Imposition of a fee of 100 euros for access to asylum from the 2nd and every following subsequent application to applicants for international protection, including minors!
Following an official information we received as a Working Group on Legal Aid on the island of Lesvos, RAO of Lesvos after many months of refusal to register 2nd and following subsequent applications for international protection, on 7 February 2022 started to re-register the aforementioned applications of asylum seekers who have been unable to access the international protection procedure for the last 6 months without their own fault. However, this procedure restarts with a necessary condition for the submission of the second and subsequent application, the deposit of a fee of 100 euros per application (legislative regulation of par. 10 of article 89 of Law 4636/2019). In fact, based on JMD no. 472687/2021, if the application is submitted on behalf of several members of the applicant's family, the deposit of an equal amount for each member separately is required, including minor children. This translates to the fact that for a five member’s family - two parents with three minor children - a fee of 500 euros is required!
We explicitly and emphatically remind that the unhindered and effective access to asylum procedures is an obligation of the Greek state and is a necessary condition for asylum seekers to have real and effective access to the (asylum) procedures and to be able to exercise their legal rights. It is clear that the legislative provision based on which the payment of the fee constitutes a prerequisite for the submission of a subsequent application for international protection for a financially deprived and vulnerable population, such as asylum seekers and especially for big families, constitutes the submission of the asylum application prohibitive. As a result, this condition undermines the right of access to asylum, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights , as the provision is contrary to articles 6 par. 1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU[2,3].
In particular, RAO Lesvos in violation of the principle of legal certainty from September 2021 and in violation of article 6 par. 1 of Directive 2013/32 / ΕU, had informally suspended the registration process of 2nd and following subsequent applications for international protection and iU. As a result, those applicants who had their 1st subsequent application rejected have found themselves for a long time, as a result of the inability to submit a new subsequent application, in a legal limbo and extremely precarious situation. In addition, the aforementioned applicants have been living in inhuman and degrading conditions for several months now given that after the final rejection of their previous application and the consequent deactivation of PA.A.Y.P.A. they are deprived of access to health care and they are not receiving the financial benefits granted to the applicants, while at the same time they are deprived of any other financial resources and are at risk of arrest, administrative detention and deportation. Several months later, and without any information provided to the asylum seekers, RAO Lesvos resumes the registration of the aforementioned applications.
The lack of free and unhindered access at every stage of the procedure is to the detriment of the fair and effective nature that must characterize the asylum procedure as a whole. From the European Commission’s reply of 25.1.2022 to a relevant question put under the urgent procedure by the German MEP Erik Marquardt, it appears that the Commission has pointed out to the Greek authorities that the unconditional submission of a fee of EUR 100 for the second subsequent applications raises issues regarding the effective access to the asylum procedure.
Particular concerns arise in relation to applications for international protection falling under the JMD which defines Turkey as a "safe third country" for applicants whose country of origin is Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, where their previous applications have been examined only on admissibility under Article 86 par. 1 Law no 4636/2019 (Turkey safe third country) and have been rejected as inadmissible, without ever having been examined on their merits. Moreover, despite the fact that Turkey has suspended readmission for almost 2 years, these applications have been rejected as inadmissible due to the continued refusal of the Greek authorities to enforce Article 86 (5) of Law 4636/2019, according to which when the third country does not allow the applicant to enter its territory, his/her application shall be examined on the merits by the Competent Authorities. At this point it should be mentioned that especially for Syrian citizens the above procedure was in force even before the implementation of the JMD which defines Turkey as a "safe third country" and as a result there are cases of applicants who for 3 years have not been able to access a safe legal status, as they are constantly rejected on admissibility. For the applicants whose application for international protection has never been examined on its merits , the Administration must according to article 86 par. 5 of law 4636/2019 invite them to an oral hearing on the merits on the basis of and not to lead them to apply for international protection for a third time, while obliging them to pay a fee of 100 euros for this purpose . Moreover, this provision also includes asylum seekers from countries where a substantial change of circumstances has taken place, such as Afghanistan, despite the fact that the existence of new and essential elements and the non-abusability of the application are given.
We call on the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum to abolish the legislative regulation of par. 10 of article 89 of Law no 4636/2019 and JMD No. 472687/2021, as their content introduces a not permitted rule by the provisions of article. 6 par.1 and 40-42 of Directive 2013/32/EU and, in fact, does not include any exceptions to the obligation to pay the fee. In addition, it conflicts with the provisions of articles 25 par. 2 and 20 par. 1 of the Constitution of Greece, articles 18, 47 and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of EU law and the relevant case law of the ECtHR regarding the provisions of Articles 3, 8 and 13 of the ECHR, since it effectively makes it impossible for those refugees who do not have the financial means to pay the fee of EUR 100 per person/family member.
We call on the competent authorities and the RAO Lesvos to respect the European fundamental right to seek asylum and to refrain from actions that violate the rights of asylum seekers and contradict the principle of proportionality. These actions are not in line with our legal acquis, violate national and EU law and may cause serious and irreparable harm to asylum seekers, violating the principle of non- refoulement fundamental to international law.