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New Pact on Migration: The story of EU fruitless negotiations and Greek restrictive legislation

Today, 23 September 2021, marks one year of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, which includes five main legislative proposals.

During this year, we have witnessed a variety of reactions to the Pact from relevant stakeholders, including governments, international organisations and non-governmental organisations, as well as fruitless negotiations concerning most of the different legislative proposals due to several disagreements on crucial topics.

These disagreements go far beyond specific provisions of the proposals. In fact, there is no agreement on the core question of what the Common European Asylum System should look like: whether it should be centred on the protection of the rights of those seeking asylum, or if it should be focused on the protection of nationalistic interests and the external European borders instead.

In this context, the Greek Government continues to pass regulations that further restrict the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, arguing that these changes are necessary to “prevent illegal migration flows”, as a consequence of a lack of European solidarity.

In 2021, the Greek Government adopted a Joint Ministerial Decision, which considered Turkey a safe third country for nationals of Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As a consequence, nationals from these countries have the burden of proving that Turkey is not safe for them, and are not able to present their asylum claims. At the end of August 2021, a new Deportations and Returned Bill was passed. The version presented to the Greek Parliament ignored many of the comments and recommendations submitted by several organisations and experts during the public consultation. This new law further erases the international protection system by introducing new fees for the submission of subsequent applications, fines for delayed renewal of residence permits, and facilitates returns, reducing the time for extension of the period for voluntary returns. Additionally, it continues to allow the issuance of deportation decisions against asylum seekers and fails to uphold the protection of the right to remain on Greek territory until the asylum procedure is finished. Finally, this Bill also introduces further restrictions for people and organizations working in areas of Hellenic Coast Guard's competence, imposing criminal sanctions and high fines to individuals (up to €2.000) and organisations (up to €12.000).

Europe should stop demonizing those who are seeking international protection. Europe should stop violating international and European law by abolishing the right to seek asylum. Europe should stop resorting to arguments of so-called sovereignty and so-called national security that exude xenophobia and racism, to justify dismantling the asylum system. What we ask is simple: create safe and legal pathways and an effective and human rights-based Common European Asylum System.

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