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Two NGOs file complaints for violation of rights of asylum seekers in Greece


Oxfam and WeMove Europe filed a complaint with the European Commission on Tuesday, accusing Greece of violating the rights of thousands of asylum seekers on its soil. The objective for the associations is to open an infringement procedure against Athens so that the Court of Justice of the European Union obliges Greece to respect the law in force on the Old Continent. A few days before the presentation by the European Commission of a long-awaited proposal for reform of asylum policy in the EU, the international NGO Oxfam and the citizens’ movement WeMove Europe want to draw attention to the plight of thousands of ‘exiles in Greece. The two organizations announced on Tuesday September 22 that they had filed a complaint with the European Commission asking it to open infringement proceedings against Greece, which they accuse of violating the rights of asylum seekers.

“If the European Commission wants to show that the New Pact on Asylum and Migration aims to improve the asylum system in Europe, it must also demonstrate its determination to ensure that all Member States respect human rights and human dignity ”, reacted Marissa Ryan, director of the European office of Oxfam, in a statement. However, Oxfam and WeMove Europe believe that the current treatment of asylum seekers in Greece, framed by a new law on asylum, does not “respect European law”. Entered into force on January 1, 2020 and amended in May 2020, the new text provides in particular to prevent those who do not have a legal representative(Lawyer) to appeal in the event of rejection of their asylum application. The appeal period has also been considerably reduced and very frequently expires before the asylum seeker is even informed of the rejection of his case.

In Lesvos, where most asylum seekers in Greece live, only one lawyer is recognized by the state for some 13,000 people. “It is therefore practically impossible for asylum seekers to have access to an effective remedy, which is nevertheless a fundamental pillar of European law,” notes Oxfam. According to the two complainants, “the only way” to respond to breaches of EU law lies in the opening of “infringement proceedings” by the Commission. The EU executive can identify possible violations of EU law on the basis of its own investigations or following complaints from citizens or other registered parties. The Commission can then initiate a formal infringement procedure when the country concerned does not remedy the alleged violation of Union law and decides, after a certain number of steps, to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Communities (CJEU).

In the event of an unfavorable judgment by the Court against Greece, financial penalties are frequently imposed in addition to the immediate measures to be implemented to comply with EU law. More than 1,500 infringement proceedings against European law are currently underway at the CJEU, according to the latest annual report on this subject from the European Commission published on July 31.  In 2019 alone, the Commission launched 797 infringement procedures, the largest number of which are in the areas of environment, industry and transport.

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