This post is also available in: Français (French)
30 January 2017 – On the 8th of December 2016, the European Commission adopted its firth recommendation on urgent measures to be taken by Greece in view of the resumption of transfers under the Dublin Regulation. Indeed, these have been suspended since 2011, following two decisions, both of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, considering the “systemic deficiencies” of the Greek asylum system were incompatible with the respect of the rights of the asylum seeker.
Ø How to juggle with paradoxes!
In its December recommendation, the Commission considered that “significant progress has been achieved by Greece in putting in place the essential institutional and legal structures for a properly functioning asylum system” which would allow a gradual resumption of transfers to Greece from 15 March 2017.
This being so, and this is not the least of the paradoxes, the Commission foresees for the moment only a gradual resumption of Dublin transfers – in reason of “deficiencies in the Greek asylum system”. Moreover, this measure would not be retroactive and would concern only migrants having entered Greece “irregularly” from 15 March onwards.
The Commission takes, by the way, the precaution to precise that transfers will take place only “if the Greek authorities give individual assurances in each case that the asylum applicant will be hosted in appropriate reception centres and treated in accordance with the standards set out in EU law”!
Ø Is this really reasonable?
Thus, transfers to Greece would resume in a context of fragility and uncertainty regarding the continuation of the EU-Turkey agreement, as well as in a material and legal dramatic situation for many migrants present on the Greek islands and hinterland.
173,561 third country nationals have reached the Greek territory in 2016, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and more than 62,000 people are now stuck in Greece, of which 10,780 on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, in reason of the congestion of the Greek asylum system and of the insufficient number of relocations towards other Member States.
Last Greek statistics provide a measure of the situation. In 2016, on 51,091 international protection applications recorded (of which 2,352 coming from non-accompanied minors), 9,319 decisions have been taken in the first instance and 2,092 in appeal, bringing the recognition rate to 29.1%. Result, 28,030 individuals were still waiting for a decision on their asylum claim.
It is true that the relocation mechanism towards other Member States of 160,000 migrants present in Greece and in Italy, aimed at relieving the burden on countries at the EU external border, has not still given the expected results: as of 15 January 2017, 7,441 asylum seekers have been relocated and Member States made available only 13,865 places to the 22,565 requests of relocation dropped in Greece.
The possibility remains, for the Greek authorities, to resort Dublin transfers towards other States in accordance with family reunification legislation. 1,107 people have been effectively transferred but 1,001 were refused; 4,888 requests are still under process.
Faced with this data, we cannot be pleased by the success of the measures taken by the European Union. It is true, from the Greek side, the congestion of the system turns into embolism. Such, that Greece struggles to spend the emergency aid (more than 1 billion euros) provided to support its efforts in tackling the situation of crisis; it would appear that only 2% of 294,5 million euro coming from the AMIF fund has been used at present! However, the living conditions of migrants would seem to be more and more unbearable, especially on the islands, where cold and snow strike their tents.
We can understand that, in the perspective of a revision of the European asylum system where Dublin regulation will be given a prominent position, the European Commission wishes to bring Greece back into the “common system”. But, in this situation, incantations will not be enough!
How can one imagine than in this country, where it appears there are currently 577,000 undocumented migrants or dismissed from the asylum right (according to the Greek Forum of Migrants), the national administrative authorities will be able not only to catch up with the delay in examining pending applications but also to manage the additional arrival of asylum seekers, coming from the Aegean Sea or the Balkans, as well as from the European continent?
We can also imagine the frightening chaos that will affect asylum claims waiting for a promised relocation in another member State when, still waiting for a possible transfer, they will see other asylum seekers joining them after having been sent back from the aforesaid Member states … because the Dublin regulation needs to be implemented!
The recommendation of the European Commission not having a compulsory value, AEDH expects an evaluation of the real situation to which Greece is faced before the resumption of Dublin transfers is contemplated. Migrants’ rights, their living conditions and the respect of their dignity do not have to be swept away by the pragmatic voluntarism of policymakers, European as well as national.
o Read the Fourth recommendation on urgent measures to be taken by Greece in view of the resumption of transfers under the Dublin Regulation, European Commission, 8 December 2016.
o Read AEDH note « Chaos in Greece: the syndrome of EU’s policies », 28 April 2016.
o Read the letter addressed to the President of the European Commission and the Greek Minister of Migration Policy.
 European Commission, “Commission reports on progress made under the European Agenda on Migration”, 8 December 2016, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-4281_en.htm
 European Commission, “Questions & Answers: Recommendation on the conditions for resuming Dublin transfers of asylum seekers to Greece”, 8 December 2016, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-4253_en.htm
 The Guardian, “Turkey threatens to end refugee deal in row over EU accession », 25 November 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/25/turkey-threatens-end-refugee-deal-row-eu-accession-erdogan
 IOM, “Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Top 363,348 in 2016; Deaths at Sea: 5,079”, 6 January 2017, http://www.iom.int/news/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-top-363348-2016-deaths-sea-5079
 The Guardian, “Greece: severe weather places refugees at risk and government under fire”, 10 January 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/10/greece-severe-weather-places-refugees-at-risk-and-government-under-fire
 Greek Greece Report, “10,780 Refugees Stranded on the Greek Islands; 130 New Arrivals Recorded”, 16 January 2017, http://greece.greekreporter.com/2017/01/16/10780-refugees-stranded-on-the-greek-islands-130-new-arrivals-recorded/
 Hellenic Republic – Ministry of Migration Policy, “Statistical Data of the Greek Asylum Service (1.1.2016 -31.12.2016)”, January 2017 http://asylo.gov.gr/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Greek-Asylum-Service-statistical-data_December2016_en.pdf
 Hellenic Republic – Ministry of Migration Policy, “Statistical Data of the Greek Asylum Service– Relocation Procedures”, January 2017, http://asylo.gov.gr/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Relocation-procedures-up-to-15-01-17_en.pdf
 Hellenic Republic – Ministry of Migration Policy, Press release: “The work of the asylum service in 2016”, January 2016, http://asylo.gov.gr/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Press-Release-17.1.2017.pdf
 European Commission, “Commissioner Avramopoulos in Greece”, 13 January 2017, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEX-17-64_en.htm
 Greek Greece Report, “Greece Struggles to Absorb Funds Needed to Help Migrants and Refugees”, 15 January 2017, http://greece.greekreporter.com/2017/01/15/greece-struggles-to-absorb-funds-needed-to-help-migrants-and-refugees/
 EurActiv, “Commission calls the plight of refugees on Greek islands ‘untenable’”, 9 January 2017, http://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/commission-calls-the-plight-of-refugees-on-greek-islands-untenable/
 Greek Greece Report, “About 577,000 Documented Migrants Reside in Greece”, 18 December 2016, http://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/12/18/about-577000-documented-migrants-reside-in-greece/