτημα ασύλου – και, κατά συνέπεια, κατηγόρησε για «παράνομη είσοδο», τους ανθρώπους που ζητούν προστασία, η στάση αυτή είναι κατάφωρα σε αντίθεση με το Δίκαιο της ΕΕ και τη Σύμβαση της Γενεύης.

Στην πρώτη του δίκη, ο Razuli και ο Amir κατέθεσαν ότι Η ελληνική ακτοφυλακή επιτέθηκε στη βάρκα μόλις μπήκε στα ελληνικά χωρικά ύδατα και προσπάθησαν να την ωθήσουν πίσω στα τουρκικά νερά χρησιμοποιώντας μεταλλικές ράβδους. Με αυτόν τον τρόπο, τρύπησαν την πλαστική βάρκα, η οποία άρχισε να παίρνει νερά, και έθεσαν σε κίνδυνο τη ζωή των επιβαινόντων2. Καθώς το σκάφος βυθίζονταν, η ακτοφυλακή τελικά πήρε τους επιβαίνοντες στο δικό της σκάφος.

Μετά από αυτή τη βαθιά τραυματική εμπειρία, η ακτοφυλακή προχώρησε στον ξυλοδαρμό των Amir και Razuli, κατηγορώντας τους αυθαίρετα τους ως διακινητές. Σύμφωνα με τη σύζυγο του Αmir, που έπρεπε να τα ζήσει όλα αυτά μαζί με την κόρη της, οι άντρες της ακτοφυλακής σταμάτησαν μόνο όταν σήκωσε το μικρό παιδί τους μπροστά από τον σύζυγό της, παρακαλώντας τους να σταματήσουν.

Μόλις έφτασαν στο ελληνικό νησί της Λέσβου, οι Amir και ο Razuli χωρίστηκαν από την υπόλοιπη ομάδα και μεταφέρθηκαν στο αστυνομικό τμήμα. Η ακτοφυλακή τους κατηγόρησε για τη δική τους παράνομη είσοδο στη χώρα, για τη διευκόλυνση παράνομης εισόδου των άλλων ανθρώπων στη βάρκα και για έκθεση σε κίνδυνο της ζωής των επιβαινόντων.

Οι δυο τους κρίθηκαν προφυλακιστέοι μέχρι τη δίκη τους και εντέλει καταδικάστηκαν σε ποινή φυλάκισης 50 ετών, στις 8 Σεπτεμβρίου 2020. Παρόλο που δεν υπάρχουν αποδεικτικά στοιχεία εναντίον τους, εκτός από τη δήλωση των ακτοφυλάκων, απαλλάχθηκαν μόνο από την κατηγορία της «πρόκλησης ναυαγίου».

Το Εφετείο θα πραγματοποιηθεί στις 17 Μαρτίου 2022 οι δικηγόροι από το Legal Centre Lesvos και το Human Rights Legal Project θα είναι οι συνήγοροι υπεράσπισης των Amir και Razuli στην επικείμενη δίκη.

Σχεδόν κάθε μέρα, τα άτομα που ζητούν προστασία ποινικοποιούνται για τη φυγή τους και καταδικάζονται αυθαίρετα σε μακρόχρονες ποινές φυλάκισης και βαριά πρόστιμα Προσφάτως ένας επιζών ενός ναυαγίου ποινικοποιήθηκε ακόμη και για το θάνατο του ίδιου του εξάχρονου γιου του, ο οποίος πέθανε όταν προσπάθησαν να περάσουν από την Τουρκία στην Ελλάδα (βλ. Free the Samos 2). Οι ύποπτοι, ή καλυτέρα, τα «θύματα» αυτής της άδικης νομοθεσίας, έχουν συνήθως περιορισμένη πρόσβαση σε νομική συνδρομή. Οι αποφάσεις συχνά εκδίδονται παρά την έλλειψη αποδεικτικών στοιχείων και την κακή ποιότητα της μετάφρασης. Στην Ελλάδα, ο μέσος όρος διάρκειας μια δίκης είναι μόνο περίπου 30 λεπτά, οδηγώντας έναν μέσο όρο ποινών 44 ετών και πρόστιμα άνω των 370.000 ευρώ. Σύμφωνα με επίσημους αριθμούς του ελληνικού υπουργείου Δικαιοσύνης, σχεδόν 2.000 άτομα βρίσκονται σήμερα στις ελληνικές φυλακές για αυτόν τον λόγο. Ωστόσο, η τύχη αυτών των ανθρώπων είναι σπάνια γνωστή. Συλλαμβάνονται αμέσως κατά την άφιξη τους, οι περισσότεροι από αυτούς είναι φυλακισμένοι και απαρατήρητοι, χωρίς να γίνονται γνωστά τα ονόματά τους και χωρίς πρόσβαση σε υποστήριξη από έξω.

  • Απαιτούμε πλήρη έρευνα, δικαιοσύνη και την απελευθέρωση των Amir και Razuli, όπως καθώς και την απόσυρση όλων των κατηγοριών εναντίον τους!
  • Απαιτούμε την απελευθέρωση όσων φυλακίστηκαν με την κατηγορία της «οδήγησης με βάρκα» και το τέλος της ποινικοποίησης των ανθρώπων που μετακινούνται.
  • Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση πρέπει να σταματήσει την αυθαίρετη φυλάκιση προσφύγων και μεταναστών!

Επικοινωνία:

  • 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

1 Σε αυτό το διάστημα η σύζυγος του Amir γέννησε το δεύτερο παιδί τους. Μετά τη δίκη, ο Αmir συνάντησε το δύο μηνών μωρό του για πρώτη φορά και καθώς κράτησε το παιδί του για πρώτη φορά στην αγκαλιά του, η αστυνομία του φώναζε να δώσει το βρέφος πίσω στη μητέρα, προκαλώντας σε όλη την οικογένειά τρομερό πόνο.

