Retour Report on Greece, letter to Croatia and Human Rights Comment on LGBTI asylum seekers

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Report on Greece, letter to Croatia and Human Rights Comment on LGBTI asylum seekers

On 6 November 2018, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, published a report on her visit to Greece carried out in June. “Greece should take urgent steps and adopt long-term policies to improve the reception and integration of migrants and to reverse the adverse effects of austerity measures on access to health care and education”, she said. The Commissioner warns that despite the commendable efforts made by Greece’s people and authorities to welcome migrants, the reception conditions remain well below acceptable standards, especially on the islands. “The authorities have to urgently address the poor hygiene conditions, the psychological distress and the uncertainty that are threatening the health of migrants and asylum seekers on the islands. They should in particular accelerate transfers to the mainland and improve migrant reception capacities there too. Greece’s European partners should demonstrate their solidarity by supporting Greece in its efforts to improve reception conditions”, says the Commissioner.

On 5 October 2018, the Commissioner published her exchange of letters with the Prime Minister of Croatia. The Commissioner raised concerns about allegations of collective expulsions of 2 500 migrants since the beginning of 2018, and about reported violence and other crimes by law enforcement officials. She called on the Croatian authorities to carry out prompt, effective and independent investigations into these allegations, and to take measures to end such practices and prevent their recurrence.

On 11 October 2018, the Commissioner published her Human Rights Comment ‘Open minds are needed to improve the protection of LGBTI asylum seekers in Europe’. In the Comment, she noted the hostile environment of LGBTI persons around the world, which may lead some of them to seek asylum in Council of Europe member states. However, LGBTI asylum seekers are faced with a number of challenges to finding protection there. These include, firstly, the lack of recognition in national laws of the fact that a well-founded persecution on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics brings a person within the scope of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Secondly, she noted that LGBTI asylum seekers may face stereotyping, disbelief and humiliation in the asylum procedure, which may prevent them from putting forward the information necessary to be recognised as a refugee. Finally, the Commissioner noted the importance of early identification of the vulnerabilities and needs of LGBTI asylum seekers. In particular, member states should ensure safe reception conditions, including protection from harassment or discrimination by other asylum seekers. She called on Council of Europe member states to look at the application of existing tools for assessing vulnerabilities in their national context. She also called on member states to engage in further research and exchange about how to ensure safe reception conditions and the provision of specific care LGBTI asylum seekers.