UNHCR position document issued

Briefing Notes, 18 April 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 April 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has issued a position document advising governments to refrain from returning asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation until further notice.

The Dublin Regulation provides for a system to determine responsibility for examining asylum claims lodged in the European Union according to specific criteria, and aims to ensure that each claim is fairly examined by one Member State to deter multiple applications and enhance efficiency.

While the Government of Greece has taken a number of steps to improve its asylum system and practice, a substantial number of asylum seekers continue to face serious challenges in accessing and enjoying effective protection in line with international and European standards. Essential procedural safeguards are not guaranteed throughout the refugee status determination process, both at first and second instance, to the detriment of asylum seekers. They also often lack the most basic entitlements, such as interpreters and legal aid to ensure that their claims receive adequate scrutiny from the asylum authorities.

As a result, asylum seekers continue to face undue hardships in having their claims heard and adequately adjudicated. Moreover, reception conditions in Greece continue to fall short of international and European standards.

UNHCR calls upon the Government of Greece to promptly review its asylum procedure at first and second instances and in so doing take in due consideration UNHCR's advice. Furthermore, other governments and the European Commission are encouraged to reinforce their support to Greece.

UNHCR remains committed to continue supporting the Government of Greece in strengthening its asylum system to a level reflecting international and European standards and good practice.