The endless wait to seek asylum in Greece

The endless wait to seek asylum in Greece


In Greece, both on the islands and on the mainland, migrants wait months or even years for a favorable response to their asylum application, an endless marathon in an overwhelmed country that awaits “a balanced asylum policy” in the European Union.

Omar Singh, a young man from Burkina Faso who arrived on the island of Lesbos more than a year ago, will have his interview to see if he is suitable in December 2021. More than two years of waiting that are driving him “crazy”.

“When I arrived I was not 18 yet. I have lived in horrible conditions in Moria, I fled the fire in September and now I am in a new field where my tent gets wet when it rains,” says Omar, who assures that he is “traumatized”.

A wait that is prolonged because “the people of West Africa and men alone are not a priority,” he laments.

In the Athens region, Nadir Sawaf, a Syrian from Deir-Zoor, has been waiting for four years to be given the papers.

In a container in the Skaramangas camp, he only wants his appointment scheduled for a week with the asylum services not to be canceled due to the confinement imposed in Greece until the end of November.

Nadir arrived in Lesbos a few weeks after the signing of the agreement between the European Union and Ankara in March 2016, and his asylum was rejected in the first instance as Turkey is considered “a safe country for him” under the terms of the agreement. .

“Turkey is not a safe country for Syrians, there are forced expulsions to Syria!” Roars Nadir, who has appealed the decision but has not been able to hire a lawyer due to lack of means. “Blocked in Greece” for four years, he remains “without papers, without employment and without family.”

– Arrivals drop 73% –

The Greek government voted in November 2019 a law to speed up these processes.

According to the Ministry of Migration, asylum applications in October totaled 87,622. In one year, their number dropped 38%.

But “this improvement is mainly due to a reduction in arrivals (of migrants) this year”, -73% year-on-year, estimates the spokesperson in Greece for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Stella Nanou.

“Procedures must be accelerated but also guarantee all the necessary rights to exiles,” says Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou, from the Greek Refugee Council (GCR).

“Often, there are procedural errors in the first instance, the interview went wrong or an asylum seeker did not express himself well. It is crucial that rejected candidates can have a correct recourse”, he estimates, complaining about the “lack of interpreters” and lawyers.

For the last to arrive, asylum claims are sent, but migrants who have been there since before 2019 can wait years.

“This long wait has a strong psychological impact on the refugees. For two years they have no access to education, to the job market … Instead of integrating them, they are isolated in camps,” says Spyros-Vlad Oikonomou.

– “I believe in my future again” –

The new European Pact on Migration and Asylum, addressed on Friday in Brussels, provides for “strict controls” at the external borders, to discard as quickly as possible those migrants with little possibility of obtaining international protection.

According to the proposal of the European Commission, the country in charge of the asylum claim may be where the migrant has family ties, or where he worked or studied, or the country that granted him a visa. And not just the first European country it arrived in, as the so-called Dublin system stipulated until now.

Following the announcement of the reform bill, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed “the need for a balanced asylum policy” and “fair sharing of responsibilities” in the EU.

Abo Ahmad, 28, did not wait for reform. After two and a half years to get his papers in Greece, he left for Hannover, Germany.

“In Greece, he did not have any financial aid, he did not have the right to accommodation and he could not find a job,” explains this Syrian. “When I arrived in Germany, I had a room and an allowance of 300 euros ($ 353) a month. I have been working in a restaurant for a week.” “I believe in my future again”, ditch.

mr / chv / lbx / af-es / mar


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