On February 9, 2022, the Regional Asylum Office (RAO) of Thessaloniki accepted the subsequent application of H. as admissible in the preliminary stage. This led to the further examination of her case, and a joint interview on both the safe third country (STC) concept and the merits of her case. On May 16, 2022, H. was granted refugee status.
Applicant H. is a single vulnerable woman from Syria who arrived on Lesvos on March 1, 2020 after transiting through Türkiye. Amongst other vulnerabilities, H. is a survivor of sexual violence in Türkiye, and a victim of an attempted pushback to Syria while in Türkiye. Despite the fact that H. has family members who are recognised refugees in Greece, she was not able to reunite with them until July 2021, due to the fact that the Greek authorities failed to recognise her vulnerabilities and lift the imposed geographical restriction on time. H.’s initial asylum application was deemed inadmissible on the basis of the STC concept under Articles 84(1)(d) and 86 of Law 4636/2019, at both first and second instance.
On January 21, 2022, H. with the support of the lawyers of Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid (Fenix) submitted a subsequent application at RAO of Thessaloniki, which was examined under Article 89 of Law 4636/2019. On February 9, 2022, the RAO of Thessaloniki accepted the subsequent application as admissible in the preliminary stage on the basis that ‘the absence of the applicant from [Türkiye] for more than a year is a new element.’ Additionally, the Regional Office considered that the link with Türkiye was ‘weakened due to the lapse of a period of more than a year’ according to Article 86(1)(f) of Law 4636/2019. In its decision, the RAO disregarded several other reasons and new elements submitted by H.
As a result of this decision, H.’s subsequent application was firstly examined on admissibility based on the STC concept under the JMD. During her interview the case worker deemed that Türkiye could not be considered a safe third country for H. and found her claim to be admissible. Accordingly, the interview continued, and her claim was examined on the merits.
On May 16, 2022, more than two years after her arrival, H. was recognised as a refugee. According to the RAO of Thessaloniki, ‘she has a well-founded fear of persecution in Syria due to her participation in a particular social group within the meaning of the provisions.’
Fenix welcomes the decision of the RAO of Thessaloniki, which recognises that Türkiye is not a safe place for H. Nevertheless, Fenix expresses deep concern about the continuous rejection of asylum applications as inadmissible on the basis of the STC concept under the JMD.
Under Greek and European Union legislation on asylum, national authorities must lay down specific methodology that proves that a country is safe for asylum seekers under specific criteria prior to applying the STC concept. Additionally, the Greek authorities must assess whether applicants are vulnerable and are in need of special procedural guarantees within a reasonable time after an application for international protection is made or whenever such a need becomes evident at a later stage of the procedure. Therefore, if Greek authorities had complied with their obligations under domestic, European, and international law from the moment H. arrived in Greece and had examined her application on her individual circumstances, H. would not have been forced to live under inhumane and degrading living conditions and remain in legal limbo for two years.
Fenix urges the Greek authorities to refrain from the blanket application of the STC concept, and instead conduct a careful case-by-case examination of applications, such that applicants have adequate opportunity to prove why Türkiye is not safe for them. Fenix also expresses concern about the continued use of the STC concept in relation to Türkiye, given that the Greek authorities have not laid down specific methodology and criteria required by EU Directive 2013/32 proving that Türkiye can be considered a safe third country for asylum seekers. Finally, Fenix has specific concerns regarding the application of the STC concept and the refusal to apply Article 86(5) of Law 4636/2019, considering that Türkiye has suspended readmissions from Greece since March 2020 and there is no prospect of restarting them.
In case of any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.