Saturday

21st Apr 2018

Greece wants migrants to apply for asylum wherever they want

  • Over 400,000 people arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos this year to seek for asylum (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

Greece wants to strip point of entry rules in the EU's crippled Dublin asylum regulation to allow migrants to travel and apply for asylum anywhere they want.

The idea was floated in a letter to EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Sent over the weekend and signed by both the Greek ministries of migration and of citizen protection, the letter notes "the first entry criterion should be abolished or downgraded."

It says emphasis should be placed on "upgrading the criterions of family reunification and petitioner’s own free will".

Avramopoulos has yet to respond to the letter.

But the controversial idea comes on the heels of a broad European Commission assessment on migration in Italy and Greece to be published on Wednesday (15 December) and ahead of an EU summit on the same issue later this week.

The Dublin regulation is a key EU asylum law that helps determine which member state registers asylum applications on the behalf of everyone else. It also allows member states to transfer applicants to the point-of-entry country for processing.

In 2011, the European Court of Human Rights slapped a transfer ban on Greece because of its poor asylum reception conditions.

Athens is now under pressure to shore up its facilities to allow capitals to return applicants who first entered the EU on Greek territory. The commission wants it back in the Dublin fold by March next year.

Kris Pollet, a senior policy officer at the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said Greek reception capacity is under 2,000.

“If you see what the numbers of arrivals have been in 2015, it's very clear that that is not going to work in the very short term”, he said.

The commission, along with the UN refugee agency, are set to create 50,000 spaces. On Monday, they signed off to create 20,000 spaces in Athens.

The country remains mired in an economic slump as it rams through imposed economic reforms to obtain its next one billion euro bailout tranche from international creditors.

Meanwhile, almost 760,000 people arrived by boat to Greece so far this year. More than half ended up in Lesbos, a Greek island near the Turkish border.

Most attempt to continue their journey to the mainland EU by travelling up through Macedonia despite EU efforts to fingerprint and register them on the island as part of its so-called hotspot approach.

A recent border closure on the Macedonian side means only people with a good chance of obtaining asylum, like Syrian and Iraqi nationals, are now allowed through. The rest have been bused back to Athens.

Last week, the European Commission revealed Greece had registered 492,000 of those arrivals and only fingerprinted 121,000. Athens may end up in the European Court of Justice if it doesn't improve.

The threat appears to have rattled Greek PM Alexis Tsipras. On Friday, he said the identification of migrants "should be held at the time they set foot on the Greek territory".

He also linked registration and fingerprinting of asylum seekers in the country to the crack down on terrorism and the passport-free Schengen zone.

“We must all understand that our international obligation regarding the Schengen treaty is to effectively contribute to the battle against terrorism," he said.

France and Germany are insisting Greece get a better grip on its borders but Athens has been slow in accepting offers for help.

Greece had scoffed at earlier plans to accept joint operations between Greece’s and Turkey’s coast guards in the Aegean.

Earlier this month, it capitulated following threats it would be cut off from the Schengen passport-free travel zone.

It then agreed to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to get material support like tents and generators, an operational plan with the EU's border agency Frontex to help clear out migrants stuck on the Macedonian border, and a formal request for the deployment a Rapid Border Intervention Team operation to provide immediate border guard support at its external border in the Aegean islands.

The latter is set to be expanded. The European Commission on Wednesday is rolling out a plan to set up a European border and coast guard system.

The proposal will be published along with reports on Greece and Italy and a plan to introduce systemic checks on EU nationals entering the EU.

A biannual evaluation report on Schengen is also due but a European Commission official said its publication date may be delayed.

Interview

Spanish NGO boat bosses face jail for rescuing Libya refugees

Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms had its rescue boat seized by Italian authorities in Sicily earlier this month. Three employees have been accused of migrant trafficking and face up to 15 years in jail and huge fines.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

EU seeks another €3bn Turkey migrant deal

Money should flow despite concerns about the Turkish regime, the Commission said. EU should "pressure" African states to take back unwanted migrants, it added.

Opinion

Calling time on European-Turkish strategic relations

With an Erdogan-Putin summit on Tuesday, joined by Iran on Wednesday, it is time for Europe to face facts - Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights