November 16, 2009

Report to the European Commission by Greek NGOs on infringement of EC Directive on minimum standards for granting and withdrawing refugee status

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On 16 November 2009 six of the most important Greek organizations providing assistance to refugees and asylum applicants, Amnesty International, Ecumenical Refugee Programme, Greek Council for Refugees, Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees, Hellenic League for Human Rights and Praksis submitted to the European Commission a common report, in which they present their views on those aspects of the current greek legal framework for asylum procedure which are not in compliance with community law.


On 30 June 2009, presidential decree 81/2009 was published in the Greek Government Gazette, with the title: "Modification of presidential decree 90/08 on 'Harmonisation of Greek legislation to the provisions of Council Directive 2005/85/EC on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status' ".

The provisions of the new presidential decree provoked strong reactions both among institutional bodies such as the National Commission for Human Rights and the Greek Office of UNHCR, as well as among NGOs, on grounds of the important changes for the worse that were introduced in the Greek asylum system. The most important of those changes are the following:

1) The power to decide on asylum claims at first instance has been transferred to the regional Police Directorates.

2) The asylum interview is from now on conducted by an advisory Committee, composed almost exclusively of public officials, i.e. two police officials, one employee of the Department for Aliens and Migration of the respective prefecture and a UNHCR representative. It should be noted that UNHCR publicly announced its refusal to participate in these committees, on grounds that the adopted changes do not guarantee a fair and efficient asylum process.

3) The abolition of the second instance examination of asylum claims by the Appeals Committee. As a result the appeal before the Council of State remains the only remedy against the first instance negative decisions on asylum claims.

Our organisations consider that these changes not only fail to improve the already problematic situation, but, on the contrary, create new major obstacles to guaranteeing a fair and efficient examination of asylum claims, in violation of Directive 2005/85/EC. We have therefore decided to submit to the European Commission a report, in which we present our views on those aspects of the current legal framework which, in our analysis, are not in compliance with community law.

We hope that this action will serve as a point of departure to make necessary changes, as the Greek Government has already promised, so that we can finally have an efficient asylum system, which will comply with our country's international obligations.

Amnesty International
Ecumenical Refugee Programme
Greek Council for Refugees
Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees
Hellenic League for Human Rights

The full text of the report is available here