Tag Archive for 'asylum service'

“The odyssey of nonsense!”

One small obstacle among many to reunite with your family

Office hours of KEP office in Victoria Square

Today the day begins with a simple task – or so it seems. Habib* from Afghanistan is an asylum seeker in Greece and a lone parent to one six-year-old boy. His wife resides legally in Germany and she is sick with breast cancer. Habib needs to sign a power of attorney in order to be represented by a lawyer in Athens, who will fight for his and his children’s right to be reunited with his wife. 

According to recent changes in law, his signature must be verified and stamped by a municipality office (KEP) or at a police station to be accepted by the competent Asylum Service. Due to general restrictions in place because of Covid-19, the municipality office currently only see people face-to-face by appointment and only in urgent cases.

Powers of attorney declarations should be signed and verified online, however to access online services you must have either a tax number (AFM) and the online codes for Greece’s taxis.net platform or a bank account and access to online banking. Habib, like most people seeking protection in Greece, has none of these things since there are multiple administrative hurdles in order to get them. 

We call the KEP office in Victoria Square to make an appointment. They offer their next appointment which is in three weeks time. However, we are not sure if they will accept to conduct this bureaucratic task. In another similar case, the refugee went to an appointment at a KEP and was tuend away.

Habib and his family must act fast, so we head to the police station nearest to his address in Aghios Panteleimonas. It is shortly before 14 o clock, 26th May 2020. The police officers at the entrance are sitting on two chairs. The area around the entrance is blocked with security strings. They say that the police have received orders not to verify signatures anymore. Only half an hour earlier, in another police station in Athens not far away, another friend had signed his power of attorney in front of a police officer – the simple task was completed in just a few minutes. But in Aghios Panteleimonas the officers insist we must go away. 

We walk to the next police station in Kypseli. Now it is 14:30. A dozen citizens stand in front of the police station. “No verification of signatures today”, the officer says. “We have more important things to do now.” I try to insist and explain the fact that we have already been sent away once today by officers in a different station. The guard continues: “You can use the online platform at open.gov“. We reply that Habib has no tax number and no bank account. The officer looks surprised and says: “Then he can not be legally in Greece”. I don’t know if this is a Greek tragedy or what. Next to us a fellow citizen says that he needs to verify his signature to buy a motorbike today. He says, he tried many times to complete the task using the online platform but the system kept breaking down. He says, he has already lost his taxi business thanks to the economic crisis and he has a small baby now. He needs this motorbike to get a job as soon as possible. The officer answers that even his elderly father has enough IQ to use the internet platform. 

We continue to the police station in Exarchia. It is approx. 15:20. “Come back in two hours!” we are told. But nobody is standing in front of the police station. There is no queues. The situation is calm. We politely ask if it might be possible to verify our signature now, but are met with nothing but angry looks. 

At 15:54 we are at the police station in Omonia. The guard says that only residents of Omonia area can verify their signatures here. He is polite enough to ask the responsible officer if he can help us. But his superior’s line is the following: “You have to do the signature in the police station of your neighbourhood”. We inform him that Aghios Panteleimonas rejected to undertake such duties in general. He does not believe what we tell him. People being arrested pass us by and an hour later, an officer comes down at around 17:02. He tells us we should go to the police station of residence. No exceptions. 

At 17:30 we are at the police station where the day had begun successfully, with a friend having his signature verified for a power of attorney easily. The shift has changed and we are met by different staff. We are rejected here too. Go to your own neighbourhood or perform the signature online, they tell us. We are tired of explaining why this is not feasible and return back to our homes with empty hands. 

Thank you Greek government for the most impractical and repressive law reform!
Thank you police officers for refusing to complete a simple duty arbitrarily!

P.S. This is how a seemingly simple thing such as authorising a lawyer can become a huge obstacle to accessing your rights.

“Home is where your family is – together!”

A campaign to unite families separated between Germany and Greece (2)

Massoud* (17): “When I was in Greece, we lived in a tent.”

A mum and a dad with three young kids in Greece – their 17-year-old son alone in Germany

This family belongs to Hannover!

Morteza B.* (37) from Afghanistan escaped his country after the lives of his family were threatened. He arrived to Greece with his wife and four children shortly before the EU-Turkey ‘Deal’ was implemented at the end of February 2016. After a few months feeling unsafe in a Greek emergency refugee camp near Athens, the family tried to continue their flight through the Balkans.

