Reject the unlawful Deportations Bill

Reject the unlawful Deportations Bill

Athens, 26 August 2021

The Deportations and Returns Bill tabled by the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum to Parliament on 25 August 2021 fully disregards the positions and concerns put forward by civil society and the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) regarding compliance with international and EU law on asylum and migration. Without any justification, the drafters of the bill omit over 60 comments tabled by experts in the public consultation, thereby circumventing a necessary institution to safeguard the rule of law and better law-making.

The bill not only maintains the wide array of issues highlighted by Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) and other organisations in June 2021, but also exacerbates certain provisions. The proposed fee for subsequent applications, in stark violation of the right to asylum, is raised from 50 to 100 € per application, amid a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan and a pressing need for thousands of rejected Afghan asylum seekers to request international protection anew.

At the same time, the Greek government yet again introduces legislative provisions constraining the operation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) without including them in the text presented to public consultation, thereby evading public scrutiny and commentary. Article 40 of the bill, a provision inextricably linked to the ongoing allegations against Greece regarding push backs of refugees in the Aegean Sea, sets out strict restrictions and conditions on organisations active in “competence areas” of the Hellenic Coast Guard, flouts Law of the Sea obligations towards persons in distress and imposes strict criminal sanctions and fines of up to 2,000 € per person and 12,000 € per institution.

Finally, the text completely disregards the detailed substantive and technical recommendations made by civil society with a view to ensuring harmonisation of Greek legislation with the EU acquis – in particular Directives 2013/32/EU, 2013/33/EU and 2008/115/EC, cited in the impact assessment accompanying the bill. This demonstrates a clear unwillingness of the Greek government to comply with EU law, even against the backdrop of a pilot infringement procedure initiated by the European Commission and pending complaints to the Commission relating to Greek asylum legislation.

We call on MPs to reject the bill in its current form.

Detailed observations from legal organisations Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), HIAS Greece and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) are available here.