PRESS RELEASE: Inauguration of New Asylum Services in Greece – but when will they be operational?
The three services are a part of the Government’s National Migration Action Plan since August 2010. Since then, little has been done to make it operational. The inauguration of the services is a first step in the right direction and we applaud that, but now it is time to take action. We, therefore, encourage the Greek Government to take the necessary steps to staff the three services and make them operational as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, we are hopeful that these services in the long run will improve the overall asylum procedure in Greece and offer better protection to refugees and people of concern.
In particular, we welcome the fact that the asylum procedure and the first instance asylum interview will be removed from the police and placed with an Asylum Service staffed with qualified and trained case workers and interpreters. We have been advocating for this solution for many years and we are, therefore, pleased that the Greek state finally will establish an authority solely dedicated to operate a fair and efficient asylum procedure.
The Greek Government have, as part of the economic austerity measures, announced a full stop for hiring in the public sector. For this reason the staff for the three new services will be seconded from other authorities. We express our concern that this will create more delays and influence the efficient staffing of the Reception Service, the Asylum Service and the Appeals Authority in numbers of staff as well as in relevant qualifications. We therefore encourage the Government to provide adequate funding and ensure that the staffing of the three new services is done in an open and transparent procedure.
It is urgent that the Greek Government proceed with their plans for a new asylum system because the refugees and asylum seekers in Greece continue to face serious problems throughout the asylum procedure in Greece. Two of the problems that we are particular concerned about at the moment are;
First, the access to the asylum procedure in Athens, where the majority of asylum seekers reside, is almost non-existing at the moment. Asylum seekers wait outside the gates of the Aliens Police in Athens for days without being able to lodge an application. At the moment the police only allow 20 applications per week and these applications are accepted at 6 a.m. every Saturday morning!
Secondly, the conditions in the detention centers in Greece, and particular in the area close to the Turkish land border, continues to be appalling. Refugees and migrants are detained in very in-human and degrading conditions with a lack of access to even basic services.
We are committed to remind the Greek government and to push the Greek authorities to immediately address these issues of concern.
Greek Council for Refugees
Ecumenical Refugee Program/KSPM of the Church of Greece
Greek Forum of Refugees