More than ten times they were intercepted and unlawfully pushed back to Greece. Once they finally reached Serbian soil, they were intercepted again and pushed back arbitrarily to Bulgaria, where they had never been before.

In winter 2016, after a week-long odyssey, they were finally returned from Bulgaria to Greece. Left with no money, they saw no option but to send their eldest son Massoud* (now 17 years old) to Germany, where they thought he would be safe, as he had been the one along with his father threatened most in Afghanistan.

Their family reunification application was never sent by Greek authorities despite repeated promises. Instead after two years in Germany and despite having claimed asylum there, Germany attempted to return the family’s minor son back to Greece. When Greek authorities refused to take him back, he was allowed to continue his asylum procedure in Germany. He finally received a one year national humanitarian status (Abschiebungsverbot). He is legally resident in Germany and goes to school there ever since. But he is alone.

“Our son was almost kidnapped in Afghanistan. Masked men were waiting for him in front of his school. After this terror, we had to take our kids from school to keep them safe. We fled to Greece. We tried for months to move onward all together through Macedonia and Serbia as we felt unprotected among the hundreds of other Afghans around us.

On our way, we got illegally returned more than a dozen times. We were beaten, pushed by border guards, soldiers and police; our phones got stolen. We were forced to cross through the freezing waters of a river and were kept detained in Bulgaria for two months in miserable conditions and without being able to even go out.

Back in Greece, after our son reached safety in Germany and when we informed the Greek Asylum Service that we wanted to apply for family reunification they just told us they would send it but we had to wait. Every time we renewed our papers, they’d say the same pushing our patience beyond its limits. Until that day I will never forget, when they suddenly said: “No! We will not send your family reunification request. You will have your asylum procedure in Greece.” I felt I was breaking.

Me and my wife still try to understand that we will have our asylum interview in Greece in one year, exactly five years after we reached Europe, when we will have been separated far away from our son for 3 1/2 years already.

We still live in this refugee camp, a container village in an industrial area. My wife is suffering from severe psychological problems for years, she has therapy and takes medicines. Her situation worsened after the violence we faced at Europe’s borders, but her health is devastated since our eldest child is so far from us.

We have a few neighbours that have been with us all the time in the camp – they have created little gardens on the dusty soil. But I cannot think of putting even one plant in this earth, as we cannot build anything like ‘home’ when one of us is missing.

Home is where your family is – together!” 

On the other side of the continent, up in the North, the 17-year-old Massoud* is counting the days to see his family again.

“I miss my family. I wish they come here to live with me in a house. When I was in Greece, we lived in a tent. There was no language lessons, no school. I was very scared to go out alone. When my parents decided I had to move to Germany alone, I was only 13. They were scared to let me go and I was scared to travel alone, but I was more scared to stay in Greece.

I speak every day on the phone with my family. I want to give them strength. The good thing about Germany is that I am not afraid to go out and that I can go to school again. In my future I want to become a cook. I learned cooking by myself when I arrived in Germany and I had to take care of myself. My mum often cries when we talk on phone, but she is happy that I learned to cook, because she doesn’t need to worry about me being hungry. She knows I can fill my stomach now with tasty food.”

* names changed

Protest of refugee families against delayed transfers to their beloved ones in Germany

Today again dozens of refugee families gathered in Athens in front of the Asylum Service at Katekhaki to demand their immediate transfer to Germany. At the same time, some others gathered for a protest in Heraklion, Crete Island.

“We escaped the war in Syria as a family. On our way to Europe we got separated from our small daughter, when the smugglers split us in groups by force. We didn’t know if she is alive for months and we haven’t seen her for more than three years. We got stuck in Greece before two years but got the acceptance to go to Germany already back in March 2017,” says the father F. His wife cannot talk anymore without crying. “I just miss my daughter,” she says with tears in her eyes.

