Dublin III > Greece
Welcome to Europe! Some Information for your journey after leaving Athens…
Last update July 2015
Deportations to Greece have been stopped in most EU countries
In January 2011 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided in an individual case that Greece was violating the human rights of a refugee by detaining him under inhuman conditions and leaving him homeless. It also judged that Belgium violated his human rights by deporting him back to Greece (see: http://w2eu.net/2011/01/22/front-kick-dublin-2/). Following that decision deportations to Greece were temporarily halted in most EU-countries, because hundreds of other “Greek” cases were expected to be judged in the same way. This decision indiscriminately concerns until today both: persons who have been fingerprinted and have a “white paper” (chartia) for 30 days/or six months and also asylum seekers (holders of pink/white cards) in Greece.
The temporary stop of deportations to Greece is a result of the struggles of migrants and their supporters: Many refugees have been resisting and, after having been deported once to Greece, started their journey all over again. The violation of their rights in Greece is well known for a long time. Some of them appealed against their deportation with the help of lawyers and NGOs.
Deportations to Greece have been based on an agreement between countries of the European Union (called “Dublin III”). According to this agreement all adult asylum seekers are to be returned to the country of arrival in Europe and they have only once the possibility to claim for asylum. Therefore, if authorities find your fingerprints in the database, if you are not an unaccompanied minor, and if they can confirm that you have been in Greece during your journey, in the past they may have tried to deport you there. After the ECtHR-decision this is not possible anymore!
Generally speaking: the judgement of the ECtHR concerning Greece may be considered radical, so asylum seekers who are leaving from there can safely apply for asylum again in most EU-countries without being threatened with deportation. This may change again in the future so it is good to document your personal situation with all its problems in Greece (i.e. with photos or videos or any documents of proof from hospitals, authorities etc.) to show it later in the country where you decide to stay.
Overview of European countries having stopped deportation to Greece:
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (deportation-stop until January 2016), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK and Switzerland (individual returns have started of persons who resided many years in Greece)
Dublin-Deportations to Hungary, Bulgaria and other EU-countries
So far there is only a general (but temporary) deportation stop to Greece but notto any other EU-countries (like Italy, Bulgaria or Hungary for example). So if you have fingerprints in any European country and you don’t stay there but continue your journey, you might get threatened by deportation to this country. In this case it is absolutely necessary to contact support-groups in your country of arrival as soon as possible – you need help to stop a deportation to any other country than Greece. In most countries and in most cases you will also need a lawyer. Seek advise from support groups on contacts to experienced lawyers who are well equipped to prevent a deportation based on the Dublin III Regulation to countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy etc. Lawyers are usually take money for supporting refugees as there is not a lot of free legal aid available. Even if you lack money, you can probably arrange to pay the lawyer in monthly rates with the social welfare money you get from the state where you seek asylum.
Normally, the country you will apply for asylum will take your fingerprints upon registration to compare them with data from other EU-countries in the computerized system called Eurodac. The authorities will also ask you about how you got there (your travel route). Based on this information, the authorities will decide if they are responsible to take your asylum application or if another country (you passed through earlier) is responsible for that. If they find your fingerprint or any other information to prove you were before in another EU-country (other than Greece), they will ask this country if they will take you back. If this country agrees within the legal time frame or does not answer at all (within 2-3 months after your fingerprints have been taken in the country of arrival), you will receive a letter informing you about your scheduled deportation. This is the latest moment when YOU HAVE TO SEEK HELP of a lawyer IMMEDIATELY. There is only one week time for the lawyer to appeal before the court against your deportation. In the best case you will have already taken a lawyer in advance and you will be prepared to fight against your deportation for a long time. Don’t wait until the last moment! In order to appeal against your deportation it is important to show your vulnerabilities and – if you have any – evidence on why your living circumstances in the country they want to deport you to were so sub-standard that you cannot return. Vulnerable groups such as families with children under 2 years, sick persons, the mentally ill, single mothers etc. are more likely not to be deported. Prepare a good documentation of your vulnerability. Lawyers need documents to argument on your behalf, so start early collecting any written evidence by doctors, psychologists, social workers etc. In order to document the bad living circumstances you suffered in the country where you were fingerprinted, collect during your stay there photos and any other forms of evidence that show your problems there, like papers from doctors or NGOs about illnesses or injuries. It is also helpful to write down in advance all your stories of persecution plus all difficulties you encountered on the road to and through Europe. There might be traumatizing experiences you yourself don’t consider important but which your lawyer can use to argue against your deportation. Additionally, consider if you have any family members in the country where you registered and want to stay and explain to your lawyer and the authorities why you rely on the help of your relatives or why they rely on you. This dependency can be another factor supporting your claim that you cannot be returned to another EU-country, for example if you have your elderly mother who cannot take care of herself, or an underage relative with no other family members nearby etc.
