Seventeen NGOs working with refugees and migrants in Greece called on UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, to raise their concerns regarding access to asylum procedures, provision of basic services and inadequate protection of children during his meetings with Greek officials.
In his visit to Greece, Grandi said that conditions in the huge open-air camp on the island of Lesvos were “extremely disturbing,” and expressed misgivings about recent changes that Athens had made to its legal framework for granting asylum.
“Patience and hospitality is now less visible than before,” he told reporters in Athens on Thursday.
The signatories said Greek authorities must implement integration measures and urged Grandi to pressure EU member-states to accept the need for better mechanisms to share responsibility for refugees arriving in Europe.
They also highlighted the “dire and unacceptable” reception conditions in the so-called island hotspots. “Since July 2019, thousands of newly arrived asylum seekers don’t have access to the public healthcare system, a gap which puts peoples’ lives at risk,” the NGOs say.
They also warn that the postponement of the implementation of the law on guardianship “violates children’s rights, as they are left without a guardian to support and protect them” at every stage of the legal procedures.
The NGOs also noted that, while the government is preparing a new action plan for the protection of unaccompanied children, protection standards are worsening, with thousands sleeping among adults, without appropriate shelter or protection, and without access to basic services or resources.
In the letter, they also expressed reservations over the country's new law on international protection, which they say essentially “abolishes basic guarantees of the asylum procedure” at first instance and introduces procedural obstacles that endanger the right to an effective remedy at second instance, “raising concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the asylum system, as a whole.”
"These developments worry us deeply, as they are bound to lead to blatant violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers,” says Maria Papamina, coordinator of the Legal Unit of the Greek Council for Refugees.
"We hope that with the High Commissioner's intervention it will become clear that the notions of the Law, Human Rights and dignity are non-negotiable."
The letter is signed by ActionAid, Arsis, Danish Refugee Council, Defence for Children International, Diotima, Elix, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Refugees, Help Refugees, International Rescue Committee, Medecins du Monde, Mobile Info Team, Network for Children’s Rights, Oxfam, Refugee Legal Support, SolidarityNow, Terre des hommes Hellas.