3 April 2008








PR 5/ 4/2008/Ext/CN/SP





Spotlight on Greece - EU asylum lottery under fire


In an open letter sent to the European Commission and the 27 Member States ECRE, an alliance of refugee groups across Europe, calls for measures to be taken to safeguard the rights of asylum seekers entering the EU via Greece. Greece has the lowest rate of asylum-seeker application approval in the European Union. It gave the green light to only 0.04% of requests last year, 0.05% in 2006 and recognised only 39 and 11 refugees in 2005 and 2004 respectively. Afghans and Iraqis fleeing war make up the bulk of those who seek asylum in Greece, fearing political persecution in their countries.


Under the so-called Dublin system, the first EU Member State that an asylum seeker enters should be the one to examine the application. By requiring that those fleeing persecution must claim asylum in the first EU country they reach, the Dublin system fails to take account of the fact that a person’s chance of being recognised as a refugee varies hugely from one EU country to another. Greece is not a safe place for those in need of protection” said Bjarte Vandvik Secretary General of ECRE.  


On 7 February 2008, Norway took the decision to suspend the Dublin system and examine the applications of all asylum seekers who had passed through Greece on their way to Norway. The Norwegian authorities’ decision followed new information about the violation of asylum seekers’ rights in Greece. Germany has stopped transferring separated children back to Greece and other states are also reviewing their policies on whether it is safe to return asylum seekers there. ECRE calls on all Member States to follow the example of Norway by immediately suspending Dublin transfers to Greece.


The rights of asylum seekers in Greece are routinely violated. Ahmed is an asylum seeker from Iraq. He told us that he first fled to Syria, then Turkey before finally reaching Greece, where he was arrested, beaten by police and detained for one month on a remote island. Before being released from prison, Ahmed agreed to have his fingerprints taken on the understanding that it would not prevent him from lodging an asylum request in another EU country. Since Ahmed was homeless and harassed by the police he decided to contact a smuggler to help him travel to Sweden, where he was told that he would have to be returned to Greece because his fingerprints had been taken there. To avoid being deported, Ahmed fled to Norway. “I ask for your mercy because of all the obstacles that I have experienced”.


The current situation in Greece is just one symptom of more fundamental and far-reaching flaws inherent in the Dublin system as highlighted in a new ECRE report. ECRE’s findings reveal the injustices of the Dublin system, which fails to protect the rights of asylum seekers because it is based on the false assumption that there is a level playing field of protection across the EU.


ECRE calls on the European Commission to take account of the recommendations in its report when proposing amendments to the Dublin Regulation later this year. These include measures to: