Ahead of the 1475th Human Rights meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the supervision of the execution of the M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece judgement (M.S.S. judgement) of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid (Fenix) wishes to submit to the Committee an update on sthe asylum legal framework and policies in force in Greec relevant to the supervision of the aforementioned judgement, pursuant to Rule 9.2 of the Rules of the Committee of Ministers for the Supervision of the Execution of Judgments and of the Terms of Friendly Settlements (hereafter ‘Rules of the Committee’).
Since the issuance of the M.S.S. judgement in 2011, the Greek asylum system evolved following successive amendments and legislative modifications. Amongst the most recent and relevant are the introduction of new legislation in April 2016 (Law 4375/2016), November 2019 (Law 4636/2019), May 2020 (Law 4686/2020), August 2020 (JMD 9889/2020), June 2021 (JMD 42799/2021), September 2021 (Law no 4825/2021), June 2022 (Law 4939/2022) and July 2022 (Law 4960/2022). At the European level, legislative developments were also observed, including in Directive 2013/32/EU, Directive 2013/33/EU, and Regulation 604/2013. Despite the constant legislative evolution, systematic shortcomings persist and new challenges emerge.
Several of the aforementioned national legislative changes introduced in recent years faced strong criticism from international and national stakeholders, including the UNHCR, UN Special Rapporteurs, Council of Europe, ECRE, Greek Ombudsman, Greek National Commission for Human Rights, and civil society organisations. The problems and violations verified in practice are not only due to legislation, however. Several barriers to effective access to asylum and to a fair and swift asylum procedure emerge from the incorrect transposition of European legislation into national law, and from the incorrect application or lack of application of national, European, and international legislation.
Greece has been at the forefront of the introduction of restrictive frameworks and policies in the European Union. In recent years, the government has invested in containment at the borders, accelerated border procedures, safe country policies, decreasing procedural guarantees, and externalising border management instead of constructing a swift and effective asylum procedure, and ensuring access to adequate, humane and special reception conditions for vulnerable applicants.
In the submisison, Fenix portrayed some of Fenix main concerns regarding the asylum system in Greece and the harm to applicants created by erroneous legislation or illegal practices.