New Greek asylum law sparks uproar from human rights community

A new asylum law passed by the Greek government has raised concerns among human rights organisations who say the bill would restrict and threaten asylum seekers’ protections. According to Greece’s recently elected conservative government, the law would help filter dishonest asylum applications with more speed and efficiency.

Human rights organisations argue that, while Greece’s asylum system needs change, the bill could have a negative effect on the tens of thousands of Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants with pending asylum cases.

The bill could make it easier to arrest asylum seekers, limit access to a fair asylum processes, limit asylum seekers’ right to work, and remove the right to appeal for rejected cases.

The law “puts an excessive burden on asylum seekers and focuses on punitive measures. It introduces tough requirements that an asylum seeker could not reasonably be expected to fulfil,” according to a statement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch, was also critical: “the bill is a naked attempt to block access to protection and increase deportations in the face of the recent increase in arrivals.”

“The Greek government should instead prioritize resolving the humanitarian crisis that the deeply flawed deal with Turkey has caused for asylum seekers, and ensure a fair and efficient asylum procedure,” Cossé added.

The 237-page bill was introduced to parliament on 21 October, after passing a six-day public consultation period. Greek civil protection minister, Michalis Chrisochoidis, told parliament that “time is not on our side,” and that “boats are coming from across the Aegean. And with each passing day ever more come.”

Alexandros Konstantinou of the Greek Council for Refugees said: “There were two ways to solve [the crisis on islands]. One was to reinforce the system, have more capacity, and move people faster through the system while maintaining a high standard … the other way is to deprive people of the ability to apply, and exclude large groups … this law clearly took the second choice.”

Greece has received a huge spike in recent arrivals this summer. The country’s new conservative government has taken a strong stance on migration issues, including planning to deport 10,000 migrants by the end of 2020.

TMP – 13/11/2019

Photo credit: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com

Photo caption: Thessaloniki, Greece – Sept 2, 2019: Refugees and migrants disembark to the port of Thessaloniki after being transferred from the refugee camp of Moria, Lesvos island.

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