Dublin Greece

Dublin-deportations back to Greece

Last update : August 2018

If you have given your fingerprints to authorities in other European countries, for example in Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary or Greece on your way or even in other countries where you have applied for asylum before and you don’t stay there but continue your journey, you might get threatened to be deported back. This is based on the so-called Dublin-regulation.

When you are threatened with “Dublin”-deportations this does not mean that finally you will be really deported. There are many people who have overcome the deportation threat and their asylum case has to be handled finally in Germany.The first step is to get organised for your right to stay.


1) Every case is different. As soon as you arrive in the country of your final destination, you should look for counselling and advice by people there who specialise in preventing Dublin-returns, who can assist with asylum procedures, and who can help you to go through all procedures in the best way possible.

2) This info-sheet might be outdated soon. So please check here regularly if there are any new updates online:http://w2eu.info/en/countries/greece/dublin2

Already in December 2016, the European Union Commission suggested the resumption of Dublin Returns to Greece, starting from March 2017. Several countries, among them Germany, agreed that Greece had sufficiently improved the conditions for refugees, so that they would plan to re-start the returns. The European governments once more showed that they close their eyes to the fact that the living and detention conditions in the Greek camps continue to be deplorable and inhuman, that access to the asylum procedure is still not guaranteed, that procedures remain dysfunctional in general and that many of refugees continue to suffer from inhuman and degrading treatment while being stuck in Greece. The European Commission’s recommendation included a gradual resumption of returns, with a first focus to return the ones who arrived in Europe after this date (15 th of March 2017) and not including unaccompanied minors or other vulnerable persons at that point.

Following this development, up to now deportations started slowly. Germany for example has deported only 5 people under the Dublin-regulation back to Greece up to now and Norway another 4. The main cause of the low number of returns is that on the one side many people have been fighting in different ways against the deportation threats to Greece after arriving in their countries of destination and on the other side many courts in different European countries still doubt, that the situation in Greece is bearable for asylum seekers and refugees. There are still concerns that the conditions still breach the Human Rights of the persons deported there.

As an outcome of the emergency migration summit in June 2018, EU’s position towards refugee protection seems to move harder and harder. A few days before the summit, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed with a proposal by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the signature of a migration agreement that should increase the returns of asylum seekers registered first in Greece. This agreement has different parts:

  1. On 17th of August German media reported that a bilateral agreement between Greece and Germany would be soon finalised. When it comes into practice it shall allow Germany to send refugees back to Greece without having a real procedure within two days. This will apply (similar to the bilateral agreement that exists already with Spain) only to refugees who have entered Germany via the Austrian-German border. While Italian and Hungarian governments rejected similar proposals by Germany so far, Spain and Greece accepted it – maybe also because it will not affect many people, from Spain it should be nearly zero, who choose the way via Austria and also from Greece in the moment most refugees will not choose the route via Austria to enter Germany.

  2. The Greek Minister for Migration Policy has obviously also agreed with Berlin to ‘process’ also the take-back requests Germany sent according to the Dublin-regulation this year (currently around 1,500). In return, Berlin has promised to accept and take persons in who have applied for family reunification with relatives living in Germany (the estimates vary between 950 and 2,900 pending or accepted applications). This is after the shaming EU-Turkey-deal the next dirty deal in this region.

Nevertheless we estimate that there will be huge difficulties for the authorities to follow this plan.

We decided to update this information sheet to explain who might be among the ones mainly affected by deportation threats to Greece, to create a better understanding of the whole dimension and to give you advice on what can be done to prepare and protect yourselves against deportation threats – because the experience in the struggle against Dublin-deportation shows that there are a lot of options not to get deported and to overcome the fingerprint-problem.


What are Dublin III Returns and why has Greece been excluded from the returns for several years?

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 only registered and 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 was a result of the struggles of refugees and their supporters: After having been deported back to Greece, many refugees started their journeys again and returned to places where they wanted to stay. The violation of their rights in Greece was well known for a long time. In the time before 2011, when Dublin Returns to Greece were still carried out, some of them appealed before national (and European) courts against their deportation with the help of lawyers and NGOs, and succeeded.