2 Τους τελευταίους μήνες, εμφανίστηκαν πολλές αναφορές που μαρτυρούν την παράνομη και σκληρή πρακτική της ελληνικής ακτοφυλακής να πραγματοποιεί βίαιες επαναπροωθήσεις, καταστρέφοντας τον κινητήρα των προσφυγικών σκαφών, αδρανοποιώντας τα σκάφη και στη συνέχεια αφήνοντας τους ανθρώπους στη μοίρα τους στη μέση της θάλασσας. Διαβάστε περισσότερα για αυτό στους New York Times, στη Deutsche Welle και στο Spiegel.

Legal Centre Lesvos Quarterly Report: October – December 2021

Download full report here.

Inside a burnt down rubhall in the Lesvos RIC, which used to host 80 to 100 people and was entirely destroyed after one of the fires that broke out in November 2021. Photograph taken by a camp resident.
  1. Advocacy and accountability for collective expulsions and other systemic human rights violations   
  • 29 October Interim measures granted by the European Court of Human Rights to ensure protection of the rights of newly arrived asylum seekers to Lesvos   
  • 20 December – European Court of Human Rights to examine 32 cases filed against Greece concerning illegal collective expulsions   
  • 13 October – One year after the “Golden dawn trial”, No room for complacency towards racist violence   
  • 8 December – Continued unjustified rejections from the NGO Registry in Greece       
  1. Abysmal conditions in Lesvos’ Reception and Identification Centre persist   
  • 1 October – An end to food distribution and cash assistance for many migrants stuck in the Greek camps   
  • 15 and 18 November – Fires a common occurrence in the Lesvos RIC   
  • 5 December – Migrants’ forbidden from leaving Lesvos’ RIC during the Pope’s visit to Lesvos   
  1. Continued work to advocate for fair asylum proceedings   
  • Overview of the legal support provided by Legal Centre Lesvos between October and December 2021   
  • 8 October – Legal Centre Lesvos participates in Expert Hearing on the European Union’s new Pact on Migration, arranged by MEP Cornelia Ernst   
  • 12 November – LCL reports on “Family reunification from Greece: a few hard wins among many bureaucratic and systemic obstacles”   

1. Advocacy and accountability for collective expulsions and other systemic human rights violations

  • 29 October – Interim measures granted by the ECtHR to ensure protection of the rights of newly arrived asylum seekers to Lesvos.

On 29 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered Greece to guarantee adequate living conditions and access to medical care to a group of newly arrived Somali and Ethiopian asylum seekers at imminent risk of collective expulsion, in response to an urgent request for interim measures filed by LCL. 

The group arrived in Lesvos in the early hours of 29 October, and contacted LCL to request legal assistance in accessing registration and asylum procedures in Greece. Several members of their group were in need of urgent medical care, including a ten-year-old girl who had a pre-existing heart condition and who had not had food or water for over twenty-four hours. In turn, LCL informed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and competent Greek authorities of the group’s presence, and requested an ambulance to attend to them.

In light of both a delay in provision of needed medical care, and the Greek authorities’ extensively documented systematic practice of illegally expelling unregistered migrants who arrive to Greek territory, LCL made an urgent application to the ECtHR. Four hours later, the ECtHR ordered Greece to provide the group with “adequate living conditions and health care compatible with their state of health as per Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.” 

The grant of interim measures on 29 October was a rare, and welcome, success: all of the named applicants were registered and have entered the asylum procedures following the Court’s decision. From this 29 October arrival to Lesvos, at least two women from Somalia, who were later assisted and represented by the LCL in their asylum procedure, have now been granted refugee status in Greece.

  • 20 December – European Court of Human Rights to examine 32 cases filed against Greece concerning illegal collective expulsions

On 20 December 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced that 32 cases filed between December 2020 and August 2021 concerning the illegal collective expulsion of 47 asylum seekers from its territory were communicated to Greece. Among those cases, two were filed and are represented by Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers. These are among the first cases to be communicated to Greece since overwhelming evidence began emerging in March 2020 of a widespread and systematic practice of illegal expulsions, or ‘pushbacks’, in the Aegean Sea region. 

The ECtHR’s notification of these cases to Greece means that the Greek State is now required to respond to the extensive evidence submitted in both cases, which show that the Applicants were attacked, arbitrarily detained, psychologically and physically abused, and ultimately expelled from Greek territory, without having their asylum claims individually examined. A Chamber of judges within the ECtHR is expected to take a decision on the cases as early as summer 2022.

The first case, H.T. and Others v Greece (app. no. 4177/21) concerns the repeated illegal expulsion of a Syrian family. The family – parents and their three young children – submitted evidence to the Court that they had entered Greek territory on at least four occasions, with the intent to seek asylum. However, as demonstrated through their testimony and corroborated evidence, they were repeatedly denied access to registration and asylum procedures, and ultimately were subjected to illegal and life-threatening collective expulsions in the Aegean and Evros regions, together with other asylum seekers. 

The second case, S.A.A. and Others v Greece (app. no. 22146/21) concerns an extensively documented and massive collective expulsion of approximately two hundred people that began near the island of Crete. After being caught in a storm at sea, instead of being rescued, the Applicants demonstrate through their submitted evidence that they were held under surveillance at sea for several hours with assurances that they would soon be taken to shore in Greece, before being violently assaulted at night, transferred by force to vessels identified as Hellenic Coast Guard vessels, transferred over 200 km towards Turkish waters, and finally abandoned at sea on inflatable, motorless life rafts.

