18 February 2013

Press Release

Little to celebrate on Dublin’s 10th anniversary - New research shows that the system continues to violate the rights of refugees

18 February 2013 . Today the Dublin Regulation , that identifies which European State is responsible for deciding on an asylum application, turns 10. On this occasion, Forum Réfugiés-Cosi , ECRE , the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and their national partners are publishing a comparative study on how this Regulation is applied by States entitled The Dublin II Regulation: Lives on Hold that shows that the Dublin system continues to fail both refugees and Member States.

The report reveals the harsh consequences of the Dublin system for asylum seekers whereby families are separated, people are left destitute or detained and despite the objective of the Regulation, access to an asylum procedure is not always guaranteed.

One example of the suffering to families caused by the Dublin system is the case of a Chechen father separated from his new-born child by the Austrian authorities. While the baby had refugee status in Austria, his father was sent to Poland under the Dublin system. The father’s request to apply for family reunification once he was in Poland was refused by the Austrian authorities and so the father remained separated from his wife and child by the mechanical application of this system. The majority of people sent back to another country under Dublin are actually returned to the first State of irregular entry into the EU. 

Asylum seekers in the Dublin procedure are frequently treated as a secondary category of persons granted fewer entitlements in terms of reception conditions. Whenever there are shortages in the capacity of housing available for asylum seekers, those in the Dublin procedure are often the first affected by this. Access to accommodation in some Member States is not always ensured with some asylum seekers having to resort to Courts to access housing or even forced to building makeshift settlements themselves in order to find some shelter.

Fewer than half of the agreed Dublin transfers are actually carried out, suggesting a vast amount of wasted bureaucracy. However, no comprehensive data on the financial cost of applying the Dublin Regulation has ever been published.

The soon to be adopted Dublin III Regulation contains some significant areas of improvement, such as the right to a personal interview, but maintains the underlying principles of the Dublin system and will not address all these deficiencies.

Ultimately, the underlying principles of the Dublin Regulation need to be fundamentally revised to design a more humane and equitable system that considers the individual case of asylum seekers and their connections with particular Member States, and therefore favours refugees' integration prospects in Europe.

Background

The research deals with the practice surrounding the Dublin II Regulation with respect to fundamental rights in 11 states: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The comparative report and national reports are available at: www.dublin-project.eu

For further information

- On the human cost of the Dublin system read the personal accounts of:

-     An Iraqi family of asylum seekers whose imminent removal from Bulgaria to Greece under the readmission agreement between these two countries was only prevented through national court challenges and the involvement of the European Court of Human Rights to temporarily stop the removal.

-    Kazim, from Afghanistan. Kazim had traveled from Germany to Sweden, where the authorities requested that Germany take him back. Germany accepted to take over responsibility for examining his asylum claim, but his application was rejected by the German authorities as being manifestly unfounded as he missed his asylum interview and was deemed not to have offered a reasonable explanation for his absence. Actually, he was still in Sweden as the Swedish authorities only sent him back two weeks after the scheduled interview.

All the statements have been anonymised to protect identities.

Links

  • New report " Dublin II regulation : lives on hold"

Full report:

http://www.dublin-project.eu/dublin/content/download/6193/75371/version/2/file/Rapport_Final.pdf

Executive summary:

http://www.dublin-project.eu/dublin/content/download/6194/75385/version/1/file/Executive_summary.pdf

  • National report on Greece:

http://www.dublin-project.eu/dublin/content/download/6188/75308/version/1/file/Rapport_Greece_WEB.pdf

15 August 2012

Press Release

Fatal attack on Iraqi in Athens

Athens, 15 August 2012 - Prompted by the fatal attack on a young Iraqi, on Sunday 12 August 2012, in the centre of Athens,  the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) along with the 19  NGOs and other bodies that constitute the Racist Violence Recording Network* strongly condemn, once again, acts of racist violence and call on the Greek Government and competent authorities to take immediate measures to address the escalation of racist attacks.

Brutal attacks and hate  crimes, which  are  racially motivated,  against  migrants and refugees on the basis of the colour of their skin, their religion or their country of origin have increased dramatically and have become an almost daily phenomenon in Greece.

The fact that the perpetrators of such attacks operate almost undisturbed, in a systematic and organized manner and in teams often led by extremist elements, is an issue of serious concern. Such  criminal acts, perpetrated by groups on motorcycles, have been documented  since March 2012  and  condemned  by  the  Racist  Violence Recording Network. However, the competent authorities have not taken any particular measures to prevent and address such  acts which, as a result has contributed to an escalation of violence.

To date, the criminal justice system has not resulted in the conviction of any perpetrator of violent racist attacks. This combined with the fear of the victims, often for lack of legal documents, to file complaints with the competent police authorities, but also the inability or reluctance  of the law enforcement authorities to carry out arrests,  contribute to maintaining and fuel the vicious cycle of violence.

Τhe Network strongly condemns all acts of violence, whatever their origin. In instances,however, where such violence becomes systematic and organized, targeting foreigners, under the pretext of 'cleansing' of public space, by groups proclaiming that they guarantee public safety, combined with the lack of decisive and immediate response by State and national institutions, we are faced with a situation threatening Greek society as a whole, offending its culture and exposing the country internationally.

