In their open letter 121 organizations call the Greek and European authorities to restore legality in order to protect refugees and the society at large amidst the pandemic.
More specifically they call the authorities to:
-Immediate decongest the islands
To rescind the Emergency Legal Decree which suspended the right to asylum and allowed for summary deportations
-To ensure access to asylum for all
-To implement alternatives to detention for all administrative detainees.

One year ago, our organization released the report “Asylum Seekers ON HOLD” whereby we highlighted serious problems in the asylum procedure.


We remain very concerned, because most of these problems persist and at the same time new ones have emerged.

Read the press release

The period when refugees massively transited Greece on their way to central and northern Europe was succeeded by the gradual closure of the Balkan route and the implementation of the policy marked by the EU-Turkey Joint Statement. Thus, since last March the approximately 60.000 refugees who had already entered and continued entering Greece with the aim of moving on to other European states suddenly realized that they had to stay in Greece. Most of the refugees who had come to Greece before March 20 – approximately 50.000 persons – are now staying in the mainland, whereas the other 10.000 who crossed our borders after 20 March are obliged by the authorities to stay on the islands.
Today, seven months after these developments, the situation that has been formed raises serious concerns.
Despite the Greek authorities’ efforts, a big part of the refugees located in the mainland are still accommodated in temporary camps which do not meet the standards for dignified living conditions. At the same time, there is significant delay in the registration and examination of the asylum applications.
The approximately 10.000 refugees located on the islands face the above but also other more acute problems. On the one hand, their number exceeds the capacity of the Reception and Identification Centers (usually referred to as hot-spots) – something which results in degraded living conditions – and on the other hand, their asylum applications are being registered and examined with serious delay as well. However, the situation gets even worse in their case by the fact that they are not allowed to leave the islands and, most importantly, by the serious possibility of their readmission to Turkey, where their rights are not respected.
It comes naturally that this situation causes impatience, frustration and nervousness to the refugees, a big number of whom qualify to be transferred to another European country by virtue of the family reunification and relocation procedures. Their protests are becoming more and more frequent. Especially on the islands, where the problems are more acute, these protests become even more intense, often leading up to damages of the facilities and violent incidents with the security forces.
At the same time the situation that has been shaped obviously has a great impact on the dynamics developing in the local communities. The impact on the islands is even graver, where more than 10.000 refugees have been stranded for more than seven months because of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement. This dead-end situation favors the growth and mobilization of extremist groups which have already organized
demonstrations, that have led up to incidents against refugees and Ngo staff in some cases. Similar phenomena have been tracked in the mainland as well. It is not incidental that racist attacks are being recorded again. It becomes obvious that the potential prolongation of this situation will feed even more this kind of incidents causing dangerous transformations in local societies.
How can we overcome the dead-end situation that has been formed?
The cornerstone for resolving the problem is taking advantage of the existing international, EU and national legal frameworks that regulate the examination of the asylum applications. If we implement it rigorously – uninfluenced by the expediencies and the constraints of the current European politics– we will ensure refugee rights while at the same time safeguarding social cohesion.
The first step towards this objective must be the fast registration of the asylum applications as well as the fastest possible processing of the family reunification and relocation cases. Thus, a big part of the refugees who are stranded at the moment in Greece would be transferred to other European countries. It is baffling that this has not constituted the Greek authorities’ priority from the very beginning, since it would unquestionably facilitate the offering of more adequate reception conditions to the refugees and would blunt the tensions.
The second step should be the fair examination of the asylum applications which would lead to the regularization of the refugees and subsequently to their social integration. Although this step seems very simple and self-evident, the fair examination of the asylum requests submitted on the islands has been compromised after the EU-Turkey Joint Statement. This happens because these requests are mainly rejected as inadmissible by the Greek authorities on the premise that Turkey, from where the refugees came, constitutes a first country of asylum or a safe third country to which they can be readmitted. At this point, it should be stressed that all human rights organizations in Greece and Europe agree that the EU-Turkey Joint Statement and Turkey’s classification as a first country of asylum or a safe third country contravene with both international and the EU law. Even more so when the situation in Turkey has deteriorated significantly since the latest developments, at which time it also suspended the enforcement of the European Convention of Human Rights. The fair examination of the merits of asylum applications submitted on the islands-which is in accordance with international, EU and national law- will relieve the very exacerbated situation prevailing there, since the asylum applications will be considered admissible and the refugees will be allowed to leave the islands.
Let us all hope that the competent authorities will come to the realization that their action must be swift and coordinated in that very direction, so that no more precious time is wasted!



Athens, 16 February 2016


The organizations participating in the network group “Campaign for the Access to Asylum”, would like to express our deepest concern about the harrowing developments in the political and social context, which lead to the dismantling of the legal acquis concerning the refugee and human rights protection, both in Greece and Europe.


Greece is about to implement policies in full and termless compliance with the european imperatives, subverting the up to date existing protection of refugees, as guaranteed by the International, European and National Law:


By sealing of Greek-Turkish border, which results to the refoulement of the refugees, the latter get excluded from their legally established right of protection.


By authorizing the involvement of the NATO forces, the refugee issue is being militarized. This revives distressing memories of the past, by stigmatizing the beneficiary of international protection as a potential enemy.


• The prospect of transferring the asylum applications examination and status recognition processes in third countries outside the European Union (externalization) leaves refugees exposed to countries’ legal orders that do not offer effective protection. However, the shifting of the "burden" does not absolve the EU Member States of their obligations under International and EU Law.


• The suggestion for the designation of Turkey -which massively violates human rights- as a safe third country, constitutes a mockery and mimicry of the framework for international protection of refugees as we know it until today.


Our organizations point out that the new policies mark the collapse of the rule of law and the end of the asylum acquis communautaire, as endorsed in the aftermath of World War II by the International Convention on the Status of Refugees, the European Law and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, leading to new unnecessary human sacrifices at the borders of Europe.


Our organizations, believing that in the current critical times, more than ever, the protection of refugees and the defense of our values is, despite all the difficulties, not only necessary but possible, call to a press conference on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 5 pm at the Athens Bar Association hall.



THE ORGANIZATIONS (in alphabetical order):


 ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth

 Network for the Social Support of Immigrants and Refugees

 Greek Helsinki Monitor

 Greek Council for Refugees

 Greek Forum of Refugees


 Initiative for the Detainees' Rights.


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“Letters for the prolongation of detention”- 7 May 2014

Yesterday, the European Council for Refugees and Exiles together with AITIMA and the Greek Council for Refugees send letters to EU Commissioner Malmstrom and the Greek Minister of Public Order Dendias regarding the prolongation of the detention of migrants beyond the 18 month limit provided by the EU Return Directive.

More specifically in these letters the three organizations write that the Ministerial Decision providing for the prolongation of detention in Greece has started to be applied, which constitutes a violation of EU Law.

The three organizations call:

-Minister Dendias to withdraw the Ministerial Decision and the decisions for the prolongation of detention as well as fully comply with EU law.

-Commissioner Malmstrom to raise the issue with the Greek authorities, ask for the withdrawal of the Ministerial Decision and the decisions for the prolongation of detention and launch infringement procedure if the Greek authorities continue to violate EU law.

You can read the letter to the Greek Minister of Public Order here

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You can read the letter to Commissioner Malmstrom here.

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