On a near-daily basis, evidence emerges of Greek authorities carrying out violent and illegal expulsions of people on the move in the Aegean Sea and across the Evros River, often with evidence showing the assistance or complicity of international agencies like Frontex.  It is not uncommon to hear testimonies of people who have been pushed back from Greece six, seven or eight times, each incident both constituting a manifest risk to their lives and compounding the trauma of prior expulsions.   

A positive decision in these two cases could bring partial redress for the named Applicants. However, given the ECtHR’s structural and procedural limitations, the proceedings are insufficient to condemn the systematic nature of collective expulsions, which, as the Legal Centre Lesvos has previously demonstrated, amounts to Crimes Against Humanity

Nonetheless, the communication of these cases to Greece marks an important step in what necessarily must be a coordinated effort to obtain accountability for and an end to the ongoing cruel and violent attack against migrants, inherent in maintaining Europe’s borders.

  • 13 October 2021 – One year after the “Golden dawn trial”, No room for complacency towards racist violence

One year after the historic conviction of Golden Dawn, Legal Centre Lesvos, as part of the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN), warned that there is no room for complacency in resisting organized and racist violence, as its modus operandi continues to severely affect social life and cohesion in Greece.

In 2020, despite the landmark decision convicting Golden Dawn, the RVRN recorded an escalating number of racist attacks as compared to the recent past, noting in particular the increased attacks against migrants and human rights defenders.

RVRN continues to call State and local government representatives, as well as media representatives, to refrain from engaging in the racist rhetoric that normalizes and encourages racist reactions. It also calls on the Greek authorities to urgently enhance the protection provided by law to every person and every community member that is being targeted by persons or groups with a racist motivation. 

No crime, motivated solely or cumulatively by bias, should remain unpunished. Read more in the joint press release here

Magda Fyssa, the mother of murdered musician Pavlos Fyssas after the conviction of the Golden Dawn, 11 October 2020. Photo Credit: Lemesos Blog.
  • 8 December 2021 – Continued unjustified rejections from the NGO Registry in Greece

The Legal Centre Lesvos joined 18 other organisations active in Greece to express its great concerns regarding the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum denial to register the non-profit civil society organisation “Refugee Support Aegean” (RSA) on the official NGO Registry.

The substantive ground used by the Ministry for such rejection cited 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. 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 it is 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 the activity of legal assistance to migrants by civil society organisations. It also causes reputational damage to Greece for poor implementation of refugee law, as well as international, EU and domestic law more broadly. For those reasons, the Greek administration is expected to take the necessary steps to correct the aforementioned decision in line with the law.

Read our joint statement on the rejection of RSA from the Greek NGO registry here.

2. Abysmal conditions in Lesvos’ Reception and Identification Centre persist

On 1 October 2021, the Greek state started implementing a new policy depriving both recognised refugees and migrants considered to be “outside of the asylum procedure” from accessing food in state-run facilities on the Greek mainland. As a consequence, organizations estimated that almost 60% of the residents of refugee camps on the Greek mainland no longer had access to either sufficient or suitable food. 

Among those deprived of access to food are persons who have had their asylum claim rejected on appeal, including nationals from five countries (Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), who may not have even had the opportunity to express the reasons for leaving their country of origin before having their asylum claim rejected, as the concept of the safe-third country has been applied to these individuals following the June 2021 Joint Ministerial Decision adopted by the Greek Government. These asylum seekers who are officially considered to be “outside of the asylum procedure” find themselves in a legal limbo, without access to legal status, rights and basic services, and since October also without access to food. 

The Legal Centre Lesvos joined over twenty-five other civil society organisations to resist the Greek State’s policies and reiterate that no one, irrespective of their legal status, should be deprived of food.

This policy follows the decision by the Greek government in March 2021 to automatically discontinue all material reception conditions, including housing, food and cash assistance provided  for recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection as soon as their protection status was granted. According to this provision, beneficiaries of protection had to leave government run housing facilities (including camps or State-provided apartments) in the first 30 days after the granting of protection. Following this decision, thousands of recognized refugees found themselves without shelter, living in public squares for prolonged periods of time. Without access to integration support or any viable housing alternative, many were thus compelled to return to camps in order to have access to the bare minimum – that is, water, food, and some form of shelter. 

Family of four forced to live with their children in the Lesvos RIC without any financial support since September 2021, Photograph by Fellipe Lopes.

With the termination of the cash assistance programme provided by UNHCR effective since the end of September 2021, all asylum seekers in Greece are left without a minimum financial support to cover their basic needs and subsistence, particularly while being forced to live in camps such as the Lesvos Reception and Identification Centre (RIC), unable to leave the island due to geographic restrictions, and not having legal 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). Although the Greek government took over the management of the cash assistance programme as of 1 October, only in December the government announced that Christian Relief Services had been contracted to distribute cash assistance in Greece, and to date, no cash assistance has been provided to asylum seekers. 

Those policies and voluntary lack of action are criminal as they lead to food deprivation, enforced homelessness, and legal limbo that deny migrants’ basic rights and confine them to inhuman and degrading conditions. For further information, read the two letters co-signed by LCL that call upon the Greek government and the European Commission to guarantee migrants’ access to food here and here

On 15 and on 18 November 2021, large fires broke out among the rub halls in Lesvos’ Reception and Identification Centre (RIC). Two burnt to the ground in a matter of minutes. Dozens of people lost their personal possessions, documents, and allocated shelter. In the immediate aftermath, camp authorities merely instructed the displaced to “stay with friends” – presumably in the other rub halls, tents and containers that make up the RIC.