And even if the court will finally decide against you: there are many people who manage to prevent Dublin-deportations even after these court decisions. There is a time limit for the deportation: from the moment the country became “responsible” for you and/or after a negative court-decision, there are only 6 months in which to carry out the deportation. After that, the country of arrival will be responsible. So there are many people who overcame that time limit: a) because they had been (mentally or physically) sick to a degree that they could not travel (mental state: i.e. that you are a danger for yourself or others; physical state: heart disease), b) they resisted against the deportation and it was too late for the authorities to book a next flight, c) in some countries churches offer asylum and protect refugees under threat of deportation, d) there can be decisions to transfer the responsibility to the country of arrival, if there is a political decision or will to do so. For all these steps you need a good network of friends around you to support you. So it is very helpful to explain to different people near you what your problem is and to try to connect with those who are on your side: create your own team!
Be aware: In many countries there are many new asylum applications right now so the asylum system including the registration system and the comparison of fingerprints is blocked sometimes for weeks and even months. The resulting delays lead in some cases to the expiration of time-limits defined in law concerning the Dublin deportations so that a forced return based on fingerprints cannot be carried out anymore. The more time is passing by, the better for you. BUT your lawyer needs to check the time limits by himself by getting your permit to look into your file.
Careful: Fingerprints from Hungary or any other country cannot be “deleted” or “cleared” but in some countries you can fight against your deportation with the help of the lawyer and especially with solidarity groups as described above with good chances to prevent it.
Careful: Unaccompanied minors (under the age of 18) have no legal limitation to stay in any specific country. They can even apply for asylum several times within Europe. As long as they don’t receive any status they can move freely. If they are fingerprinted in an EU-country other than Greece and registered there falsely as adults, still they will not be sent back if registered as under-aged in the country they finally decide to stay. Be aware that you have to register your asylum application with the competent asylum authority before you turn 18. Be aware, that in the moment you are made older by the authorities after an age-testing and you are not registered as a minor, it is again different!
Careful: Even if you have not been fingerprinted in a European or a non-European country you might be sent back to the country which is close to the border where you have been arrested. For example: If you are arrested in Austria and near the border to Hungary this is considered sufficient proof to send you back to Hungary on the grounds that you have “obviously” entered the one country through the other – even if you didn’t. The same goes for other borders: Hungary-Serbia, Italy-Greece etc. These kind of returns/ deportations are based on bilateral Readmission Agreements but often lack legal procedures.
Families might find themselves in a situation where one person went first to a specific European country, and his/her family-member has remained behind in another country that signed the Dublin III-agreement - for example the mother in Norway and the underage son in Greece. In that case, you have the possibility to ask for family reunification. If a country registered your asylum application and is reviewing your case, you may try to get close family members to join you legally. This is only possible if an asylum application by a family member in the European country you want to be reunited in as a family is registered.
Be careful: in European law “family members” means: 1. Married partners; 2. a minor child of a couple, 3. the father, mother when the refugee is a minor and unmarried. Furthermore, depending on the case and national ruling of the state you want to be united to: 4. spouses in a stable relationship and 5. in cases of minors the guardian who is not the mother or father – but this is much more complicated and needs evidence that this relationship is long-term and stable.
Be aware: Procedures of family reunification take a lot of time (currently around six months in Greece), need your patience and are a little complicated. Therefore, look for an experienced lawyer who specializes in such cases. You will need support in Greece (for example contact the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) in Athens: Solomou 25, Exarheia, (0030)210-3800990)) and also in the country where you want to get united. You can find advice to find good lawyers in different countries via the contacts given at http://w2eu.info/.
Be aware: Usually the family is reunited to the country where most family members reside. Only in the case for Greece as Dublin deportations are suspended families are always reunited out of Greece.
Careful: Even after the successful family reunification it is possible that a minor will be age-tested by the authorities of the country where he/she finally arrived at. In such a case take immediately a lawyer.
Careful: After you receive the permission to fly into the country where your family member is, please try to have a direct flight to the city where your family member live. When you arrive make sure you show every authority (also to the police) your family reunification paper. This is very important so that you won’t get in danger to be transferred to a different area of the country.
