Need to halt transfers of asylum seekers to Greece: Commissioner
Hammarberg intervenes in the Strasbourg Court
Strasbourg, 01/09/10 –
“Asylum seekers, including persons transferred under the ‘Dublin
Regulation’, face extremely harsh conditions in Greece” said the Council
of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in a hearing today before the
Strasbourg Court concerning the case of an Afghan asylum seeker returned
from Belgium to Greece.
In his first-ever oral intervention as a third party before the European
Court of Human Rights, Commissioner Hammarberg provided his observations
on major issues concerning refugee protection in Greece, including
asylum procedures and human rights safeguards, as well as asylum
seekers’ reception and detention conditions.
While expressing his full support to the Greek government’s decision and
ongoing efforts to overhaul the refugee protection system and overcome
its structural deficiencies, the Commissioner observed that the current
asylum law and practice in Greece are not in compliance with
international and European human rights standards.
“Asylum seekers in Greece continue to face enormous difficulties trying
to gain access to the asylum procedure, and do not always enjoy basic
safeguards such as interpretation and legal aid. Moreover, existing
remedy to appeal against negative asylum applications cannot be
considered as effective.”
The Commissioner expressed his particular concern that asylum seekers
transferred to Greece may face the risk of being returned to a country
where their life and limb would be in danger. He also stressed that
reception conditions in Greece are far from satisfactory.
“Under the ‘Dublin Regulation’ certain countries face the challenge of
dealing with numbers of asylum applications beyond their capacities”.
Commissioner Hammarberg added that he “supports the European
Commission’s proposal for a mechanism that would suspend transfers and
give states under particular strain short-term relief from their
responsibilities under the ‘Dublin Regulation’, as well as the
possibility to seek financial or technical assistance to cope with the
situation. Such a system could help ensure that asylum seekers are not
denied their right to a full and fair determination of their asylum
Today’s oral submission complements the written observations submitted
to the Court on 31 May 2010 in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and
Greece. These observations are based on the Commissioner’s visits to
Greece from 8 to 10 December 2008 and from 8 to 10 February 2010, as
well as on continuous country monitoring.
Link to the third party intervention
Link to the video of the hearing
Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37;
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