Forty Civil Society organizations, including the Diotima Center, co-sign a joint Press Release entitled “Turkey is ‘safe’, refugees are unsafe: The substantive examination of asylum applications is the only safe solution for people in need of international protection” . Read the full text below:
Athens, 14 June 2021
With a new Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) issued on 7 June, the Greek State designates Turkey as a “safe third country” for families, men, women, and children of five nationalitiesseeking international protection in Greece. It is noted that the JMD applies even to those from countries with high recognition rates for international protection, such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
With this decision, the policy of renouncing responsibility for the protection of refugees in Europe, even for unaccompanied children, is practically consolidated  in the context already established by the implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration in March 2016.
For years, the effect of this externalization policy has been to turn the Greek islands into a place of confinement for thousands of displaced and persecuted people, as authorities prioritized “containing” them on the islands to facilitate their return to third countries. This created places like Moria that became shameful symbols of Europe’s failure to protect refugees.
But the solution is not to send displaced individuals to Turkey. In Turkey, people seeking asylum from non-European countries are not granted international protection per the 1951 Geneva Convention, while in March 2021 Turkey announced it would withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and will thus not be protecting victims of gender-based violence, who are at an increased risk in case of return from Greece, based on the new JMD.
It is also emphasized that a series of reports over the years have sounded the alarm about the re-promotions of refugees from Turkey, even to war zones in Syria. Furthermore, the concept of a safe third country presupposes the existence of a substantial link of the asylum seeker with that country and the consent of the third country in order for the person’s return to be possible. Both conditions are not met in the case of Turkey.
The decision to designate Turkey as a“safe third country”, should be revoked for the aforementioned reasons. It comes at a time when, as of March 2020, Turkey does not accept the return of refugees and asylum seekers from Greece, as has been pointed out by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and the European Commission.
This has already led refugees, whose applications have been rejected as inadmissible under the “safe third country” concept, to a regime of legal uncertainty, social exclusion, economic exhaustion, homelessness, and even prolonged detention in our country, which is in danger of turning into a prison.This JMD will serve only to increase the number of people in such a situation.
In fact, as has been pointed out in relevant interventions by the Greek Ombudsperson, and more recently in a reply by the Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission, in these cases applicants must be able to re-apply for asylum and have their applications examined on their merits, in accordance with EU and national law.
In full agreement with the spirit of a recent announcement by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), our organizations point out that “‘externalization’ is simply a way to shift responsibilities […] and circumvent international obligations” and call once again, the Greek and European authorities to respect the responsibility of protecting refugees, in order to avoid the further slippage of the European acquis on asylum and the fundamental principles and values of the protection of Human Rights. To this end, we call on the Greek State to revoke the 7th June CPA.
- ΑRSIS – AssociationfortheSocial Support of Youth
- Better Days
- Centre Diotima
- Equal Rights Beyond Borders
- Europe Must Act
- European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL)
- Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
- GreekCouncilforRefugees (GCR)
- Greek Forum of Migrants
- Greek Forum of Refugees (GFR)
- Greek Helsinki Monitor
- HellenicLeagueforHumanRights (HLHR)
- Human Rights Legal Project
- Initiative for the Detainees’ Rights
- International Rescue Committee (IRC)
- INTERSOS Hellas
- Irida Women’s Center
- Legal Centre Lesvos
- Lesvos Solidarity
- Lighthouse Relief
- Médecins du Monde – Greece
- METAdrasi- Action for Migration and Development
- Mobile Info Team (MIT)
- Network for the Social Support of Refugees and Migrants
- Refugees International
- Refugee Law Clinic Berlin
- Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
- Refugee Rights Europe (RRE)
- Refugee Support Aegean (RSA)
- Samos Volunteers
- Still I Rise
- Terre des hommes Hellas
 The JMD applies to nationals of Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Bangladesh and Pakistan
Indicatively, in 2020, therateofpositivedecisionsissuedbytheGreekAsylumService (GAS) forasylum applicants from Somalia was 94.1%, from Syria 91.6% and from Afghanistan 66.2%. RSA, “Asylum statistics for 2020 A need for regular and transparent official information”, 11 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3vcbC5K.
AccordingtothelatestavailablestatisticsissuedbytheNationalCenterforSocialSolidarity (EKKA), 68% of unaccompanied children that have been identified in Greece are from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Accordingly,and in any case, the implementation of the JMD is not in line with the principle of the best interests of the child and the protective provisions of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. OnthelatestavailablestatisticsseeEKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 15 May 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3wcByPw.
Amongst others: EASO, SyriaSituationofreturneesfromabroad: CountryofOriginInformation,June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3weoZUn, pp. 12-13; AIDA, CountryReportTurkey (May 2021 update), 31 May 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3gfnyzr; DW, “Amnesty: TurkeyforcedSyrianrefugeesbackintowarzone”, 25 October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3pAOpc3; ECRE, “HumanRightsWatchreport: pushbacksofSyrianrefugeesbyTurkey”, 30 March 2018, available at:https://bit.ly/2T43XsK; HumanRightsWatch, “Turkey: SyriansPushedBackattheBorder”, 23 November 2015, available at: https://bit.ly/3x2tPUA.
Amongs to thers: Ministryof Migration and Asylum, “Request by Greece towards the EU for the immediate return 1,450 third country nationals under the Joint EU-Turkey Statement”, 14 January 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3izPzmA; European Commission, Commission Staff Working Document: Turkey 2020 Report, 6 October 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3xgt4aK, p. 48.
Itisnotedthatthemajority (65.8%) ofinternationalprotectionapplicationsthatweresubmittedinGreecein 2020 regardedasylum seekers from the 5 countries that are stated in the JMD. MinistryofMigrationandAsylum, Annualbriefing 2020, 19 January 2021, availableinGreekat: https://bit.ly/3wfCgfi, p.13.
 Article 38, para. 4 Directive 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (recast) and article 86, para. 5 L. 4636/2019 (also known as “IPA”).