The mothers and children in front of the Asylum Service pound on the metal fence around the Asylum Services gate shouting loudly: “We want to go! We want to go!”
Continue reading ‘Protest of refugee families against delayed transfers to their beloved ones in Germany’

If the border to FYROM closes, reception conditions in Athens for refugees will become unbearable!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

copyright: Chrissi Wilkens

The borders along the Balkan Route are getting every day more militarized and difficult to cross for transit refugees in Greece. Since two months just protection seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan can pass the greek-macedonian border near Idomeni. Refugees of other nationalities are therefore forced to chose hidden paths and try to go to Northern Europe with the help of smugglers using dangerous routes. Many of them actually get stuck in Greece under inhuman and degrading conditions due to a lack of money to continue their perilous journey. The country is unable to cope with the steady peak in number of arrivals – i.e. last year there were more than 860,000 coming to Greece. According to recent media reports, the EU plans to practically ‘fence’ Greece in order to stop the (safe) passage of refugees. Plans include the threat to kick Greece out of the Sengen Zone if the government doesn’t improve border controls. A closure of the border along the Balkan route would lead without doubt to a massive humanitarian crisis in Greece when thousands of refugees have to stay in limbo in a country without any infrastructure which is itself hit strongly by half a decade of economic crisis.

“I am trying since more than one month to make an asylum request at the Asylum Service in Athens, but I can’t get access!”, says A. a 19-year-old refugee from Sierra Leone who is staying in the open transfer camp in the district of Elaionas in Athens. Continue reading ‘If the border to FYROM closes, reception conditions in Athens for refugees will become unbearable!’

The first year of the Asylum Service in numbers

In a Press Release concerning the first year of its functioning (June 2013-May 2014) the Asylum Service reported that 8,945 persons applied for asylum of which most were from Afghans. Among the asylum seekers were also 430 unaccompanied minors.

In first instance 926 persons received international protection status (643 refugee status, 283 subsidiary) mainly coming from Palestine, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. 3,674 first instance applications were negative.

The recognition rate in first instance reached 20,1 % while 1,344 applications were closed for different reasons.
In average the asylum procedure takes 122 days according to the Press Release, nevertheless refugees report periods of up to some months until they manage to put their asylum claim while cueing every day from the early morning.

1,162 made a subsequent claim. Many of which might have been detainees as they are reportedly often advised falsely by police officers to withdraw from their claims in order to be released sooner from detention. 1,695 persons applied for asylum from inside detention centres. At the same time 2,807 appeals were made against first instance rejections. Of 2,015 second instance decisions 86,1% were negative.

Most asylum claims are proceeded in the Asylum Service in Athens (81,6%) but there are also offices in the periphery, namely in North and South Evros, in Lesvos, Rhodes as well as asylum service teams in Amigdaleza, Thessaloniki and Patras. It is still a great obstacle for all international protection seekers living in other areas of Greece to reach to one of the asylum services.

Finally, a large number of asylum claims are still proceeded by the Aliens Police Directorate in Petrou Ralli, Athens. Asylum seekers in the “old system” are still waiting after years to get their claims answered while they face other kinds of obstacles with the procedures. This “two class asylum system” has been criticised since the beginning of the Asylum Service.

See all statistics here in English

source: Ministry of Citizen Protection and Public Order 16.6.14 (in greek)

Mass rejection of renewal of 2-year refugee status

How “real” asylum recognition rates are in Greece in reality… About the temporariness of being a recognised refugee in Greece:

by D. Angelidis

The General Secretary of the Ministry of Citizen Protection and Public Order, Mr Ath. Andreoulakos is destroying consciously and illegally the work of the Asylum Committees while he is rejecting arbitrarily the renewal of the two-year protection status (subsidiary and humanitarian) of many refugees who then end up without papers.

(…)

NGOs speak of an industry of rejections when it comes to the renewal of humanitarian or subsidiary protection in Greece. The refugees who understood they had to renew their papers and who applied for that depend on the decision of the General Secretary of the Ministry. It is highly questionable if he has the expertise to take such a decision, but he doesn’t even examine case by case if the grounds of persecution in each case are still valid, instead he actually just rejects the applications and turns upside down the decisions which were taken two years ago by the Asylum Committees.
Continue reading ‘Mass rejection of renewal of 2-year refugee status’

Numbers of arrested migrants/refugees in Greece decrease by 46,2% / Asylum Service published statistics

The Greek Police in its most recent statistics on 2013 anounced that police and coast guard together from January to December of the same year had arrested 39.759 foreigners without papers instead of 73.976 in 2012. This is a decrease of 46,2%.

From January to November 2013 “only” 955 foreigners were arrested in Evros at the land border to Turkey for “illegal entry”. In 2012 the number outreached 30,000.