Rub halls are large, marquee-like structures covered with polyester fabric, that host up to 80 to 100 persons in “rooms” sub-divided by blankets and thin walls. These are common in Lesvos RIC, and serve as accommodation both for single men and for families who have received rejections on their asylum applications. The rub halls are highly flammable, and susceptible of melting in a matter of minutes, as the events of 15 and 18 November demonstrated (see picture below), and yet the authorities have failed to provide adequate evacuation routes or other fire safety measures. There are only two entrances to the structure – one at each end of a central corridor – meaning that, in the event of an emergency, all residents have a few minutes to flee through a shared exit route.

On top of being hazardous, the conditions in those rub halls are wholly inadequate for human habitation. In the event of rain, which is very common in winter in Lesvos, the rub halls frequently flood. Several minors (who had been wrongly registered as adults when they arrived on the island, in yet another example of the dystopian nature of life for migrants in Lesvos) living in one such structure, told LCL that they had to leave their allocated rooms, as leaks and flooding had ruined all of their bedding and possessions. The flimsy plastic structure offers little protection from the near freezing temperatures, and sporadic access to electricity makes it impossible to adequately heat the sleeping areas. Moreover, the heavy winds that have hit the island in recent months batter the rub halls at night, the flimsy walls flapping loudly and making it near-impossible to sleep. The camp’s location, directly facing the sea, only makes matters worse. 

Fatal and non-fatal fires have repeatedly occurred in State-managed accommodation facilities for migrants in Lesvos – both in the present RIC and in the former Moria camp on the island. 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. These people’s repeated exposure to life-threatening fires not only compounds the trauma of each event, but also manifests the Greek government and European Union’s fundamental disregard for migrants’ lives and safety. 

The remaining metallic structure of a rubhall of the Lesvos RIC after the fires of November 2021, Photograph by a camp resident.
  • 5 December – Migrants’ forbidden from leaving Lesvos’ RIC during the Pope’s visit to Lesvos 

On 5 December, five years after his first visit to Lesvos, Pope Francis visited the island again and spent about an hour in the Reception and Identification Center (RIC) where he also gave a speech to a select audience. In preparation of the visit, the Lesvos RIC had been under intensive construction and cleaning works for several weeks. As LCL has consistently reported, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Moria RIC and later Kara Tepe’s 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. Public holidays such as Christmas and New Year, and high profile visits further are used as arbitrary excuses to restrict the movement of those who have no option but to reside in these camps. The visit of the Pope was no exception. 

In addition to the usual disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions of movement imposed on the residents of Lesvos RIC, the camp remained totally closed during 48 hours, preventing its residents from entering or leaving the camp because of the high security visit. Unlike the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Yvla Johansson, who had landed in the camp with an helicopter in March 2021 and did not leave her car afterwards, the Pope arrived by car in the camp surrounded by security guards and walked a few metres down a specially prepared and cleaned aisle of the camp, before settling down and holding a speech under a tent erected on a stage-like level, built only for the occasion and overlooking the ‘blue zone” of the camp. 

Before arriving at the staged tent for his speech, the Pope shook hands and touched the heads of migrants and their children held behind barriers inside the RIC. Empty prefabricated shelters, with no residents inside, had been placed in decoration on the Pope’s path beforehand. 

In his speech before Ms. Sakellaropoúlou, the President of Greece, and Mr. Mitarakis, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, the Pope acknowledged that “after all this time, we see that little has changed with regard to the issue of migration” and that “with deep regret, we must admit that this country, like others, continues to be hard-pressed, and that in Europe there are those who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them. This is tragic.” He also denounced the conditions imposed on migrants in particular in hotspots like Lesvos: “How many conditions exist that are unworthy of human beings! How many hotspots where migrants and refugees live in borderline conditions, without glimpsing solutions on the horizon! Yet respect for individuals and for human rights, especially on this continent, which is constantly promoting them worldwide, should always be upheld, and the dignity of each person ought to come before all else.”

Although the visit did not change the situation for any migrant in Greece and people forced to live in the detention-like RICs, the visit allowed to draw some media attention around the inhuman situation of migrants in Greece and Europe, which Pope Francis qualified as a “shipwreck of civilization”.

Further details on the Pope’s visit in Lesvos are available in the press.

Pope Francis arriving to the Lesvos RIC followed by a dozen of cars where he was welcomed by the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Panagiotis Mitarakis, 5 December 2021, Photo Credit: ERT 1

3. Continued work to advocate for fair asylum proceedings

  • Overview of the legal support provided by Legal Centre Lesvos between October and December 2021
Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers represented: 
★ 34 individuals in the asylum procedure, including cases of family reunification; 
★ 13 individuals on appeal of their asylum claims; 
★ 5 detained individuals facing criminal charges. 

Volunteer caseworkers with the Legal Centre Lesvos carried out: Between October and December of 2021, volunteer caseworkers, under the supervision of Greek attorneys, supported 96 new cases, and actively worked on over 350 cases over the course of three months. 

Over half of the people who received legal aid from the Legal Centre this period are from Afghanistan and over 15% are from Syria, and included people from throughout the Middle East and African continent, some of whom have been trapped on the island of Lesvos without legal status for over five years – since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal. In the reporting period, due to an increase in arrival on the island this winter of Somali asylum seekers, over 15% of the new cases supported by the Legal Centre in this period are concerning individuals from Somalia.

Legal aid in the above cases included:
★ over 170 individual legal consultations; 
★ 56 interview preparations and preparation of legal memos in 43 cases; 
★ 50 referrals to alternative housing services or protection services;
★ 61 persons attended information sessions on the asylum procedure and asylum interview. 

Legal Centre Lesvos filed 3 petitions for interim measures before the European Court of Human Rights, of which two were granted. One of the successful applications ensured that a five-year-old child with urgent medical needs was transferred, with her family, to Athens; the other ensured a group of new arrivals’ access to the asylum procedure and emergency medical care (see more details above).

