Following an invitation from PICUM and ICMC, Aitima participated in a meeting of European Civil Society actors, regarding the development of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. During the consultation, our Organisation insisted on the importance of unimpeded access to the European territory of everyone in need of protection, as well as on the respect of the principle of non-refoulement.

In the second photograph at the right, Angeliki Loucaidi of AITIMA. The discussion for the serious issues of the meeting didn’t stop even during the coffee-breaks (Photos from ICMC).

Today one of our lawyers was very glad to get a handmade shawl as a gift from an Afghan beneficiary of AITIMA. We are so proud when we see that our support is highly appreciated!

 

 

 

Article in Efimerida ton Syntakton-17.07.2017  (Translation by AITIMA)

Link to the article in Greek: http://www.efsyn.gr/arthro/ayto-poy-mas-kanei-i-germania-den-mporei-na-einai-nomimo-einai-timoria

 

“What Germany is doing to us cannot be legal, it is a punishment”

 

One more story of family reunification which never came true, because of the German-Greek agreement for a cap in refugees’ transfers under the Dublin Regulation. This time it was Rafa and her eight children who should have been reunited with their father Qasem, but remained here.

 

 

Rafa, second from the left, with two of her children and Sotiria Stathi, lawyer cooperating with the organization AITIMA (Photo by Efimerida ton Syntakton).

 

By Dimitris Angelidis

The long awaited  and desirable day of the trip had been scheduled for the end of May; this is, at least, what Rafa was told and according to that she made all the basic preparations before she went to the travel agency in order to receive the tickets.  Exactly, as the Asylum Service instructed her to do.     

She had gathered her own clothes and personal items as well as those of her eight children’s, the youngest of them being six years old and the oldest one twenty, along with four other minors.  She had packed their luggage and informed all her acquaintances and friends in the Site of Skaramangas.  She had called her husband, Qasem, in Germany.  He couldn’t believe her, while after all this time that he had been diagnosed with cancer, he was waiting for his family to go and live together with him.

“It was proved that he was right” says Rafa to the “Ef.Syn.”  at the offices of the organisation “Aitima” in Koukaki, in the beginning of July, more than one and half months after her visit to the travel agency that brought everything upside down in the plans the family had made.

At the agency, they told her that she cannot travel, as German authorities have decided to accept only 70 individuals per month for family reunification through the Dublin Regulation..

Rafa felt dizzy and sat for a while on the couch to recover.

“I returned to the Site of Skaramangas in tears.  My children understood that something was wrong.  They had packed their clothes, they had told the other children of the Site that we were going to leave.  Everything changed.  We felt as if one of our close members was dead”, she says.

She didn’t say the truth to Qasem, she is afraid that he might feel depressed.  She only tells him that the trip will take place soon, but in reality, she feels the same insecurity as he does.  The last time that Qasem met his wife and eight children was one and half years ago in Turkey.

As they waited for almost three years near the Syrian borders with the hope that something would change and that they could eventually return back to Aleppo, they decided that Qasem should leave for Germany in order to find a job and be able to support the rest of the family in Turkey. 

The illness

He arrived to Germany at the end of September 2015.  Very soon he started feeling pain at the left side of his ribs.

On 1st November 2015, he was taken to the hospital for tests due to severe pain.  He was diagnosed with kidney cancer and two days later he undertook the first surgery.

The only solution now would be for his family to be at his side.  The family reunification procedure through the German Embassy would take long  and they decided to have the journey through Greece.  They went to Izmir.

In their first two attempts to travel, they couldn’t make it due to bad weather conditions.  They succeeded with their third attempt.

They arrived at Lesvos on the 27th February, they stayed for two weeks in the Reception Centre of Kara Tepe and later on they arrived at Piraeus, when the Balkan Route towards Northern Europe had been sealed.   

Not only did they not have enough money to pay the smugglers for a trip of nine persons but, they didn’t also want to put their lives in danger by taking the hazardous route. 

They decided to wait until they could leave legally and safely.  They stayed for about two months in the temporary camp that was set up in the E1 Gate of the port.

When the Site of Skaramangas started functioning, they were among the first refugees that were transferred there.

A few months later, when the pre-registration procedure started they asked to be registered under the family reunification procedure.

The Asylum Service informed them about the timeframes, which in reality exhaust the relevant Dublin Regulation deadlines: three months for Greece to send the family reunification application to Germany, two months for Germany to reply, and another six months for the transfer in case of a positive reply. 

Their case would be prioritised at the last stage, as provided for by the Regulation, in order for the trip to take place within three months since the date of approval due to the critical health condition of the family member.

Qasem’s fear.

Six months ago, doctors informed Qasem that he has to undergo surgery in the spinal cord.  He keeps postponing it. He is afraid that he might die without having seen his family first or that he might wake up unable to walk again, in which case he needs their support.

