The judges in Karlsruhe have spoken: The claimant, a Syrian refugee, must not be deported to Greece. Photo: Flickr / Mehr Demokratie / cc-by-sa-2.0

Germany and other European states are cranking up the deportation pressure on Greece. It is not just about the admission of people under the Dublin regulation; even individuals recognised as refugees are targeted. A decision published on May 24th, 2017 by the German Federal Constitutional Court has now put a damper on such endeavours.

The case had been brought by a Syri­an refu­gee who had ente­red Ger­ma­ny in July 2015 and appli­ed for asyl­um in Decem­ber 2015. In a hea­ring at the Fede­ral Office for Migra­ti­on and Refu­gees (BAMF) he sta­ted that he had alre­a­dy been gran­ted asyl­um in Greece, but that he had no recei­ved any sup­port by the sta­te of Greece and had been living on the streets.

Asylum application rejected by BAMF

In a decis­i­on from Novem­ber 8th, 2016, the Fede­ral Office found the asyl­um appli­ca­ti­on to be inad­mis­si­ble. The clai­mant appea­led in due time against the decis­i­on and appli­ed for a sus­pen­si­on of the pro­ce­du­re. The Admi­nis­tra­ti­ve Court (VG) in Min­den rejec­ted this appeal in a decis­i­on from Decem­ber 14th, 2016.

The Admi­nis­tra­ti­ve Court in Min­den ter­se­ly sta­ted that from the available sources it was not pos­si­ble to infer that in Greece reco­g­nis­ed refu­gees were sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly trea­ted any worse than Greek natio­nals, and that, in any case, con­di­ti­ons for refu­gees had impro­ved. The court also poin­ted to recom­men­da­ti­ons by the EU Com­mis­si­on, accor­ding to which Dub­lin trans­fers to Greece should be recom­men­ced from March 2017.

The Federal Constitutional Court stops the deportation

The Fede­ral Con­sti­tu­tio­nal Court made an objec­tion, sta­ting that the Admi­nis­tra­ti­ve Court should at least have con­side­red the ques­ti­on “how access to shel­ter, food and sani­ta­ry faci­li­ties would be safe­guard­ed for reco­g­nis­ed refu­gees retur­ned to Greece at least in the first peri­od after their arri­val there”.

»I have been living in Athens for three years. […] I own not­hing. I do not recei­ve any­thing form the sta­te. I sim­ply wish for a life in dignity.«

N.S., a Pal­es­ti­ni­an woman from Syria

In reality, refugees cannot access any support in Greece

The Fede­ral Minis­try for the Inte­ri­or poin­ted out in a state­ment that uni­ver­sal social secu­ri­ty bene­fits of €200 were to be intro­du­ced in Greece by Janu­ary 1st, 2017, which would also be due to reco­g­nis­ed refu­gees. Howe­ver, accor­ding to the Minis­try, appli­ca­ti­ons could only be made from Febru­ary 1st onwards, and to date the­re was no prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence of how the sche­me would work.

A form of social sup­port for peo­p­le with espe­ci­al­ly low inco­mes has inde­ed been in place sin­ce Febru­ary 2017. In prac­ti­ce, howe­ver, the­se bene­fits are not acces­si­ble for refu­gees, as clai­mants have to pro­du­ce, among other docu­ments, a ten­an­cy agree­ment, a tax return and details of a bank account.

The majo­ri­ty of refu­gees in Greece, and espe­ci­al­ly tho­se wit­hout fixed abo­de, can­not meet such for­mal requi­re­ments. Food vou­ch­ers dis­pen­sed by indi­vi­du­al local admi­nis­tra­ti­ons can also only be acces­sed by mee­ting simi­lar­ly high preconditions.

Social rights for refugees exist only on paper

This means that social rights for refu­gees do exist on paper, but in prac­ti­ce are not gua­ran­teed. “The safe­guar­ding of basic social rights curr­ent­ly is chal­len­ging both for asyl­um see­kers and bene­fi­ci­a­ries of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion in Greece. The coun­try does not have a com­pre­hen­si­ve inte­gra­ti­on stra­tegy, and the­re is a lack of spe­ci­fic mea­su­res aimed at the refu­gee popu­la­ti­on,” said the UNHCR to our part­ner orga­ni­sa­ti­on in Greece, Refu­gee Sup­port Aege­an (RSA), in Febru­ary 2017.

State help available only after decades

In their decis­i­on the jud­ges in Karls­ru­he also cri­ti­cis­ed the fact that the Admi­nis­tra­ti­ve Court had not con­side­red the fact that “accor­ding to fin­dings by the clai­mant, social bene­fits in Greece requi­re legal resi­den­cy in the coun­try of up to 20 years, which is why reco­g­nis­ed refu­gees are all but excluded from acces­sing such benefits.”

By way of exam­p­le, RSA con­firms that, accor­ding to cur­rent Greek law, fami­lies with more than two child­ren will only recei­ve sta­te aid if they have lived legal­ly in Greece for over 10 years. Hard­ly any reco­g­nis­ed refu­gees will be able to meet such leng­thy resi­den­cy requirements.

On the situation of the people concerned

N.S., a Pal­es­ti­ni­an woman from Syria: “I have been living in Athens for three years. Only this year have I been gran­ted asyl­um. It was very hard to make the appli­ca­ti­on in the first place. Now I’m living with fri­ends as I do not have my own flat, and I get my food from various orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. I own not­hing. I don’t recei­ve any­thing from the sta­te. I’m curr­ent­ly wai­ting for my tra­vel docu­ments, and as soon as I have recei­ved them I want to lea­ve. I sim­ply wish for a life in digni­ty, not­hing more. The Greek peo­p­le are won­derful, but I can­not sur­vi­ve here.”