In September 2020, the European Commission presented its proposal on a new Pact on Migration and Asylum, promising a ‘fresh start’ to Europe’s approach to migration. The Pact introduced a number of legislative proposals that are currently being examined in the European Parliament and the Council, including the Regulation introducing a screening of third country nationals at the external borders.
While a new start is urgently needed to ensure Europe’s approach to migration upholds key EU values of human dignity, equality, equity and human rights, the undersigned 23 NGOs working in Greece have serious concerns about elements of the proposed Screening Regulation. We urge EU policy makers to revise the proposal, which risks undermining refugees and migrants’ rights and compounding the suffering of people seeking safety and protection in the EU. It also increases the risk of refoulement by facilitating conditions by which people could be subjected to substandard asylum procedures, without their vulnerabilities being officially recognised - particularly if sufficient legal aid is not assured.
As members of Greek civil society and organisations working for many years to assist and improve the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, we see the impact of existing shortcomings in the current political and policy framework on a daily basis. The policies in place have proven to be not only ineffective but also detrimental to people’s rights, dignity and well-being. 
The proposed Screening Regulation seems set to replicate many of the most worrying elements of present practice in Greece, including ineffective vulnerability screenings  and the detention  or containment  of people on the Aegean islands in unsuitable, undignified and often unsafe reception conditions. It also risks reproducing elements of current or former Greek legislation that have already proven problematic. This includes the lack of oversight and complaint mechanisms for asylum seekers who have reported mistakes in their initial registration by the competent authorities, such as incorrect age assessment or the non-assessment of their vulnerabilities, which can lead to neglect of their medical and protection needs. Moreover, people could be denied access to a fair procedure at the borders, because the restrictive time frame means that the screening could be finalised without a complete medical and vulnerability assessment and without giving them the chance to challenge the preliminary decision. The proposal also introduces new elements that give cause for concern. Foremost among them is the legal fiction of ‘non-entry’. This could effectively entail blanket detention, even for the most vulnerable, under conditions that could lead to further neglect of the special needs of those in a situation of vulnerability, hindering their access to necessary care at EU borders.
This policy brief outlines the most worrying potential impacts of the proposed Screening Regulation in relation to the protection of asylum seekers and their rights. Drawing on experience from our collective work in Greece and testimonies of asylum-seekers we have worked with, this brief also provides recommendations for amending the current proposal.
We, the undersigned organisations, urge Members of the European Parliament and representatives of EU member states to:
- Protect the most vulnerable and safeguard the right to asylum
- Ensure adequate conditions and prevent unlawful detention
- Guarantee effective independent oversight and accountability through an improved monitoring mechanism