AYS NEWS DIGEST 16.02.17 — Enforcement of Dublin Regulations for Greece: What does this mean?

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  • The recommendation only applies to refugees who enter Greece illegally after the deadline of March 15, 2017 or receive international protection in Greece after that date. Whoever is currently in Greece or arrives before this deadline will not be affected by the Commission’s recommendation. This measure can be seen as an extension or the consequence to the (failing) EU-Turkey deal. Refugees who arrived in Greece after March 20, 2016 were supposed to be sent back to Turkey. In fact, this largely has not happened, because courts have ruled in several cases that Turkey is not a safe country for refugees. Greek authorities have threatened to transfer refugees from the islands to the mainland, which would mean that they could continue to Northern Europe on their own without waiting for finals decisions on their asylum applications. In order to discourage people from doing this, EU Member States now want to come back to Dublin Regulations.
  • If member states adopt the Commission’s recommendations, they will not send back asylum seekers back to Greece retroactively.
  • It’s a only recommendation. “It is a non-binding Recommendation from the Commission to the Member States,” the Commission states in its FAQs. This means that the governments of each Member State must decide independently whether or not to follow the Dublin Regulations again.
  • Any return to Dublin policies will happen “under the control of the courts, which may make preliminary references to the European Court of Justice on the interpretation of the Dublin Regulation.” Even if national authorities want to start sending back refugees to Greece, individuals can sue to block being transferred.
  • The Dublin Regulation to send back refugees was suspended in 2011 by two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The recommendation of the Commission can be seen as attempt to see if the courts still see systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum system. Several humanitarian Organisations, including AYS, do. Inappropriate shelters, insufficient access to education and the slow efforts in relocations and family reunions from Greece are only some of the most important problems.
  • No EU Member State has thus far announced their intentions to adopt the Commission’s recommendation. There have only been media reports of individual countries’ plans to do so.
  • Even if Member States return to applying the Dublin Regulations to Greece, it is a bureaucratic process. They cannot send back asylum seekers immediately. The Dublin Regulation means that the country has to request that the authorities of the first EU Member State the asylum seeker had entered (in this case Greece) take the refugees back and work on their asylum applications. The authorities can deny the request, and if the return does not happen within six months, it is no longer valid. If the asylum seeker is not sent back to Greece within this time frame, the host country that requested the return is responsible for the asylum request. (These policies are laid out here.)
  • If a refugee is sent back to Greece from another country, Greece would be responsible for the asylum application. Once there, the claimant can also ask to be reunited with their family.
  • Vulnerable applicants, including unaccompanied minors, should not be transferred to Greece at all for the time being.

Greece

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