Juxtaposing proposed EU rules with the Greek reception and identification procedure
The European Commission proposal for a Screening Regulation is largely modeled on the “reception and identification procedure” (διαδικασία υποδοχής και ταυτοποίησης) applicable to all irregularly arriving persons in Greece. The majority of its provisions correspond to, if not mirror, provisions in Greek legislation which set out key elements of the process such as restrictions on liberty, identification, registration, medical check, vulnerability assessment, and referral to asylum or other procedures. To that end, an in-depth understanding of the procedure is essential to identifying pitfalls and concerns attached to the Screening Regulation proposal at an early stage of negotiations within the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to promoting better law-making and sound reform of EU law.
The correlation table presented provides a point-by-point comparison of the main provisions of the Screening Regulation proposal with relevant domestic legislation, namely L 4375/2016 and L 4636/2019 (IPA). It also offers a detailed analysis of the implementation of the reception and identification procedure in practice, drawing on up-to-date information complemented by observations from the following civil society organisations supporting asylum seekers in the country. The information provided in the correlation table has been collected through a collaborative effort of civil society organisations, Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), HIAS Greece, Greek Council for Refugees, Danish Refugee Council, Legal Centre Lesvos, FENIX Humanitarian Legal Aid, ActionAid Hellas and Mobile Info Team, and legal practitioners.
Summary of observations
The European Commission's proposal for a Screening Regulation is largely modeled on the “reception and identification procedure” applicable to all irregularly arriving persons in Greece. Most of its provisions correspond to, if not mirror, provisions in Greek legislation already in force. An in-depth understanding of the procedure is essential to identifying pitfalls and concerns attached to the Screening Regulation proposal at an early stage of negotiations in the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to promoting better law-making and sound reform of European Union (EU) law.
Transparency and accountability of Frontex support
- 1. The involvement of Frontex in the reception and identification procedure implemented in Greece is marred by alack of transparent rules and legal framework. The process of registration of individuals’ personal data, including age and nationality, by Frontex experts is neither recorded nor transcribed. Beyond the palpable effects of incorrect registration on the asylum procedure, this results in a lack of accountability of the Agency insofar as individuals are not informed of the possibility to make use of the Frontex complaints mechanism when they deem their rights to be violated.
- 2. Participation of actors such as guardians during the registration procedure before Frontex has had meaningful effect in preventing incorrect registration of unaccompanied children’s personal details.
Deprivation of liberty
- 3. Greek law does not espouse the fiction of non-entry into the territory. Although the IPA foresees a “restriction on freedom” amounting to de facto detention for up to 25 days for the reception and identification procedure, individuals on the islands are not subject to blanket deprivation of liberty and are not detained under that particular provision in practice, though other forms of confinement apply. Practice differs in Evros, where people are confined within the RIC for the full 25-day period.
- 4. However, contrary to the law, not all new arrivals are immediately referred to a RIC. Practice at the land border of Evros, as well as on the islands during the March 2020 suspension of the asylum procedure, reveals systematic use of arbitrary detention of new arrivals prior to – or without – access to reception and identification procedures.
Medical check and vulnerability
- 5. Albeit formally laid down as parts of the reception and identification procedure, it is not clear at which point the medical check and vulnerability assessment are deemed to be completed for the purposes of the procedure. It appears that reception and identification procedures are often considered as concluded before the individual undergone a medical check and vulnerability assessment, partly due to delays and capacity gaps in the conduct of those steps.
- 6. Severe problems persist in the medical check and vulnerability assessment, including: long waiting times; failure to grant individuals access to their medical records on Lesvos; non-identification of certain vulnerabilities e.g. victims of torture; failure to refer individuals to specialised hospitals for necessary examinations. Barriers are owed to chronic shortages in qualified staff, as well as other factors.