Be aware: If you don’t provide the authorities with sufficient proof of your relationship to each other they might ask for a DNA test. The costs have to be covered by yourself.
Be aware: Currently everyone has to pay his/her ticket by his/her own. Anyway this is still cheaper and less risky than traveling by yourself undocumented. For the period you wait for your application in Greece you can apply for housing before the Asylum Service. Unaccompanied minors will be hosted in a reception centre surely. Adults have chances on housing if they are families with underage children, single parents or if they have any special needs due to a sickness, mental problems or as a consequence of being a victim of torture.
Be aware: Currently the Asylum Service is largely understaffed. Therefore to get an appointment at the Service in Athens you need to call on specific days and during specific hours (according to the language you speak) on the skype-ID (i.e. “Asylum Service Farsi Dari” for Afghans and Iranians) and be prepared to make a photo of yourself and tell them your personal data .
Can recognized refugees receive residence permits in other EU-states?
According to European Law, a person who has received a refugee status or subsidiary/humanitarian protection in one EU-state cannot reapply in another EU country. He/she can travel for a period of three months out of the country of his/her papers but cannot work elsewhere even during that time.
It is very difficult to get your recognition from one EU-state recognized in another state. It has happened though for example in a case of a refugee with a protection status from Greece who moved to Belgium and who could prove that he had been a victim of racist violence in Greece so that he was not secure there. You need to have a very strong case though and a lot of patience and time to fight for this. There is no way to easily and quickly get your status from one state to another.
Yet, there are other ways to get a residence permit in another EU-state. The applicant has to provide for almost the same prerequisites as another person who would apply for a residence permit independently from any asylum application. The residence permit needs to be based on a reason to stay such as: family reunification (husband, wife or children), getting married in the destination country with a person who has a legal stay, studies at university or work. The solution of work is very difficult to realize. Only highly qualified experts usually receive work permits, which can be used for a residence permit (blue card law).
A residence permit on humanitarian grounds can also be given based on the fact that a persons life was not secure in the country he/she received a protection status. Anyway, the residence permit is then based on the condition that the situation in this country will not improve. It is thus not sure that this residence permit can be renewed.
Note: It is still the case that, most probably, the authorities in the countries of arrival will not automatically find any information concerning the results of your asylum claim in another country. They will only notice that you have Greek papers when you present them or refer to them.
Changes in the Eurodac Regulation that affect those who have been recognized in Greece as refugees:
On the 20th of July 2015, changes in the Eurodac Regulation were implemented. They affect amongst others the information on individuals accessible through the system. Until recently all refugees coming from Greece were not further investigated on the status they had there. Only possible fingerprints from other EU-countries were considered. The changes brought about in the renewed Regulation now provide for the registration on any information of a legal status such as political asylum / subsidiary protection / humanitarian status and allow the EU-member states to gain access to this data. It remains yet to be seen what this change will mean in practice and from when on it will affect whom. Until now no changes were observed.
General tips and warnings concerning the current situation:
- That family members who arrive even a few days later may be separated from their relatives. Try to register all together if possible.
- It might take a few weeks until you get registered and fingerprinted if the place you arrive in and report yourself to the authorities is crowded.
- It is possible that the place you arrive in is not equipped to host the number of people arriving in a dignified way. There are currently many shortcomings and people might stay under very different conditions within the same country. Try to inform yourself in advance which places are less crowded and provide for better conditions if that is a factor important for your decision where you want to go.
- You should solve one problem after the other. It is good to start early getting prepared for your asylum case, but also do not to make yourself crazy with that when there are more urgent needs. Be aware that most people have reasons of persecution and don’t even know it. So please don’t panic and don’t create a crazy story which you will never remember, based on hundreds of different advises, but seek the advise of a lawyer and/or solidarity and counselling groups. Tell them your real story and ask for further advice. Your lawyer has the task to support you and is not allowed to share any information with third persons. Protect any evidence you have for your case by keeping them safe and making copies (in the best case keep copies also on the internet, in your email account for example). Keep contacts with persons who can be witnesses to your story.
Have a safe journey!
If you need help in a country you travel through, are stuck or detained in, if you want to prevent your Dublin deportation or apply for asylum, it is good to contact people who have some experience and can give you ideas on how the system works in the place you are (i.e. the European asylum system differs very much from country to country). Contacts see: http://w2eu.info/contacts.en.html