Confronted with such a situation, which poses a threat to the rule of law and democratic stability, the Network:

  • Urges the authorities to exhaust all means to arrest and bring  to  justice the perpetrators of the recent murderous attack, as well as all those involved in acts of racially motivated violence.
  • Calls on the justice system, including prosecutors, to exercise its legal powers and verify any  possible source of  information to effectively prosecute those responsible.
  • Asks  the police to demonstrate zero tolerance towards such behaviour and criminal acts.
  • Stresses the need for the creation of a mechanism to record incidents  of racist violence, as well as for guarantees to protect the victims and witnesses, to enable them to denounce such acts without the fear of arrest or retaliation.
  • Calls on the competent authorities to intervene decisively on websites and social media, whenever racist speech openly  instigates acts of violence and criminal acts, a phenomenon that has recently reached alarming proportions.

Finally, the Network is calling on the Greek Government, political parties, media, public figures and all citizens to refrain from statements and actions which aim at all foreigners in a generalized manner without distinction, thus fuelling xenophobia.

END

For further information, please contact:
Ketty Kehayioylou, Public Information Officer (UNHCR), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 210-6756810
Daphne Kapetanaki, Protection Associate (UNHCR), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 210-6726462
Tina Stavrinaki, Legal Officer (NCHR), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 2107233216

The Racist Violence Recording Network was set up at the initiative of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece (UNHCR), with the participation of 19 non-governmental organizations and  other  bodies,  including: Aitima, Antigoni – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism,  Doctors of the World, Amnesty International, Hellenic League for Human Rights, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Migrants, Greek Forum of Refugees, Human Rights Commission of the Bar Association of Rhodes, “Babel” Day Centre, Movement for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Patras), METAdrasi,  Integration Centre for Working Migrants  - Ecumenical Refugee Program, Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants, Group of Lawyers for the Support of Refugee and Migrant Rights (Thessaloniki), Forum of Migrants in Crete, i-RED Institute for Rights, Equality and Diversity and PRAKSIS, as well as the Greek Ombudsman as observer.

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15 March, 2012

THE UNACCEPTABLE SITUATION CONCERNING THE REGISTRATION OF ASYLUM APPLICATIONS CONTINUES

The Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees together with AITIMA, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Ecumenical Refugee Program and the Greek Section of Amnesty International co-signing the present press release, and in co-operation with other entities, groups and NGOs, have been carrying out over the last month repeated protests, by giving their presence every Friday to Saturday morning (on 17 February, 24 February, 2 March and 9 March 2012) outside the building of the Attica Aliens Directorate.

(Attached are the call to protest and the list of organisation that have been responding positively to this call )

The purpose of this protest has been to denounce the situation being faced by persons in need of international protection who try to seek asylum in Attica, as well those who have been referred to Attica from other Greek cities, after the illegal refusal of local authorities to register their asylum applications.

The police authorities - following the usual practice of the past years - refuse to register the asylum claims of those seeking protectionand only agree to register an exceptionally small number of applications and only during the early hours of Saturday mornings.

During our protests in the course of the past weeks, we found that the current practice of registering asylum applications, namely the subjection of humans to the tortuous waiting along the side of the street for 2-3 days and nights in a row, under deplorable circumstances so that they MAYBE have a small chance of registering their claims, renders access to the asylum process almost IMPOSSIBLEin Attica.

In addition, we observed that the responsible authorities not only do nothing to ease the physical and mental exhaustion caused by the inhuman and degrading torment to which asylum seekers are being subjected, but on the contrary they follow specific practices which aim to discourage asylum seekers from submitting their claims and bar access to vulnerable groups, such as women and unaccompanied minors.

In particular, during our presence there as well as from the interviews we conducted with the asylum seekers, we reached following findings:

  1. The majority of asylum seekers who wait in line to submit their application, start gathering at a sidestreet in the proximity of the Attica Aliens Directorate already from Wednesday to Thursday morning, in the hope of securing one of the front places in the line and maybe increasing their luck of having their application registered. The police uses however various techniques to make them go away and discourage them. In particular, as reported to the representatives of demonstrating entities, between Thursday evening and Friday morning the police often chases the asylum seekers away, even with the use of force (globs). Many applicants get discouraged and give up in the meantime their effort to have their application registered. We were also reported that on the evening of Thursday, 1 March 2012, the police resorted to the use of chemicals (teargas) in order to disperse the number of asylum seekers who had already gathered.

  2. Τhe most vulnerable groups, like women and unaccompanied minors, not only do not enjoy the special protection they are entitled to, but are prevented in the most inhuman manner from accessing the asylum process. In particular, the police authorities force women occupying the “first seats” within the line to leave the queue. Out of the approximately 20 women who came in the course of the past 4 weeks to submit an application, only a very small number succeeded. It should be noted that even women are subjected to the tortuous waiting of 2-3 days and nights in a row and are exposed to the same deplorable conditions as the rest. It is of particular concern to us, that they are forced to wait within a crowd of men, while the authorities take no particular measure of care and protection about their situation.

