In Greece, there are two different types of asylum procedures under which an asylum application can be examined, the ‘regular procedure’ and the ‘border procedure’. Asylum seekers arriving at border or transit zones, including ports and airports in Greece, will likely be subjected to the border procedure, instead of the regular procedure. All asylum seekers arriving on the five Eastern Aegean Islands are subjected to the border procedure, with few exceptions.
The border procedure, initially designated as the ‘fast-track procedure’, was implemented in Greek legislation by Law 4375/2016. When it was first introduced, it was understood as a temporary and exceptional measure to respond to the increase in the number of arrivals and to the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement in 2016. However, with its continuation under Law 4636/2019, this accelerated procedure can no longer be considered as the exception and a temporary measure, instead becoming the rule and a permanent procedure.
In light of the challenges faced by Fenix Humanitarian Legal Aid (Fenix) teams due to the timelines imposed by the border procedure on Lesvos, Fenix is issuing this policy note to (1) highlight some of the most prominent problems observed during the first instance asylum procedures through the course of our work on Lesvos, and (2) offer our recommendations seeking to address these problems.
Ultimately, what is at stake is an individual’s ability to fully present their case for asylum and the possibility of securing safety from the persecution they have faced and, therefore, to fully access their fundamental right to seek asylum. Fenix calls on the Greek authorities to respect the rights guaranteed by the asylum process, and urges the authorities to amend the current legislation appropriately to build more time into the procedure, allowing a better chance for the following recommendations to be met:
- Ensure asylum seekers are provided with adequate time between the registration of their asylum claim and their asylum interview.
- Ensure asylum seekers are provided adequate information about their rights and the procedure they are facing in a manner they understand, encouraging collaboration with legal aid and medical actors.
- Provide appropriate vulnerability and medical assessments and certifications, and if needed appropriate reception conditions and referral to the regular procedure for vulnerable applicants.
- In the case of vulnerable individuals, ensure the possibility exists to postpone the personal interview pending assessments (including for example vulnerability assessments, medical assessments, and age assessments), and pending the result of applications for referral to the regular procedure.
- Ensure asylum seekers are provided adequate information regarding the family reunification procedure and sufficient opportunity for the disclosure of relevant family ties. Where relevant, ensure the asylum procedure is suspended in a timely manner pending the assessment of the FR case.