What I need to know about the conclusions of the EU-Turkey summit of 18.3.2016 and the current situation in Greece
Last update: 22.3.2016
This deal affects all refugees who enter Greece via Turkey after March 20, 2016. It does not affect refugees who already are in Greece.
As of this date, the camps (so called Hot Spots) on the islands of the Aegean: Samos, Lesvos, Chios, Kos, Leros will be closed camps / detention centres, in which newcomers will be separated into the ones who can stay for the time being (asylum seekers whose claim gets examined) and the ones that have to be returned (people who are declared as irregular migrants).
Attention! The new procedures are being implemented just now, so it is still unclear how things will function in practice! We can give only advice based on what the EU has published concerning the procedures. Please contact us if you experience, observe or get to know any further details or different procedures.
Will the border to Macedonia and the Balkan corridor open again?
Despite the fact that not all EU-countries agree on a closure of the border, it is definitely the will of the majority of EU-governments. For this reason it is highly unlikely that the borders will re-open. BUT borders were never opened due to the will of politicians or their sudden humanitarianism, but as there were too many refugees fleeing war, with many women, children and even handicapped among them to take this path. When they did not stop but continued their way, the governments got forced to do so finally. But there was a long struggle before and no one can say when and if this point will be reached again. There is already now a lot of protests in all the newly opened detention centres on the Greek islands, in the mass camps on the Greek mainland and still / again also in Idomeni directly at the border. Time will show how long it will take until freedom of movement will be everybody’s right.
Why does it make sense to seek help and better accommodation in Greece now if you belong to the ones who were already here before March 20th?
Obviously no one came to Greece to stay, as conditions are harsh even for Greeks. Until now you have been patient hoping for the opening of the border. Whatever might happen tomorrow though, or in a week or in one month, it can be only helpful to spend your time in the most efficient way and under the best conditions available. It is a necessity that you take care of yourself and be as strong as possible so you will be able to achieve your dreams and take care of your beloved. Spending a few days, or weeks or months somewhere is not the end of the world. Seek advice and support even if possibilities in Greece are very limited and waiting periods long. Attention! It is not only more comfortable to stay in accommodation offered by UNHCR or NGOs or activists than in the state run camps, but also more safe!
For a list of NGOs that can offer you support please visit: http://w2eu.info/greece.en/articles/greece-contacts.en.html
Who will be in danger to be returned to Turkey?
1. People who are considered not to have a right to international protection shall be immediately returned to Turkey. These people come from countries that are per se not perceived as refugee producing countries, i.e. currently these are Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Attention! They can still apply also for asylum but the procedure might get fast tracked and they will spend the time of the procedure most probably detained. It is important to state your specific vulnerability, like being an unaccompanied minor, a victim of torture, suffering severe psychological disorders or severe diseases, being pregnant or a victim of trafficking etc.
2. People who are considered not to be eligible for asylum in Greece because:
a. they already had a refugee status (a recognition) in Turkey - first country of asylum concept - or
b. they enjoyed according to the authorities sufficient protection in Turkey (meaning a legal status similar to asylum) - first country of asylum concept –
In both cases it will for sure depend if the authorities can prove that this is the case.
c. the authorities estimate that Turkey could guarantee effective access to protection (asylum procedure) to the readmitted person – safe third country concept – or
3. People who asked for asylum but their claim got rejected due to an unfounded fear of persecution.
Who will not be in danger of immediate return to Turkey?
1. Asylum seekers for as long as their claim is proceeded and
2. In Greece recognized refugees.
Procedures for asylum seekers in the closed camps on the islands:
All asylum applications will be treated individually. It is highly important that you are prepared to explain:
- Why you are not safe in Turkey, for example danger of deportation, lack of access to your basic rights in Turkey, danger of detention, ill-treatment by authorities, lack of access to asylum, education, work permit, social welfare etc.
- Your personal reasons of persecution, why your life is in danger back home and you were forced to leave,
upon arrival in Greece and that you carry all necessary proofs with you at least in copies.
