Rap for delays in asylum reform

An international human rights group yesterday condemned the Greek government for failing to make good on its promise to reform the country’s dysfunctional system for granting asylum to refugees and called for the immediate intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Commission. «Despite its formal commitments, the Greek government has utterly failed to meet its most basic responsibilities to protect refugees,» said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch (HRW). «The UN refugee agency has a mandate to protect refugees when a government is unable or unwilling. It needs to step in now and take over processing asylum claims,» he added. In a press release issued yesterday, HRW expressed concern that a presidential decree foreseeing emergency reforms – due to come into effect this month, following several postponements – had been delayed again following the recent government reshuffle. «The postponement of long-awaited interim fixes means that Greece is not even back to square one in the process of repairing an asylum system in need of a complete overhaul,» Frelick said. Some 45,000 applications for political asylum are currently pending in Greece. The country faces a double burden due to its location on the European Union’s southeastern external border and the bloc’s so-called Dublin II regulation, which dictates that would-be refugees apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, increasingly Greece. About 75 percent of the 106,200 undocumented migrants who entered the EU last year first arrived in Greece.

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