For a long time now, when he comes back from the hospital, where he takes an injection, he is so exhausted that he can’ t even hold a glass of water.

But even without their concern for their beloved one, this situation would be frustrating on its own for Rafa and her children.

“Life in Skaramangas is not good. It is a camp.  There are fights going on, we hear about rapes and other incidents. I am afraid for my children, I cannot leave them alone during the night, I cannot allow them to go to the city to buy something, I have to go instead.  We left the bombs in Syria, but here it is very difficult as well, mainly psychologically.  Life needs a pattern with the children going to school again, taking their school bag in the morning and me working as well.  Anyone who does not work remains socially excluded.  We cannot live with insecurity, without knowing what is going to happen.  What Germany is doing to us cannot be legal, it is a punishmentsays Rafa.  

Lives on hold.

Sotiria Stathi, lawyer cooperating with the organization AITIMA told Efimerida ton Syntakton:

“This case illustrates the serious problems that have arisen regarding the asylum seekers’ transfers to Germany for family reunification purposes. More specifically, as stated by the Greek Asylum Service in its written answer to our organization dated 15.06.2017:

The German Dublin Unit requested from our department the transfer of asylum seekers in controlled numbers per month without consideration to the six-month deadline for the completion of the transfer as provided by art. 29 of the EU Regulation 604/2013.

For the cases for which the six-month deadline has elapsed or is about to elapse, we have received an extension of the deadline for their transfer according to an understanding with the German Dublin Unit.

However, the arrangement described in this answer is in violation of this EU Regulation and hinders the enjoyment of the right to family unity, which is a basic right protected under EU law.”

The organization has so far handled 21 cases of refugees, who should have travelled to Germany under the Dublin Regulation family provisions, but remain in Greece, without knowing for how long. Efimerida ton Syntakton has revealed in successive articles that there is a German-Greek agreement for a cap in refugees’ transfers under the Dublin Regulation.

 According to data made available by the Dublin Unit of the Greek Asylum Service, 74 people travelled to Germany in April and 70 people in May, while, following this, the German authorities were considering the possibility of adding to this number, another 50 transfers of vulnerable people travelling individually.

Germany officially continues to deny that there is a violation of the Dublin Regulation, admitting that there will be an extension for those not travelling within the timeframes, although the cap is the reason for the not travelling in time and although such an extension is not provided by the Dublin Regulation.

Mikael Kintzle, a volunteer from the German organization “Mobile Info Team”, who operates in the field of information sharing and legal support to asylum seekers in Thessaloniki, has called the German Minister of Interior to stop imposing the cap, through an on-line petition for signatures.

“Since we heard about this restriction, I have received tens of calls and messages from desperate mothers, spouses and siblings. All they want is to start a new life with their family. They cannot understand why it takes so long. Their lives are on hold. Many of them have been here since early 2016. They are tired and feel weary. They find themselves in a never-ending transit situation. This cannot go on. I ask Minister De Mezier to immediately stop imposing this cap. Family reunification is a human right” Mr. Kintzle says.

So far the petition has gathered 26.000 signatures, most of them below its German version.

 

 

In the context of our project on legal assistance to asylum seekers, we deal with hundreds of cases of asylum seekers who are in Greece and have applied for family reunification under the Dublin III Regulation.

During the last months we have noted that there is a serious problem concerning the completion of the family reunification cases in Germany. More specifically we have found that in cases of asylum seekers for which Germany has accepted responsibility, the transfer to Germany has not been carried out despite the fact that the six-month time-limit provided by the Regulation has expired. So far our organization is aware of 21 such cases of asylum seekers, including particularly vulnerable people such as an eight-member family waiting to be reunited with the seriously ill father as well as unaccompanied minors.

In early June our organization asked for the opinion of the Asylum Service on this and on 15.06.2017 the Asylum Service gave us the following written position (in our translation from the Greek document):

The German Dublin Unit requested from our department that the transfer of asylum seekers per month is controlled by number, irrespective of the six-month deadline for the completion of the transfer as provided by art. 29 of the EU Regulation 604/2013.

For the cases in which the six-month deadline has expired or is to expire, we have received extension of the deadline for their transfer according to an understanding with the German Dublin Unit (BAMF).

The completion of the transfers you mention in your letters will be scheduled in cooperation with the German Authorities from July 2017 onwards.

 

We would like to stress that arrangements such as the one described in the Asylum Service’s answer are not provided by the Dublin III Regulation and therefore this arrangement is against the Regulation. Moreover it hinders the enjoyment of the right to family life, which is a basic right under EU law.

Given that there are hundreds of family reunification cases of asylum seekers in Germany and that every month a big number of cases in which the six-month time-limit for their transfer expires is added, this arrangement has caused a serious problem which is expected to become more acute in the coming months, if the situation remains the same.