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The state of the Greek asylum system, twelve years since M.S.S.

A glance at compliance with the landmark 2011 European Court of Human Rights judgment

In its 2011 M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece ruling, the European Court of Human Rights found that systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum procedure, reception and detention conditions breached the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment, and that transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation amounted to refoulement. For the past twelve years, compliance with the judgment has been closely monitored by the Council of Europe. The state of the Greek asylum in 2023 is summarised below:

Access to asylum

  • No arrangements are currently in place to ensure access to asylum in mainland Greece.
  • Refugees are prohibited from direct access to the Asylum Service to register a claim. They must first report to a Reception and Identification Centre (RIC).
  • Appointments for registration at the mainland RIC (Malakasa, Diavata) were managed via an online platform from July 2022 to May 2023. Greek authorities do not consider those as “making” of an asylum claim. People awaiting an appointment are arbitrarily arrested and detained for removal.
  • Remedies against removal orders from the Hellenic Police are inaccessible and ineffective. Only 1.3% of removal orders were appealed last year. Only 2.7% of appeals were granted.
  • Greece enforces de facto deprivation of liberty throughout the reception and identification process in the RIC and has faced related infringement proceedings from the European Commission for poor transposition of EU law.

Asylum procedure

  • The designation of Türkiye as a safe third country under a list enacted in June 2021 has resulted in arbitrary denial of protection and legal limbo for over 10,000 refugees. Greek authorities disregard critical evidence on the Turkish asylum system, including case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and consistently misapply human rights standards.
  • Appeals Committees dismiss thousands of appeals and issue deportation orders without an assessment on the merits, on the sole ground that refugees do not appear in person or do not submit a camp residence certificate within short deadlines.

Reception conditions

  • The ESTIA housing programme in apartments has been dismantled. Encampment is the only option for asylum seekers. No transportation arrangements are in place to connect remote camps to urban centres. Several camps have no doctor present.
  • Financial allowances are only available for asylum seekers living in camps. Only one out of four people in the asylum process receives the allowance. The first payment of the allowance takes at least forty days from registration.
  • The Greek Dublin Unit rejected all incoming Dublin requests from fellow Member States last year. Rejections are based on a standard reply stating that there is no reception capacity.

Detention conditions

  • Hundreds of people continue to be detained in police stations for immigration purposes.
  • Critical gaps in services persist in pre-removal detention centres. Not a single doctor is present in Amygdaleza and Corinth, the two largest centres accounting for nearly 1,000 people. Interpretation is not at all available in Tavros, Drama, Xanthi and Fylakio.

The state of the Greek asylum system, twelve years since M.S.S.

RSA & Stiftung PRO ASYL Submission to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the cases of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece & Rahimi v. Greece

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