„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) 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.