Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

EU still not clear on where to put rescued migrants

The mandate for Operation Sophia, the EU's naval mission in the Mediterranean sea, ends in December. Demands to change it, including new rules on disembarkation, are set to be agreed within the next few weeks.

News in Brief

  1. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  2. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  3. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  4. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  5. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  6. Swedish politician declares war on media
  7. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  8. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'

EU ready to shore up Morocco migrant funding

The European Commission says it is ready to boost spending in Morocco when it comes to stop migrant hopefuls from reaching Spain by boat. The money follows demands for help from Madrid as irregular arrival numbers spike in Spain.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us