On 16-18 October, LCL visited the town of La Garriga in Catalonia and presented in the Seminar “Abramos puertas, construyamos puentes” which gathered several of the migrant solidarity groups networks active in the Mediterranean region. The seminar allowed a space for exchange of experiences and ideas among different groups and individuals in solidarity with migrants, who work in different border zones to advocate and provide social and legal support to migrants.
  • 8 October – Legal Centre Lesvos participates in Expert Hearing on the European Union’s new Pact on Migration, arranged by MEP Cornelia Ernst

In October, and ahead of the deadline for proposed legislative amendments, LCL joined Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), civil society representatives, and other officials to discuss the urgent changes required to the EU’s proposed Pact on Migration.

Far from a “fresh start on migration,” the legislative proposals contained within the ‘new’ EU Pact replicate many of the worst aspects of the policies of containment, obstructed access to asylum procedures, returns and refoulement tested in the laboratory of Lesvos and other Aegean islands over the past five years. 

The legislative proposal for a Screening Regulation, on which LCL’s intervention was focussed, is largely modelled on the existing Greek reception and identification procedures. It includes a mandatory ‘pre-entry screening’ procedure, throughout which people will not be deemed ‘legally present’ in EU territory. This pre-entry screening seems set to amount to arbitrary detention on arrival, without due process guarantees such as access to legal advice, effective remedy, and no clear process for identifying ‘vulnerable’ individuals. 

For the screening procedure to take place, it is almost inevitable that States will introduce measures of detention while people are being processed. Articles 4 and 6(1), read together, imply that persons undergoing screening will be, as a rule, deprived of their liberty, although the operative part of the Regulation is silent on that point. For the duration of the pre-screening procedure, moreover, persons will be denied access to the asylum procedure and to the concomitant guarantees in it. 

In Lesvos, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greek authorities’ disproportionate and discriminatory use of quarantine measures resulted in vulnerable applicants being denied access to registration and asylum procedures for up to two months and held in effective detention – in a legal situation allegorical to that of persons pending a pre-screening procedure. Those confined in quarantine areas, and denied access to vulnerability assessments, medical care, or the asylum procedure, included an amputee, three children with hereditary blood diseases, sixteen unaccompanied minors, and at least four children with serious physical or cognitive disabilities. They had limited access to legal information, medical care, or other forms of support, were held in overcrowded and unsanitary accommodation, and were therefore at grave risk of physical and psychological deterioration. The suspension of access to the asylum procedure placed them in a situation of legal vulnerability which, in turn, led to their isolation in conditions of physical and practical precarity. It is likely that the implementation of the new Pact could give rise to similar situations.

During this likely period of detention, people will most likely lack adequate access to information on their rights and the procedures that they are subjected to. However, the proposed new Pact seems to suggest that the competent pre-screening authority (whether the police or another agency) could collect information that would strongly affect one’s chances to be granted asylum, and furthermore, pursuant to Article 14(2), read in conjunction with Recitals 9, 15, 16 and 24 and the Annex to the proposed new Pact, that such information may be used in the asylum procedure, for the purposes of both referral or not to accelerated or border procedures, and assessment of the admissibility and substance of the claim. That is to say, information which could have a determinant influence on persons’ access to protection could be collected before they have had access to even basic information on their rights and the prevailing procedures, let alone specific legal counsel. 

Moreover, the proposed Screening Regulation undermines the protections guaranteed to vulnerable applicants and foresees identification of vulnerability only “where relevant” (Article 2). This lowers the prevailing standards set out in the current asylum acquis (see Article 22(1) Reception Conditions Directive; Article 24(1)-(2) Asylum Procedures Directive), which includes a mandatory vulnerability assessment – but which, in any case, is rarely adhered to. 

In Lesvos, and despite being bound by these prevailing standards, Greek and European authorities persistently fail to recognise vulnerabilities – whether that is Frontex’s systematic refusal to register unaccompanied children’s minority status, the ongoing failure to adequately recognise survivors of torture and other forms of sexual, psychological, and gender-based violence, or the continued failure to recognise medical vulnerabilities – and therefore to ensure these applicants’ access to requisite reception and procedural safeguards, as mandated under both Greek and European law. To further debase the provisions and procedures through which vulnerable applicants can be recognised and supported will only compound the trauma to which these persons are exposed and impede their prospects of obtaining protection or necessary support.

The proposals contained in the New Pact – whether on the Screening Procedure or otherwise – are not new, but rather perpetuate the failures that we have already seen at Greece’s borders. The New Pact was proposed alongside a promise of “no more Morias,” but the legislative framework provides for the exact opposite: the multiplication of hotspot camps, the expansion of the fiction of non-entry, and the continued export of migration control to third countries, all constituting and embedded within an ever-more tolerated violent border. 

In a new report released in November, LCL documents some of the obstacles faced by migrants in accessing family reunification in Europe, and details several hard-won successes that have led, in recent months, to migrants finally leaving Greece to join relatives in other countries. 

The right to a private and family life is enshrined in European and international law – but in practice, migrants are often denied this right or face numerous challenges to access it. These arise from, among other things, flaws in the asylum procedure, Greek authorities’ failures to identify and submit family reunification requests within relevant deadlines, or by other European States’ bad-faith implementation of family reunification legislation. The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to additional challenges to reunification – but has also been used as a catch-all excuse for bureaucratic delays and administrative failures.

Nonetheless, this year, at least ten families represented by the Legal Centre Lesvos have had their family reunification requests accepted or, following an earlier acceptance, have finally travelled to join relatives in other European countries.