You can find more information on the asylum procedure here: http://w2eu.info/greece.en/articles/greece-asylum.en.html
Can I appeal against a return decision?
If an application gets rejected you still have the right to appeal against it. Attention! It would be good to inform your relatives and friends in Turkey, back home or in Europe in advance of your travel about your personal data (name and family name, birth date, name of mother and father), so they could upon your arrival in Greece give this information to a lawyer. The lawyer should be chosen locally on the island of arrival or you can contact one of the Greek NGOs. Attention! It is not yet clear in how far lawyers will have access to the closed camps in practice.
Attention! When applying the "safe third country" concept, you will not be returned until the decision concerning your appeal is taken. When applying the "first country of asylum" concept, you will have to request to suspend the transfer while the appeal is being treated, otherwise you might be returned.
Is there a special attention paid to vulnerable groups like unaccompanied minors?
Decisions concerning vulnerable groups, and in particular unaccompanied minors according to the law should be taken in their best interest. It is thus very important to say your real age and that you are underage and traveling without your family so you get the support you should. Attention! Minors and adults will both detained anyway. It will have more positive effects to say the truth about your age then negative. Attention! If you have any documents of proof that you are underage bring them along at least in copies in case you age declaration gets challenged by the authorities. You can also appeal against any decision of the authorities to register you with a different age.
Is it important that I have relatives in another EU-country?
Specific attention should be given also to persons who have members of their close family in other EU-Member States and for whom the Dublin family reunification rules should be applied. That affects the following persons:
- Unaccompanied minors in Greece who have their mother or father in another EU-country, or a close family member who could be their legal guardian (in place of his / her parents), like for example the aunt, uncle, brother or sister.
- Adults, who have their underage (younger than 18) children in another EU-country. Or who have their husband or wife there.
- Adults, who are alone and who are in an extremely difficult health condition that can not support themselves, but who have a close relative in another EU-country who could support them.
Where will I be accommodated whilst I await a decision or my return?
Officially, “irregular migrants” may be held in closed reception centres on the Greek islands. Asylum seekers will be accommodated in open reception centres on the Greek islands. But this is just temporary and it will for sure depend on how many people will arrive within the next days and weeks. Attention! It is still unclear if asylum seekers will be released upon asylum application or upon recognition.
What will happen with me if I was already in Greece before March 20th?
You will be first accommodated in one of the new camps somewhere in Greece and then you have different legal possibilities:
To legally exit Greece and go to another EU-country:
- You can apply for family reunification, more information you can find here: http://w2eu.info/greece.en/articles/greece-family.en.html
Procedures of family reunification take some months, so you need patience. Look for an experienced lawyer who specialises in such cases to assist you. 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. The application will be made by you in Greece and as soon as your relative has registered him/herself as an asylum seeker in the country of destination. He/she needs to send his/her documents (residence permit of the country where he/she applied for asylum) as a foto or scan to your lawyer in Greece or to you. Documents that proof your relationship are helpful. Print all the necessary documents and bring them along for the application date. In some cases the authorities of the country where you want to go ask also for a DNA test.
- Apply for relocation. Only very few groups have access to the relocation process and there is no choice of the destination country. More information you can find here: http://w2eu.info/greece.en/articles/greece-legal.en.html
- You can apply for asylum. Then you get a legal temporary stay in Greece and upon recognition you can apply for travel documents and then you will be free to travel as a tourist for up to three months out of Greece.
All three possibilities legalize you giving you temporary papers, thus allowing you to enjoy some more rights, like free medical care in public hospitals (important for people in need of complicated / expensive medical treatments) or a prioritization in accommodation applications.
Attention! During application for any of the above you should correct any wrongly registered data. In any case, cross-check with your relatives in Europe (if you have any) to write your and their names, birth places and birth dates correctly.
4. Or you can for the time being wait and see what will happen next. Attention! Just an information to calm you down: In case you ever find yourself in danger of deportation, you can still demand to apply for asylum. Asylum seekers cannot be deported back as long as their claims are examined.
What is the white paper I upon arrival on the islands?
