For A Europe That Truly Protects: Joint NGO Policy Brief on the Screening Regulation Proposal
Updated: Jun 2
In September 2020, the European Commission presented its proposal on a new Pact on Migration and Asylum, promising a ‘fresh start’ to Europe’s approach to migration. The Pact introduced a number of legislative proposals that are currently being examined in the European Parliament and the Council, including the Regulation introducing a screening of third country nationals at the external borders.
While a new start is urgently needed to ensure Europe’s approach to migration upholds key EU values of human dignity, equality, equity and human rights, the undersigned 23 NGOs working in Greece have serious concerns about elements of the proposed Screening Regulation. We urge EU policy makers to revise the proposal, which risks undermining refugees and migrants’ rights and compounding the suffering of people seeking safety and protection in the EU. It also increases the risk of refoulement by facilitating conditions by which people could be subjected to substandard asylum procedures, without their vulnerabilities being officially recognised - particularly if sufficient legal aid is not assured.
As members of Greek civil society and organisations working for many years to assist and improve the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, we see the impact of existing shortcomings in the current political and policy framework on a daily basis. The policies in place have proven to be not only ineffective but also detrimental to people’s rights, dignity and well-being. 
The proposed Screening Regulation seems set to replicate many of the most worrying elements of present practice in Greece, including ineffective vulnerability screenings  and the detention  or containment  of people on the Aegean islands in unsuitable, undignified and often unsafe reception conditions. It also risks reproducing elements of current or former Greek legislation that have already proven problematic. This includes the lack of oversight and complaint mechanisms for asylum seekers who have reported mistakes in their initial registration by the competent authorities, such as incorrect age assessment or the non-assessment of their vulnerabilities, which can lead to neglect of their medical and protection needs. Moreover, people could be denied access to a fair procedure at the borders, because the restrictive time frame means that the screening could be finalised without a complete medical and vulnerability assessment and without giving them the chance to challenge the preliminary decision. The proposal also introduces new elements that give cause for concern. Foremost among them is the legal fiction of ‘non-entry’. This could effectively entail blanket detention, even for the most vulnerable, under conditions that could lead to further neglect of the special needs of those in a situation of vulnerability, hindering their access to necessary care at EU borders.
This policy brief outlines the most worrying potential impacts of the proposed Screening Regulation in relation to the protection of asylum seekers and their rights. Drawing on experience from our collective work in Greece and testimonies of asylum-seekers we have worked with, this brief also provides recommendations for amending the current proposal.
We, the undersigned organisations, urge Members of the European Parliament and representatives of EU member states to:
Protect the most vulnerable and safeguard the right to asylum
Ensure adequate conditions and prevent unlawful detention
Guarantee effective independent oversight and accountability through an improved monitoring mechanism.
 2020/0278 (COD) Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL introducing a screening of third country nationals at the external borders and amending Regulations (EC) No 767/2008, (EU) 2017/2226, (EU) 2018/1240 and (EU) 2019/817
 The International Rescue Committee (2020), “The Cruelty of Containment: The Mental Health Toll of the EU’s ‘Hotspot’ Approach on the Greek Islands”, https://eu.rescue.org/report/cruelty-containment-mental-health-toll-eus-hotspot-approach-greek-islands ; see also CRWI – Diotima (2021), “Girls on the Move in Greece.” https://diotima.org.gr/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Diotima-GirlsOnTheMove-1.pdf
 Oxfam (2019), ‘Oxfam media briefing: Vulnerable and abandoned’ https://www-cdn.oxfam.org/s3fs-public/file_attachments/2019-01_greece_media_briefing_final.pdf
 Apart from detention of asylum seekers under L 4375/2016 and pre-removal detention under L 3386/2005 and L 3907/2011, detention without legal basis in national law or de facto detention measures are being applied for immigration purposes. [AIDA Country report, Greece, 2019, p.185-186] Detention is happening on Kos and is likely to become the standard for all reception facilities for the purpose of screening.
 https://infocrisis.gov.gr/13303/national-situational-picture-regarding-the-islands-at-eastern-aegean-sea-19-05-2021/?lang=en ; According to the government, there is a great number of 224 people detained at Eastern Aegean Islands (19.05.2021). See also: Oxfam (2018). Oxfam and GCR applaud Council of State for ending containment policy and condemn Greek Government’s attempts to defy Court’s ruling. Press release https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/oxfam-and-gcr-applaud-council-state-ending-containment-policy-and-condemn-greek
 On the Eastern Aegean islands pre-removal detention facilities (PRDFs) (on Lesvos and Kos), i.e. where persons are detained inter alia in order to be subject to readmission within the framework of the EU-Turkey Statement, there was no doctor, interpreter or physiatrist present as of the end of 2019. Medical services are not provided in police stations. [AIDA Country Report, Greece, 2019, p. 23 Detention Conditions]
 L 4375/2016 and L 4636/2019. For instance, RSA et.al, (2021), The Workings of the Screening Regulation, https://bit.ly/3dOQzks
 OHCHR (2019), Working Group on Arbitrary Detention “Preliminary Findings from its visit to Greece (2 - 13 December 2019)”, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25421&LangID=E