UNHCR is submitting today a set of recommendations to address the continued gaps in the protection and asylum situation in Greece to the new authorities. UNHCR welcomes positive steps made in the last months since the elections and urges the authorities to further implement reforms needed. Among the various gaps these recommendations seek to address are: difficulties in accessing the asylum procedure; a continuing backlog of unresolved cases under the old procedure, risk of arbitrary detention, inadequate reception conditions, lack of identification and support for individuals with specific needs, push-backs at the border, concerns over integration prospects and support for refugees, and xenophobia and racist violence. In light of these, it extended the advice it first made in 2008, of not returning asylum seekers to Greece. Many of these challenges in the asylum system in Greece were highlighted in the report that UNHCR released in January 2015, based on an assessment that was carried out in the last quarter of 2014.
UNHCR acknowledges that there are areas of progress in the Greek system and welcomes steps taken by the new authorities recently. Chief among them is the change in the administrative detention of third country nationals, resulting in a reduction in the length of the detention period. In addition, and for the first time, a portfolio of Alternate Minister of Migration Policy was created, which will contribute to the streamlining of asylum and migration related issues.
We hope that the implementation of these recommendations, will allow the Government of Greece to better manage its borders in a protection sensitive manner that allows persons seeking international protection to do so; ensure access to effective asylum procedures; put adequate first and second line reception mechanisms in place that promptly identify persons with special needs; protects persons in need of international protection against acts of racism and xenophobia; and better support the integration of recognized refugees. If implemented, the recommendations would also result for the first time in the establishment of a national statelessness determination procedure according to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless.
UNHCR is aware that for these and other interventions to be effective, it is important that dedicated funding continues to be provided for the improvement of the asylum system, and that the Greek authorities adopt a number of internal measures that would allow this funding to be sustainable.
UNHCR stands ready to continue working with the Greek authorities towards implementation of these recommendations and encourages EU Member states and institutions to continue to extend their support to Greece, including through a pilot relocation programme for Syrian refugees.
The full set of UNHCR recommendations is available at the following link: http://www.unhcr.gr/fileadmin/Greece/Extras/Greece/2015_EN_R.pdf