There are two different kinds of documents authorities issued until March 20th 2016 to people arrested for “illegal entry and stay” along the border and it depends on your nationality which one you got. The ones who are considered to be currently refugee populations by UNHCR and whose deportation is not feasibly receive other documents than the rest.
Attention! Make a copy of your paper as soon as possible and keep it somewhere safe, in case you lose the original. Attention! If you have one paper for many persons (i.e. mother and her children), the teenagers should keep always a copy of it.
The common “white paper” is an official note issued by the police upon release from detention in which you are told to leave Greece and go back to your country, within a period of a few days up to 30 days. This paper is neither a travel document nor a residence permit. It just protects you from being arrested for the period specifically mentioned in it (on the right bottom side), from the day it was issued (date on the upper right side). Once it expires, you are at risk of being arrested and detained again. Attention! Detention according to law could last some months, BUT it is unclear if in this period the government will arrest you for this. There are thousands of refugees now whose documents run out of time, and until now the government was stating that they are not interested in arresting 50,000 persons. Please still be carefull if your papers run out of time and always seek information about new developments concerning papers that got invalid. Attention! It is unclear if it will make any difference for this, if you have or do not have a stamp from one of the official camps as one of their residents. Attention! Until now this paper could not be renewed.
If you are from Syria, Somalia, Eritrea, Jemen, South Sudan, Palestine or Iraq you will be given a “Suspension of the deportation” note. This document is usually issued for 6 months instead of 30 days and can be renewed. You have to go to the “Aliens Police Directorate” in Athens (Petrou Ralli/ Allodapon) and ask for its renewal.
If I belong to a highly vulnerable group, can I get any special help?
Yes, please express your vulnerability towards UNHCR staff, other NGOs and officials. If organisations don’t know that you are vulnerable, they will not inform you about your special rights and possibilities. You might get a better accommodation too as a vulnerable person. Vulnerable persons are: minors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, victims of human trafficking, persons with serious illnesses, persons with mental disorders and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, such as victims of female genital mutilation. Attention! Currently open accommodation centres for asylum seekers and vulnerable persons are completely full. You will have to put your name on a waiting list, but do not hesitate to do so in order not to lose time. There are a few self-organised shelters in Athens and Thessaloniki, where you might be able to stay under better conditions, mainly because they are run by people who want to show their solidarity and who fight for equality and freedom of movement. But capacities are very small. You have to be very patient in general and never lose hope! Seek advice in the different NGOs that offer support for refugees: http://w2eu.info/greece.en/articles/greece-contacts.en.html
Will an asylum application in Greece affect my chances for asylum in any other EU-country?
Still deportations back to Greece are halted in most other EU-countries. An exception is Switzerland, who started in some cases to return people to Greece who have applied for asylum there. We do not know if this will change in the future again, but for example in June 2016 Germany will re-evaluate the situation in Greece. In general Dublin returns would start if the situation in Greece will be considered again to be good, meaning according to international human rights standards. (No one can imagine so far that things could improve so fast under current conditions, but so many things are quickly changing right now that it is very important to follow the latest news!).
When you have already received protection in Greece it is more likely that you will be sent back. According to European law one can only ask for asylum in one European member state. You should look for counselling directly upon arrival in your country of destination and only after that decide what you do. If you are insecure, you can always send us an email with the concrete questions you have and/or check the website http://w2eu.info/
Who are we?
We are a group of people of whom some live in Greece and some others come from and (usually) live in different European countries. We support refugees in the places we live and elsewhere as activists, because for us all human beings are equal. We believe in the freedom of movement as everybody’s right and a world without borders. In order to support you we would like to give you some useful information about your rights in Greece and the overall situation here. We don’t ask for money, we don’t take money and we don’t ask for any reward. We just wish you a safe journey to a better place and tell you from our side: Welcome to Europe!
If you need any further information not provided in this flyer or if you have more specialised / personalised questions please ask us directly or contact us via mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our internet page http://w2eu.info or check the Welcome to Europe live feed for updated infos about different areas in Europe: