„A cru­cial day for refu­gee pro­tec­tion in Europe“

Athens/Chios/Frankfurt: Today the hig­hest Greek Court will hold a hea­ring to exami­ne whe­ther Tur­key is a „safe first coun­try of asyl­um“, as pre­su­med by the EU-Tur­key Deal. It will hear the case of two Syri­ans who­se asyl­um appli­ca­ti­ons had been dee­med inad­mis­si­ble on first and second ins­tance exami­na­ti­on and who the­r­e­fo­re are at risk of being depor­ted to Tur­key. Their cases were never exami­ned on the merits. This is the second hea­ring at the Coun­cil of Sta­te to be hold about this case. Pre­vious­ly the 4th Cham­ber of the Coun­cil of Sta­te deci­ded after a public hea­ring on 29. Novem­ber 2016  to refer the case to the ple­na­ry given the importance of the issues raised.

The legal team of Refu­gee Sup­port Aege­an (RSA)[1] repres­ents one of the two Syri­ans. RSA’s stance is that Tur­key is not a safe third coun­try and that the so cal­led „Inde­pen­dent Appeals Com­mit­tees“ who dee­med the two appli­cants as inad­mis­si­ble are in fact unconstitutional.

Until today no refu­gee from Syria has been depor­ted to Tur­key on the basis that Tur­key is a safe third coun­try. Returns to Tur­key were pre­ven­ted by the efforts of RSA legal team and other orga­ni­sa­ti­ons in Greece. „Sin­ce the com­mence­ment of the cyni­cal deal with Erdo­gan the RSA team is working pas­sio­na­te­ly to sup­port pro­tec­tion see­kers in exer­cis­ing their rights in spi­te of an unfair and unlawful pro­ce­du­re,“ says Karl Kopp, PRO ASYL Direc­tor of Euro­pean Affairs.

The for­mer Appeal Com­mit­tees have play­ed an important role in pre­ven­ting the return of Syri­an refu­gees by over­tur­ning first ins­tance decis­i­ons, deeming asyl­um appli­ca­ti­ons inad­mis­si­ble. In all but three cases, the for­mer Appeal Com­mit­tees con­cluded that Tur­key is not safe, sin­ce the coun­try is not in line with inter­na­tio­nal standards.

On June 2016 the Greek govern­ment repla­ced the com­pe­tent Appeal Com­mit­tees with the new so cal­led “Inde­pen­dent Appeals Com­mit­tees”. This repla­ce­ment was denoun­ced by mem­bers of the inva­li­da­ted Com­mit­tees as well as repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of civil socie­ty in Greece as a poli­ti­cal inter­ven­ti­on against the inde­pen­dence and objec­ti­vi­ty of asyl­um procedures.

The decis­i­on of the Coun­cil of Sta­te regar­ding the con­sti­tu­tio­na­li­ty of the new Com­mit­tees and con­se­quent­ly whe­ther their decis­i­ons to allow depor­ta­ti­on to Tur­key will hold or not, is cru­cial for the pro­tec­tion of refu­gees in Euro­pe and the future of the dir­ty EU-Tur­key Deal.

[1] Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) is a non-profit organisation in support of refugees. The RSA team in Athens, on Lesvos and Chios monitors human rights violations and offers legal aid and social support for asylum seekers and refugees. RSA is the implementing partner of the Foundation PRO ASYL project RSPA (Refugee Support program Aegean).

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