  3. During our repeated presence there, we registered approximately 10 unaccompanied minors, who were obliged to wait at least 2 days and nights consecutively, among adults, exposed to the very bad weather conditions, and without access to water, food or toilet. On one occasion, during the morning hours of 18 February 2012, and following our persistent protests that unaccompanied minors are entitled to unrestricted access to the asylum process, the officer in charge agreed to allow to three minors entry to the building, in order to register their applications. To our surprise however, we were subsequently informed that despite all the hardship they had gone through, they were eventually dismissed by the officer, without having their applications registered, on the pretext that they were adults or because they came from Pakistan!

In addition, we were told that when one of the minors tried to bring food and water to the others, he was stopped by the guard who did not allow him to pass on these provisions and ordered him to either throw away the food and water or return the products to where he had gotten them from. In other words, not only do the Greek authorities subject vulnerable children to all this hardship, but they even actively forbid them to have food and water throughout the time that they have to wait in the line. They thereby inflict on them an inhuman treatment which aggravates their already vulnerable situation.

A similar degrading treatment was also given to three other unaccompanied minors, who after persistent protests of the attending organisations managed to enter the Aliens Directorate on 10 March 2012. According to the witness statements provided by the minors subsequently, the responsible officer made the children wait for many hours before registering their applications, and even subjected them to manipulative questions and threats, such as that he will only issue papers to them if they agree to register as adults. There was thus an obvious intention to discourage them from submitting their claims until the every last minute.

  1. The practice of making asylum seekers “go away” once the police officers have selected 20 applications for registration - either the first 20 ones in line or through random selection with unclear criteria - constitutes by itself an additional form of degrading treatment. The police officers shout in Greek at the exhausted and disappointed asylum seekers, many of whom have been going through this procedure every week for many months or even years, the phrase: “Go away now, next week”, while clapping their hands rhythmically and pushing back those who are left behind, both asylum seekers and us who solidarise with them. No explanation and no response is provided by the authorities to any of those who are present there.

The refusal of the Greek authorities to register asylum applications and the treatment they have in store for asylum seekers, which is an insult to human dignity by all means, do not constitute some new practice, nor are they a result of administrative malfunctions or the economic crisis. On the contrary, they form part of a systematic policy, which has been going on for years, the primary purpose of which is to deliberately discourage asylum seekers from submitting their application in Greece. It forms part of the wider policy of the Greek authorities towards migrants and refugees, which is characterised by deportations of persons who are in danger in their country of origin, overnight conduction of asylum interviews, denial of reception conditions, lengthy detention under inhuman conditions etc, which have been repeatedly denounced by entities and organisation both in Greece and abroad, and have led to the condemnation of Greece by international bodies.

WE HEREBY SHOW OUR SOLIDARITY to all those who were forced to flee from their countries because their life, freedom or dignity were in danger, due to State oppression, war or poverty.

WE HEREBY CONTINUE TO DEMAND

- Unobstructed access to the asylum procedure every day and without mediators

-Refuge and social protection to persons entitled to international protection

- An end to the unacceptable situation imposed by the authorities every day and every Saturday morning at Petrou Ralli.

WE ARE GOING TO BE THERE UNTIL EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS ABLE TO SEEK AND RECEIVE THE PROTECTION THAT HE OR SHE IS ENTITLED TO

 

WE INVITE ALL THOSE WISH TO SHOW THEIR SOLIDARITY, EVERY SATURDAY FROM 05:00 TO 06:00 AM ON SATURDAY MORNING AT PETROU RALLI !!

 

Αthens, 15 March 2012

ΑITIMA

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL- GREEK SECTION

GREEK COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES

ECUMENICAL REFUGEE PROGRAM

GROUP OF LAWYERS FOR THE RIGHTS OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

January 26, 2012

Article of Eva Cosse (works for the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch) on New York Times:

Greece's Epidemic of Racist Attacks

 

12 January 2012

Serious Obstacles in accessing the asylum process

Notwithstanding the ambitious declarations about reforming the asylum system, Greece persists in not guaranteeing the basic right to apply for asylum to people who arrive to our country because they are persecuted in their country of origin. Therefore, these people remain undocumented, facing the risk of being arrested and deported.

Our organization receives many complaints by asylum seekers who cannot exercise this fundamental right and who ask for our assistance. We have pointed out the problem to every responsible police authority (Attica Aliens Directorate, Headquarters of Greek Police) and to the competent Minister of Citizen’s Protection and we have called them to ensure the unhindered access to asylum process, as the national and international law provides. Nevertheless, our successive appeals to the responsible authorities were unheard.

Today, we accompanied to the Asylum department at the Attica Aliens Directorate 25 asylum seekers who wanted to submit their applications. However, the asylum Department refused to accept the submission of the asylum applications by the asylum seekers in order for the asylum process to begin. After this illegal refusal on behalf of the Asylum Department, our organization submitted the applications at the Secretariat of the Department.

We ask once again the responsible authorities to ensure the unhindered access to the asylum process, as they are obliged by the relevant legislation.

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