While there was an overall decrease in arrivals there was also a shift of migration routes from the land border to the Aegean sea. In Mytilene 3,539 persons were arrested from January to November 2013 compared to 1,101 in the year before. On Samos island 2,914 were arrested in 2013 compared to 884 in 2012. In total 10,481 persons were arrested in he Aegean for “illegal entry” compared to 2,960 in 2012.

The largest group among the 39,759 arrested in Greece in 2013 are ALbanians (14,366), followed by Syrians (7,665), Afghans (5,960), Pakistani (3,744) and Bangladeshi (1,398).

Furthermore, from August 2012 (start of operation Xenios Dias) to the end of 2013 34,808 persons (either through IOM “voluntarily” either in deportations carried out by the Greek police and sometimes in cooperation with Frontex). In 2013 26.186 persons were returned compared to 22.117 in 2012 – an increase of 18,4%.

In 2012 40 persons were returned to Greece based on Dublin procedures from other EU-countries.

kathimerini (in greek)

Asylum Service

According to the president of the Service the Athens office takes 40 asylum applications per day while another 10-20 are taken in the other offices (Orestiada and Alexandroupoli / Evros, Rhodes and Mytilene / Aegean. Mobile units also work in Amigdaleza prison and in Thessaloniki. More offices are planned in Samos, Chios, Heraklion and Patras.). The backlog which is still proceeded by the Aliens Police in Petrou Ralli has been decreased to 27,000.

NGOs though criticise the long queues at Katechaki street, the malfunctioning of a proper procedure to filter vulnerable cases and the insufficiency of translation in all languages. More than hat, the Asylum Service seems to be supportive and thus cooperative with the Greek Police concerning the long detention of asylum applicants.

The Asylum Office states that asylum applications of detainees are proceeded within 43 days (compared to the aim of proceeded the other asylum cases in a period of 90 days).

Within 7 months the asylum service which started its work on June 7th, 2013 has proceeded 5.577 asylum applications from 77 countries.

The asylum recognition rate reaches from around zero for nationals from Albania and Georgia up to 99,1% for Syrians and 100% for Somalis. In average the first decision comes after 63 days.

In the first stance decision from June 7th 2013 to end of January 2014 11,6% received political asylum and 5,2% subsidiary. Most of them come from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Eritrea and Sudan. Compared to that in 2012 the overall recognition rate was 0,9%.

Currently 207 persons work for the Asylum Service.

In 2013 674 persons who had applied for family reunification under Dublin III were accepted to leave Greece.

kathimerini (in greek)

Statistics New Asylum Service Greece 2013

The new asylum service reached now its first six months of functioning in Athens. Also in Fylakio, Alexandroupoli and Lesvos three asylum offices were opened meanwhile. Soon also in Rhodes (end of 2013), later in 2014 in Thessaloniki, Samos, Chios, Iraklio/ Crete and Patra asylum offices will open.

Statistics (7.6. – 29.11.13)

– 4.189 asylum applications were registered of which 3.162 were male applicants, 1.027 female and 171 unaccompanied minors (4,1% of total)
– 1.670 first instance decisions were taken and 411 were cut
– 213 received a protection status (12,8% of the applicants) of which 149 were recognised as political refugees and 64 received subsidiary protection
– 24,9% of the positive first instance decisions concerned Syrians, 18,3% Afghans, 9,4% Eritreans, 8% Sudanese, 6,1% Iranians and 5,6% Ethiopians
– the highest recognition rate concerns: 1. Syrians (98,1%), followed by Sudanese (89,5%), Eritreans (83,3%), Ethiopia (54,5%) and Afghanistan (47,6%)
– 1.457 applications were rejected in the first instance (87,2%)
– from 11.7.13 until 29.11 803 appeals were made, of which 462 were proceeded and 20 received a protection status while 442 were rejected
Continue reading ‘Statistics New Asylum Service Greece 2013’

The infomobile

... is like a “paper boat”. We chose this as a metaphor for what we want to create and for the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. The paper boat is a folded boat able to swim – for a while. Then you have to build a new one to go on travelling. A paper boat is symbolic for the journey of life, vulnerable but in your own hands and to be recreated again and again. It is simple, but it carries many hopes and dreams. It can dance on a turbulent sea. It belongs to everybody. And it might become the small version – like a first draft – of a welcome-space.

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