These include:

  • Mohammed, an unaccompanied minor from Syria, who reunited with his aunt and uncle in Germany after almost two years alone in Greece, in which Greece failed to submit his timely request for reunification or transfer him within the allotted time period, therefore requiring appeals and extensive advocacy efforts;
  • Samir, an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan who was first registered as an adult in Greece, and who – after months of living in a rub hall with unrelated adults in Lesvos’ Temporary Reception and Identification Centre – was ultimately given an age assessment, recognised as a minor, and granted reunification with his brother in Germany;
  • Ziad, an unaccompanied minor from the Bidoon (stateless) community in Kuwait, who faced numerous challenges in proving his relationship to his brother in the UK due to their lack of official documentation, and whose transfer was then unduly complicated by Brexit.

Despite the eligibility of each applicant and the compelling reasons for reunification, these cases have typically required over a year of assistance from LCL. Most requests were refused in the first instance and required appeals, litigation, and/or other forms of advocacy.

In any case, the EU’s family reunification legislation cannot be seen in isolation from the region’s wider policies of violent exclusion, control of migrants’ movement, and denial of migrants’ rights. The Dublin Regulation itself is an instrument of the Common European Asylum System that seeks to contain migrants at Europe’s peripheries, and prevent their free movement throughout the continent.

To redress the failures outlined in this report and the associated, ongoing trauma inflicted upon migrant families, calls for reform or abolition of the EU’s asylum system and must look beyond the Dublin Regulation itself and engage with its wider operational context.

Read the report in full on our website or download it here.

European Court of Human Rights to examine 32 cases filed against Greece concerning illegal collective expulsions

PRESS RELEASE

[Ελληνικα]

On 20 December 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced that 32 cases were communicated to Greece concerning the illegal collective expulsion of migrants from its territory.  

Among those, two cases were filed earlier this year and are represented by Legal Centre Lesvos lawyers. The 32 cases – all filed between December 2020 and August 2021 – are among the first on this subject to pass this preliminary procedural step in Strasbourg since overwhelming evidence began emerging in March 2020 of a widespread and systematic practice of illegal expulsions, or ‘pushbacks’, in the Aegean region.

The ECtHR’s notification of these cases to Greece means that the Greek State is now required to respond to the extensive evidence submitted in both cases, which show that the Applicants were attacked, arbitrarily detained, psychologically and physically abused, and ultimately expelled from Greek territory, without having their asylum claims individually examined. A Chamber of judges within the ECtHR is expected to take a decision on the cases as early as summer 2022.

The first case, H.T. and Others v Greece (app. no. 4177/21), concerns the repeated illegal expulsion of a Syrian family. The family – parents and their three young children – submitted evidence to the Court that they had entered Greek territory on at least four occasions, with the intent to seek asylum. However, as demonstrated through their testimony and corroborated evidence, they were repeatedly denied access to registration and asylum procedures, and ultimately were subjected to illegal and life-threatening collective expulsions in the Aegean and Evros regions, together with other asylum seekers. 

The second case, S.A.A. and Others v Greece (app. no. 22146/21) concerns an extensively documented massive collective expulsion of approximately two hundred people that began near the island of Crete. After being caught in a storm at sea, instead of being rescued, the Applicants demonstrate through their submitted evidence that they were held under surveillance at sea for several hours with assurances that they would soon be taken to shore in Greece, before being violently assaulted at night, transferred by force to vessels identified as Hellenic Coast Guard vessels, transferred over 200 km towards Turkish waters, and finally abandoned at sea on inflatable, motorless life rafts.

On a near-daily basis, evidence emerges of Greek authorities carrying out violent and illegal expulsions of people on the move in the Aegean Sea and across the Evros River, often with evidence showing the assistance or complicity of international agencies like Frontex.  It is not uncommon to hear testimonies of people who have been pushed back from Greece six, seven or eight times, each incident both constituting a manifest risk to their lives and compounding the trauma of prior expulsions.   

Given the ECtHR’s structural and procedural limitations, a positive decision in these two cases would be limited to the facts of these individual cases and bring partial redress only for the named Applicants. The proceedings are therefore insufficient to condemn the systematic nature of the crimes being committed, which the Legal Centre Lesvos has previously demonstrated amount to Crimes Against Humanity. Nonetheless, the communication of these cases to Greece marks an important step in what necessarily must be a coordinated effort to obtain accountability for and an end to the ongoing cruel and violent attack against migrants, inherent in maintaining Europe’s borders.

Press Contact: Natasha Ntailiani, natasha@legalcentrelesvos.org (Greek, English)
Amelia Cooper, amelia@legalcentrelesvos.org (English)

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ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ: Το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων θα εξετάσει 32 υποθέσεις κατά της Ελλάδας σχετικά με παράνομες ομαδικές απελάσεις.

22 Δεκεμβρίου 2021

Στις 20 Δεκεμβρίου 2021, το Ευρωπαϊκό Δικαστήριο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (ΕΔΑΔ) ανακοίνωσε ότι κοινοποιήθηκαν στην Ελλάδα 32 υποθέσεις σχετικά με την παράνομη ομαδική απέλαση μεταναστών από το έδαφός της

Μεταξύ αυτών, δύο υποθέσεις σχηματίστηκαν νωρίτερα φέτος και εκπροσωπούνται από δικηγόρους του Legal Centre Lesvos. Οι 32 υποθέσεις – όλες που κατατέθηκαν από τον Δεκέμβριο του 2020 έως τον Αύγουστο του 2021 – είναι από τις πρώτες για το θέμα αυτό που πέρασαν αυτό το προκαταρκτικό διαδικαστικό βήμα στο Στρασβούργο, δεδομένου ότι τον Μάρτιο του 2020 άρχισαν να εμφανίζονται συντριπτικά στοιχεία για μια εκτεταμένη και συστηματική πρακτική παράνομων απελάσεων ή “επαναπροωθήσεων” στην περιοχή του Αιγαίου. Η κοινοποίηση των υποθέσεων αυτών από το ΕΔΔΑ στην Ελλάδα σημαίνει ότι το ελληνικό κράτος υποχρεούται πλέον να απαντήσει στα εκτεταμένα αποδεικτικά στοιχεία που υποβλήθηκαν και στις δύο υποθέσεις, τα οποία δείχνουν ότι οι προσφεύγοντες δέχθηκαν επιθέσεις, κρατήθηκαν αυθαίρετα, υπέστησαν ψυχολογική και σωματική κακοποίηση και τελικά απελάθηκαν από το ελληνικό έδαφος, χωρίς να εξεταστούν ατομικά τα αιτήματά τους για άσυλο. Ένα τμήμα δικαστών του ΕΔΔΑ αναμένεται να λάβει απόφαση επί των υποθέσεων ήδη το καλοκαίρι του 2022.

