Greece’s highest administrative court is expected to rule later this month on whether Turkey can be considered a safe country for refugees being returned under a deal with the European Union.
The Council of State’s plenary on Friday heard arguments based on the appeal of two Syrian nationals whose asylum applications were rejected by the Greek Asylum Committee.
The Syrians’ lawyers argued that the rejection is a violation of the UN Charter of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as the committee based its decision solely on Turkey’s assurances, without a proper assessment of conditions in the neighboring country.
Another plaintiff acting on their behalf, the Greek Council for Refugees, has also raised questions regarding the partiality of the judges serving on the Asylum Committee’s panels.
The appeal comes after seven judges at the Council of State’s Fourth Chamber ruled in favor of the Asylum Committee’s decision, saying that Turkey’s participation in the Geneva Convention defines it as a safe country.
If the plenary upholds the Syrians’ appeal, this could undermine the deal signed between the European Union and Turkey a year ago for the latter to take back rejected asylum claimants in exchange for financial assistance.
In a related development, the International Organization for Migration on Friday published data showing that from the start of this year to March 8, the number of migrants and refugees that crossed into Greece came to 2,724.
Of those arrivals, 1,521 were recorded in January and 1,091 in February, a remarkable drop from the 134,048 arrivals recorded in the same two-month period last year.