These deportations back to Greece were and are based on an agreement between countries of the European Union (called “Dublin III” Regulation). According to this agreement, it is only possible to apply for asylum in one EU member state. This is not a country of your own choice, but in most cases the country where the refugee first arrived and got fingerprinted. Therefore, in the past, when authorities found the Greek fingerprints of an adult or of accompanied children in their European database (called: “EURODAC”), or if they could confirm by other means that a person had first entered the EU through Greece, they usually tried to deport this person back there. Following the ECtHR-decision in 2011 until March 2017 this was not possible anymore!

How intense did Dublin Returns to Greece start again?

The EU Commission recommended to resume Dublin Returns to Greece from the 15th of March, 2017 – but to do so gradually. This in practice meant, that not all people are in danger to be deported back. Official exceptions are:

  1. In the beginning vulnerable persons should not be affected! (Unaccompanied minors are anyway not affected by the Dublin-regulation so for them this decision should last).

  2. The EU Commission also had recommended to return only people who reached Greece after 15 th of March 2017. This meant all people who arrived in Greece before that date, were not affected. ( Attention! There can be exceptions, for example for people who received international protection in Greece and who thus may be returned on other legal grounds.)

There is up to now not a start of massive returns of people back to Greece from other European countries. Of 5,300 take-back requests in 2017 and 2018 (until end of July), 250 got accepted by Greece, 4,900 got rejected and 9 transfers were finally implemented. For Germany approx. 4,400 take-back requests have been filed since March 2017, but by the end of June 2018 Germany had not succeeded in actually returning more than five asylum seekers. One of the requirements for returns – as stated by the German Ministry of Interior – is that Greece will provide individual assurances that a person transferred under the Regulation will be accommodated in accordance with the standards of the Reception Conditions Directive. Also for other European countries the numbers of people returned to Greece under Dublin remained low up to now

Attention! This policy can change, so keep yourself updated in general on new developments and read this info sheet carefully to understand if you are affected or not – and if you are, what to do against it.

Who is affected?

Even for those who arrived after 15 th of March 2017 in Greece not everyone will be affected. Unaccompanied minors (that means children under the age of 18 without parents) are anyway excluded from the Dublin-returns according to Dublin III. They will stay in the country where they finally apply for asylum.

The recommendation is to restart Dublin deportations to Greece only for those who are not considered vulnerable, so most probably it will still not affect families with small children, pregnant women, sick and elderly persons. There is no guarantee for this, so you have in any case to be prepared to fight for your right to stay and to get active from the beginning after your arrival in your country of destination.

Which countries have already started returns?

Germany and Norway are the two countries, which already implemented returns by the end of July 2018. The countries with the highest rate in return requests 2018 are: 1. Germany (2396), 2. Slovenia (119), 3. Belgium (114), 4. Sweden (111) and 5. Norway (81)

Attention! In practice, it seems that the Greek authorities are still rejecting most requests.

Can courts decide to stop Dublin deportations to Greece again?

Certainly, the return to Dublin policies will be again legally challenged in front of the national courts, which may make preliminary references to the European Court of Justice on the interpretation of the Dublin Regulation. Even if national authorities re-start sending back refugees to Greece, individuals can file a complaint to block being returned.

Dublin returns to Greece were suspended already once in 2011 through two judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The recommendation of the EU Commission now can be seen as an attempt to see if the courts still see systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum system. Inappropriate shelters, inhuman living conditions, insufficient access to education, systemic deficiencies in the asylum and reception system, the systematic detention on the Aegean islands, the danger of returns to Turkey and the slow efforts in family reunifications from Greece are only some of the problems refugees face today in Greece

Attention! It is specifically important for these court cases that you document what happened to you concerning difficulties to access the asylum, shelter as well as to adequate medical aid, but also any form of personal exposure to dangers such as (racist) attacks, violence or any form of exploitation!

Are there also other deportations to Greece, than the Dublin-returns carried out?