Η πρώτη υπόθεση, H.T. και άλλοι κατά Ελλάδας (αριθ. προσφυγής 4177/21), αφορά τις επανειλημμένες παράνομες απελάσεις μιας συριακής οικογένειας. Η οικογένεια – γονείς και τα τρία μικρά παιδιά τους – κατέθεσε στο Δικαστήριο αποδεικτικά στοιχεία ότι είχαν εισέλθει στο ελληνικό έδαφος τουλάχιστον τέσσερις φορές, με σκοπό να ζητήσουν άσυλο. Ωστόσο, όπως καταδεικνύεται από την κατάθεσή τους και τα αποδεικτικά στοιχεία, τους αρνήθηκαν επανειλημμένα την πρόσβαση στις διαδικασίες καταγραφής και ασύλου και τελικά υποβλήθηκαν σε παράνομες και απειλητικές για τη ζωή τους ομαδικές απελάσεις στις περιοχές του Αιγαίου και του Έβρου, μαζί με άλλους αιτούντες άσυλο.

Η δεύτερη υπόθεση, S.A.A. και άλλοι κατά Ελλάδας (αριθ. προσφυγής 22146/21) αφορά μια εκτενώς τεκμηριωμένη μαζική ομαδική απέλαση περίπου διακοσίων ατόμων που ξεκίνησε κοντά στο νησί της Κρήτης. Αφού βρέθηκαν σε μια καταιγίδα στη θάλασσα, αντί να διασωθούν, οι προσφεύγοντες καταδεικνύουν μέσω των στοιχείων που κατέθεσαν ότι κρατήθηκαν υπό επιτήρηση στη θάλασσα για αρκετές ώρες με διαβεβαιώσεις ότι σύντομα θα μεταφέρονταν σε ακτή στην Ελλάδα, προτού δεχθούν βίαιη επίθεση κατά τη διάρκεια της νύχτας, μεταφερθούν με τη βία σε σκάφη που αναγνωρίστηκαν ως σκάφη του Ελληνικού Λιμενικού Σώματος, μεταφερθούν πάνω από 200 χιλιόμετρα προς τα τουρκικά ύδατα και τελικά εγκαταλειφθούν στη θάλασσα σε φουσκωτές σωσίβιες σχεδίες χωρίς μηχανή.

Σε σχεδόν καθημερινή βάση, προκύπτουν στοιχεία για τις ελληνικές αρχές που πραγματοποιούν βίαιες και παράνομες απελάσεις ανθρώπων που βρίσκονται σε κίνηση στο Αιγαίο Πέλαγος και στον Έβρο, συχνά με βοήθεια ή συνενοχή διεθνών οργανισμών όπως η Frontex. Δεν είναι ασυνήθιστο να ακούει κανείς μαρτυρίες ανθρώπων που έχουν απωθηθεί από την Ελλάδα έξι, επτά ή οκτώ φορές, με κάθε περιστατικό να αποτελεί έκδηλο κίνδυνο για τη ζωή τους και να επιτείνει το τραύμα των προηγούμενων απελάσεων.  

Δεδομένων των διαρθρωτικών και διαδικαστικών περιορισμών του ΕΔΔΑ, μια θετική απόφαση σε αυτές τις δύο υποθέσεις θα περιοριζόταν στα γεγονότα αυτών των μεμονωμένων περιπτώσεων και θα επέφερε μερική αποκατάσταση μόνο για τους εν λόγω προσφεύγοντες. Συνεπώς, οι διαδικασίες δεν επαρκούν για να καταδικάσουν τη συστηματική φύση των εγκλημάτων που διαπράττονται, τα οποία το Legal Centre Lesvos έχει ήδη καταδείξει ότι ισοδυναμούν με εγκλήματα κατά της ανθρωπότητας.  Παρ’ όλα αυτά, η κοινοποίηση αυτών των υποθέσεων στην Ελλάδα σηματοδοτεί ένα σημαντικό βήμα στο πλαίσιο μιας συντονισμένης προσπάθειας για την απόδοση ευθυνών και τον τερματισμό της συνεχιζόμενης σκληρής και βίαιης επίθεσης κατά των μεταναστών, η οποία είναι συνυφασμένη με τη διατήρηση των ευρωπαϊκών συνόρων.

Επαφή με τον Τύπο:

Αναστασία Νταϊλιάνη, natasha@legalcentrelesvos.org, info@legalcentrelesvos.org (ελληνικά)

Amelia Cooper, amelia@legalcentrelesvos.org (αγγλικά)

𝗙𝗔𝗠𝗜𝗟𝗬 𝗥𝗘𝗨𝗡𝗜𝗙𝗜𝗖𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡 𝗜𝗡 𝗚𝗥𝗘𝗘𝗖𝗘: 𝗔 𝗙𝗘𝗪 𝗛𝗔𝗥𝗗 𝗪𝗜𝗡𝗦 𝗔𝗠𝗢𝗡𝗚 𝗠𝗔𝗡𝗬 𝗕𝗨𝗥𝗘𝗔𝗨𝗖𝗥𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗖 𝗔𝗡𝗗 𝗦𝗬𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗠𝗜𝗖 𝗢𝗕𝗦𝗧𝗔𝗖𝗟𝗘𝗦

LCL_Family-Reunification_Nov-2021-FINAL

The family reunification procedure under the European Union’s (EU) Dublin Regulation is one of the only safe and legal routes protecting family unity and allowing legal migration from Greece to other EU countries.

