Greece Tightens Asylum Procedures

A refugee camp on the island of Lebos A refugee camp on the island of Lebos AFP

06 February 2020

Pressure from the EU forces Greece to send asylum seekers back to Turkey

On January 22, Greek governmental agencies shut down in protest against the nation’s high refugee population. Greece has been under pressure by its partners in the European Union (EU) to fast-track asylum procedures. A new asylum law was put into effect on January 1, which states that applicants for asylum from the islands of Kos, Leros, Samos, Chios, and Lesbos must be adjudicated within 28 days, appeals included. The prior procedure, which still applies in the remainder of the country, allows for three months of appeals and six months for first instance decisions. 

Greece has deported 53 asylum seekers since the year has begun. The country has sped up its procedures for asylum applicants, deporting people more frequently to Turkey. Aid organizations are apprehensive that this pace pickup will trample applicants’ rights.

Boris Cheshirkov, spokesperson for the UNHCR Greece told Aljazeera, "We are already receiving reports of difficulties. Rejected asylum seekers on the islands [are having] to prepare the needed document of appeal and application to remain [on Greek soil], without legal aid and in such a short time frame.” He continued, reporting that asylum seekers, under law, should be able to access legal aid, however, the need for services far outnumbers the actual availability of free legal aid. 

74,000 people entered Greece last year seeking asylum. The New Democracy, which gained power in July, promised to decrease the intake of refugees from Turkey and, as a result, they have boosted border protection. Locals, for the most part, support the new asylum policies but disagree with the government’s plan to open new camps.

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Author: Teagan Foti; Editor: Noelle Musolino

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