The new Asylum bill is heading to the Greek Parliament by the conservative New Democracy government despite objections by human rights organizations. The bill introduces a series of measures and drastic changes aiming to restrict access to asylum, reduce asylum procedure times or terminate stages of procedures and proceed with “fast track” deportations.
The bill defines anew the eligibility for international protection – refugee status – as it will introduce a list of “safe countries of origin” and a list of “safe third countries.” The measure will most likely limit access to asylum procedures.
It reduces the stages of rejection appeals and transfers the appeal cases to First Instance Courts that will require technical legal documentation and the presence of a lawyer. Up to now a simple request was enough.
The bill provides explicit deadlines for the examination of asylum applications, a personal representation of applicants at each stage of the process.
Asylum seekers who do not comply with the rules of accommodation centers or object their trasnfer to other facilities will face “sanctions.” According to media reports, sanctions mean that they will be deported.
Some key points of the new Asylum Bill:
– distinction between residence permits of three years for those granted refugee status and one year for those granted subsidiary protection
– access to primary and secondary education of minors granted international protection status is mandatory
– Special Rapid Assistance Teams of the Asylum Service to prioritize asylum requests
– penalties are introduced for non-compliance by third-country nationals with the requirements of the law, such as the rules of accommodation center and the decision to be transferred to another center
– eliminates post-traumatic stress as a reason for vulnerability.
– the procedures for granting and revoking international protection status and the jurisdiction of administrative courts to hear cases are redefined. Applicants have the right to reside in the country until the administrative process of examining the application in the first instance has been completed.
– redefinition of appeals committees, which until now consisted of judicial officers only,
-the right of asylum seekers to access work is provided six months after the request has been submitted, provided that no decision has been taken in the first instance, and it is provided that applicants receive the Aliens Health Card, which is valid corresponding to the validity of their coupons (except for pregnant women which is for one year)
Principle of family unity
In the best interest of a child, the principle of family unity is taken into consideration when third-country nationals are to be transferred to reception centers and identification centers or other structures.
Applications at the borders
For the cases of exceptional applications at the borders, it is stipulated that the decision is served within one day and not within ten days, as stated in the draft consultation.
Time-limits for proceedings at the borders are increased: the first instance decision is issued within seven days, the time limit for lodging an appeal is seven days, the appeal is set within four days and the appeal decision is issued within seven days.
Where border procedures are applied, the time limit allowed for a person to submit an appeal is until one day before the appeal is discussed.
The bill was open for public consultations, until yesterday, Monday afternoon. By the evening, the bill was submitted to the relevant committee of the Parliament, as the government wants to have it voted by the end of the month.
Despite statements by Ministry for Citizen Protection for a “meaningful consultation”, the bill went into public consultation last Wednesday, only for five days, prompting reactions from all human rights organizations and the National Commission for Human Rights (EEDA).
EEDA demanded yesterday that the consultation be prolonged in order for to be “meaningful and not pre-emptive.”
Major organizations warn that the new law is leading to a backlash on human rights.
It is noteworthy that some of the most reputable organizations did not comment on the consultation.. Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Hellenic Association for Human Rights, Hellenic Refugee Council, Hellenic Refugee Forum, HumanRights360 will hold a press conference next week.