It provides for applicants or beneficiaries of international protection in Greece to reunite with their family members, where the relationship is that of spouses (or unmarried partners in a stable relationship), parents and their minor children, and for unaccompanied asylum seeking children with a wider range of persons. In addition, some dependency and discretionary criteria are applied that allow family members who do not meet these strict criteria to be reunited on humanitarian or other grounds – though, as will be demonstrated, success in such cases is particularly rare.

The fundamental right to a private and family life is recognised under international and European law. In practice, however, migrants’ enjoyment of their right to family life is often denied or obstructed by flaws in registration and asylum procedures, authorities’ failures to ensure the timely identification, substantiation and submission of family reunification requests, and, most critically, by the continued and knowing bad faith of other EU Member States in their implementation of the Dublin Regulation, through ungrounded or unfair rejections of family reunification requests coming from Greece.

Furthermore, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has both exacerbated many of these issues and been used by domestic and regional authorities to justify their own, independent failings.

Nonetheless, in recent months, ten families represented by the Legal Centre Lesvos have either had their family reunification requests accepted or, following an earlier acceptance, have finally travelled to join relatives in other European countries. These include:
– Mohammed*, an unaccompanied minor from Syria, who was reunited with his uncle and aunt in Germany after almost two years alone in Greece, in which Greece failed to submit his timely request for reunification or transfer him within the allotted time period, therefore requiring extensive advocacy efforts;
– Samir, an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan who was first registered as an adult in Greece, and who – after months of living in a rub hall with unrelated adults in Lesvos’ Temporary Reception and Identification Centre – was ultimately given an age assessment, recognised as a minor, and granted reunification with his brother in Germany;
– Ziad, an unaccompanied minor from the Bidoon (stateless) community in Kuwait, who faced numerous challenges in proving his relationship to his brother in the UK due to their lack of official documentation, and whose transfer was then unduly complicated by Brexit.

These successes have been hard won. From the Legal Centre’s experience, the Greek Dublin Unit was generally collaborative and proactive in its approach to family reunification cases.

However, it has become – particularly over the past two years – an increasingly uphill battle for families applying to be reunited, with issues often stemming from Greek authorities themselves.

In the majority of the cases discussed in this report the Legal Centre has supported families for more than a year, with most requests refused in the first instance and requiring appeals, litigation, and/or other forms of advocacy.

The shortcomings of the Dublin Regulation itself, while both acute and at the crux of many of the issues discussed here, are outside the scope of this report. Instead, it will provide an overview of the challenges faced by migrants in accessing their rights to family life and the sources of these long delays in reunification, based on the Legal Centre’s experiences and the testimonies of those we have supported in their efforts to join relatives elsewhere in Europe.

Read the report in full by clicking through the PDF above, or download it here.

* All names have been changed to protect the individuals’ identities.

𝐍𝐨 𝐫𝐨𝐨𝐦 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲 𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐭 𝐯𝐢𝐨𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐆𝐨𝐥𝐝𝐞𝐧 𝐃𝐚𝐰𝐧

Image: Magda Fyssa at the conviction of the Golden Dawn, 11 October 2020. Photo: Lemesos Blog.

One year after the historic conviction of Golden Dawn, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) calls to mind the importance of the judicial decision that sent a clear message against the criminal organization and organized racist violence. In parallel, the Network warns that there is no room for complacency, as the modus operandi of organized violence continues to severely affect social cohesion.

In October 2020, RVRN welcomed the landmark decision convicting Golden Dawn, which protected respect for the rule of law in Greece, while recalling at the same time that the fight against violent, racist groups and their modus operandi through legal means is a matter of strengthening human rights and respect for the rule of law. The determining factor for the establishment of the Network in 2011 was, to a great extent, the decision by the representatives of civil society organizations and
communities of the victims affected by the organized activity of Golden Dawn to urgently respond in a coordinated manner. The aim was to document the increase in racist attacks and organized violence as well as to advocate for the necessary changes that would put an end to the climate of impunity that had been cultivated for a long time.

Almost ten years after, as documented in its annual report for 2020, the Network continues to record attacks. While reduced in number since 2013, this is nonetheless still ongoing and extremely worrying, with features of a structured organization or committed by organized groups based on farright ideas. RVRN noticed the escalation of the phenomenon in 2020, compared to the recent past, mostly as regards the frequency of organized attacks against targeted groups, such as refugees or
migrants, as well as human rights defenders.

In light of the recent violent incidents that took place within the school environment, among other places, RVRN reminds of its standing recommendations on the effective prevention, already in schools, of the spread of ideas promoting intolerance. Measures that would act as a deterrent to the spread of ideologies disrupting social cohesion and educational institutions’ operation would be to ensure equal access and attendance of children to public education, without discrimination and without being the object of hate speech, and to reinforce the regulatory framework for combating racist violence at school, with the participation of all involved actors (teachers, students, parent teacher associations).

In parallel, RVRN continues to call State and local government representatives, as well as media representatives, to refrain from engaging in the racist rhetoric that normalizes and encourages racist reactions. It also calls on the authorities to urgently enhance the protection provided by law to every person and every community member that is being targeted by persons or groups with a racist motivation. No crime, motivated solely or cumulatively by bias, should remain unpunished.