Thursday

8th Dec 2022

Greece paying asylum seekers to reject appeals

The Greek government is giving cash incentives for rejected asylum seekers on the islands to forgo their legal rights to appeal their cases.

Some €1,000 and free plane tickets home are part of a largely EU-financed ‘reintegration’ package which is now being leveraged to entice them to return home as quickly as possible.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The money is part of the pre-existing programme but the decision to deny people who appeal their cases to the funds was recently made by the Greek ministry of migration policy.

"This is quite complicated and quite immoral," a Greek lawyer working for Save the Children, an international NGO, told EUobserver on Tuesday (2 May).

The move is part of a larger effort to return people to Turkey and free up administrative bottlenecks, but the plan has generated criticism from human rights defenders who say asylum seekers are being pushed into taking the money.

People have five days to decide whether to take the cash, with reports emerging that even that short delay was not being respected by authorities. Previously, people were entitled to the assistance even if they appealed.

The scheme only applies to those in so-called eu hotspots on the Chios, Kos, Leros, Lesvos, and Samos islands, where arrivals are screened, given that Turkey does not accept people back from mainland Greece.

Greek minister of migration Ioannis Mouzalas has said the financial bait was needed to prevent bogus claimants from abusing the asylum system.

The new rules on excluding people who appeal their cases, imposed last month, also come after the European Commission pressured Athens into shortening its appeal process and removing administrative barriers to send more people home.

The EU-Turkey deal last year was supposed to ensure that new asylum arrivals whose applications have been declared unfounded would be returned to the country.

But only around 1,500 have been sent back since its launch, with the Greek appeals system consistently ruling in favour of initially rejected asylum seekers over broader concerns that Turkey was not safe.

The Geneva-based International Organisation of Migration (IOM), which has been running the programme to assist people returning home from Greece since 2010, will now have to follow the latest change.

Also known as Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration, the programme has so far helped over 35,000 since 2010.

Most are sent back to Pakistan, followed by Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Anyone was entitled to it, regardless of whether they had appealed their cases.

The scheme is largely funded by the EU Commission and topped off by a much smaller contribution from the Greek interior ministry.

The Commission has yet to respond to queries if it had played a part in the new rule that now excludes people who decide to appeal rejected applications. But Oxfam, an NGO, says the policy change means people are having to gamble away their future without being fully informed of their rights.

EASO, the EU asylum agency, has been accused of piling on the pressure for them to forgo their legal right to appeal before the five-day deadline.

A number of EASO agents on the Greek islands were also said to be rapidly shuffling people into an asylum procedure that squandered their chances of international protection.

But EASO's spokesperson Jean-Pierre Schembri described the accusations as incorrect and unfair. He noted that the agency's role is limited to supporting member state asylum authorities.

"EASO has and exercises no decision-making capacity with regard to individual applications for international protection," he said.

NGOs told to leave islands

The whole appears to be part of bigger plan to squeeze asylum-seeker rights on the islands and get them out of Greece as fast as possible.

It also comes on the heels of a new plan that aims to boot NGOs from the islands.

"Many NGOs will longer be on the islands after July, it means there is going to be a lot less scrutiny and a lot less visibility on what is going on as well," said Claire Whelan from the Norwegian Refugee Council, an independent humanitarian organisation.

NGOs working in the medical field in the Vial hotspot in Chios island have already been replaced by the Greek army and the Greek Red Cross.

All were informed earlier this year that DG ECHO, the EU Commission's humanitarian branch, would no longer fund them. Instead, the money will be coming from the Commission's interior and security department, DG Home.

"One of the biggest gaps we see, that remains, is access to legal assistance and legal counseling. And I don't know if that will be funded under DG Home and the government," the Norwegian Refugee Council's Whelan said.

This article was updated on 5 May 2017 at 14:00 to include a quote from EASO. It was also updated at 15:00 to add a line to clarify that the money is part of a pre-existing programme.

Interview

EU asylum chief: The 'future' arrived in 2015

Jose Carreira, the European Asylum Support Office executive director, lays out his vision for an agency on the cusp of becoming much bigger and more powerful.

Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO

More than 1,600 testimonies of alleged illegal pushbacks of migrants and refugees throughout the EU has been published, collated by the Border Violence Monitoring Network and the Left party — adding to the mounting evidence of abuse.

Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Terezija Gras from Croatia, Dutchman Hans Leijtens, and Frontex's current interim executive director Aija Kalnaja, are all competing for a job left vacant by the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  2. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  3. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  4. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  5. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  6. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents
  7. The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war
  8. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us