Is Greece unnecessarily and perhaps unwittingly putting more refugees at risk?
According to the EU-Turkey statement, “all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey”.
One of the main modifications brought about by Greek law has been the establishment of an extremely truncated fast-track border procedure, applicable in exceptional cases.
The accelerated border procedure applies to arrivals at the Greek border after 20 March 2016 and takes place in the Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) (detention centres) of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos.
Admissibility type interviews which determine whether your case is heard in Greece or in Turkey as part of the EU Turkey deal are conducted by EASO staff.
Last April, following the announcement of the deal, the Greeks passed law 4375 and exempted Dublin family reunification cases and vulnerable cases from border procedures, which means that people arriving in Greece who are eligible to reunite with their families will not be sent back to Turkey. Instead their case is processed under the Dublin III agreement.
In December 2016 A Joint Action Plan of the EU Coordinator on the implementation of certain provisions of the EU-Turkey statement recommended that Dublin family reunification cases and vulnerable cases be included in the fast-track border procedure and be examined under an admissibility procedure.
The Greek Asylum Service recently produced a new flowchart that explains the procedures. Notice that there is a new procedure with a dotted line on the chart:
Alarmingly, this indicates that the law will be amended and family reunification cases will potentially no longer be exempt from border procedures and potentially be sent back to Turkey. This would almost certainly make it difficult if not impossible for individuals, including unaccompanied minors, who have family elsewhere in Europe, to reunite with their families.
As far as we know, the Greek government has not yet voted to change the law, although it has been reported that the Greek MP’s may have discussed the law change in Parliament on the 13th March. So, it is very odd that the new procedure is indicated on the flowchart.
Prior warning of a change in the law could mean that people making the dangerous crossing over the sea would reconsider the journey and instead consider reunification options available to them in Turkey. Therefore, in our opinion, it follows that warning families that their chances of being able to reunite with their families from Greece is slim, could save many lives.
The question is, is the law going to be changed? The question, which has been asked, is not getting a satisfactory answer.
More as we have it.