Greece: Update on Moria: mainland travel permitted for some; concerns over growing EASO role in asylum procedure; deportations without due process

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Update on Moria: mainland travel permitted for some; concerns over growing EASO role in asylum procedure; deportations without due process
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Lesvos Legal Centre reports that on Friday 7th September the Greek government began lifting the geographical restrictions for individuals classified as vulnerable who are attempting to claim asylum in Lesvos.

This is supposed to enable around 5,000 people to leave the Moria detention centre/hotspot and travel to the mainland.

This 'solution' to the overcrowding in Moria will not, however, be sufficient to address the needs of the estimated 11,000 people trapped on Lesvos, the vast majority held in Moria or living in the 'Olive Grove' next to it. Numbers will increase in the coming weeks as arrivals continue on the island on a daily basis.

Further problems will result as the eligibility interviews will still take place on the island - anyone leaving to the mainland will have to return for their interview if/when they are given a date. Currently applicants can wait up to a year for their asylum interview.

The role of the European Asylum Support Office

In addition, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is now ever-more engaged in the asylum process, following changes to Greek legislation which allow EASO officials to conduct asylum interviews of vulnerable applicants (previously only the Greek Asylum Service could conduct these interviews).

This is a dangerous development indicating the future role of EASO across Europe, in the context of plans to establish "closed centres" elsewhere, following the 'hotspot' model. Yesterday, the European Commission published a new proposal (European Commission, link) for a revamped legal basis for EASO, that would give the agency "the necessary mandate, tools and financial means needed to provide a rapid and full service to Member States throughout the asylum procedure."

The asylum procedure on the Greek islands, conducted by the Greek Asylum Service and EASO, has already been shown to fail core legal standards, as set out in a report by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR): EASO's involvement Greek Hotspots exceeds the agency's competence and disregards fundamental rights (link to pdf)

ECCHR has recently appealed to the European Ombudsperson not to suspend its enquiry into EASO maladministration in the Greek hotspots (press release, pdf), saying that the agency "must be held to account for blatant failures in its work in the Greek Hotspots."

Deportations from Lesvos

A deportation took place from Lesvos on Friday 7th September of one man, to Pakistan. Deportations are reported to be taking place without due process or scrutiny, as detailed in a new report from Detention Monitoring Aegean and Legal Centre Lesbos: Stop deportation to Turkey - people trapped on the Greek islands are deprived of basic rights (Legal Centre Lesbos, link)

The report explains that:

"Others are deported quicker under a so-called pilot-project that targets migrants from countries with low recognition rates for international protection. They are detained upon arrival in a prison (a so-called “pre-removal center”) and in most cases have to undergo their asylum procedure without any preparation and legal support. As a result, they get caught in the cycle of unjust detention and foreseeable deportation. Some people do not even get the chance to explain their need for protection before being deported as their asylum claims are categorized as “inadmissible” under the so-called fast-track border procedure implemented on the Greek Islands."

The detention of many asylum seekers upon arrival to Lesvos is with the intention to process their applications in an accelerated procedure and deport them. This policy is currently applied to all foreigners from countries with a low recognition rate for receiving international protection, meaning those from nearly all African countries.

See also

GREECE: Lesvos: Moria camp "dangerous to public health" and majority of detainees "never feel safe" (Statewatch News Online, 11 September 2018)

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