We have to distinguish between different kinds of deportations to Greece:

  1. From one country to the neighbouring: Illegal Push-backs or regular Readmissions

Push-backs along the borders of Greece were and are a continuous problem, also during the time when Dublin-deportations to Greece were halted. Italy is constantly sending people illegally back, who, hidden on ferries, try to cross from Patras or Igoumenitsa to the Italian ports. The Italian authorities refer to these returns as regular readmissions, meaning legal deportations that are carried out in the frame of a bilateral agreement between Italy and Greece, but human rights groups have denounced these returns as push-backs. Push-backs are illegal, as the authorities do not respect basic human rights concerning the right to seek protection but return people directly back without any legal guarantees.

Also from FYROM (usually simply called Macedonia ) deportations are carried out illegally as push-backs. This also happens regularly from Serbia to Macedonia , from Hungary to Serbia , from Slovenia to Croatia , from Croatia to Serbia and Bosnia etc. Most of these returns are illegal push-backs.

Official returns along these national borders are otherwise based on bilateral agreements (so-called Readmission Agreements). This chain-deportation effect from one country to the next, might in the end result in someone being returned from Hungary to Greece, but instead of a direct return (based on the Dublin Regulation) these returns occur step by step from one border to the next.

  1. Direct return of Protection Holders to Greece

People who received an international protection status in Greece (no matter if they received political asylum or subsidiary protection) can be deported back to Greece under other legal frameworks (not Dublin Regulation), when the authorities of the other EU country find out that this person already holds a residence permit and he/she yet applies again for asylum in the country of arrival. They will then not give this person the possibility to apply (again) for asylum there but only may consider if there are very serious humanitarian reasons why this person could not stay in Greece. The asylum application will usually be declared inadmissible. The person affected can appeal against this decision with the help of an experienced lawyer usually within two weeks. The authorities will most likely ask this person to leave the country by him/herself or even try to deport him/her back.

Attention! If you are affected by this kind of return danger, consult specialised lawyers and NGOs (see: http://w2eu.info/en/articles/contacts) in the European country, where you finally arrived to seek help for an appeal before a national court, or to see if there are any other ways to get a residence permit for you and avoid a return to Greece. Every case is different!

You may also check another info-sheet we have produced with information especially for protection holders from Greece who decide to go to other countries: http://w2eu.info/en/countries/greece/protection

Attention! If the authorities don’t find the documents in your pocket they might find the result of the asylum procedure also directly from the data stored in “Eurodac” together with your fingerprints – this is at least regularly the case since the beginning of 2018.

  1. Returns upon arrest in an airport of another EU-country

Airports are considered transit zones and as such before leaving the airport buildings / zones you are not considered to have arrived on the national territory of a country, so that special treaties / law can be applied here to return you back from where the authorities saw you arrived from by plane.

Attention! In this case entry bans can be put on you so that you may be arrested if you travel again to this country.

What happens if my asylum was rejected in Greece and I apply again for asylum in another EU-country?

If your asylum request was rejected in Greece, still you may have first a Dublin-procedure in the country of arrival where you applied again (see above).

If you successfully fought against this danger – as it happens until now in most of the cases - and you are not deported to Greece, then your case will be handled as a subsequent application (secondary application with new grounds). You may get again an inadmissibility decision in your (new) asylum application with a return decision to your country of origin.

A subsequent application is possible in some EU countries by presenting new reasons and/ or new evidence in your asylum-case. This means that in this application the only reasons that count for asylum are the ones that occurred after your first asylum application (interview) in Greece. For example, this might be exile political activities in Europe, recently converting to another religion, recent change of your sexual orientation, or a recent attack to you in Europe or to your family back home, i.e. by your enemies etc.

What does the re-start of Dublin Returns mean for family reunifications under Dublin Regulation?

According to Dublin III Regulation, families should be reunited to the countries:

A. where the first asylum claim was made, and

B. where the majority of the family lives, and

C. based on the best interest of the child.

Due to the halt of Dublin Returns for the last six years, it was not considered as an option to reunite a family to Greece independently of these factors, as the overall situation was deemed inhuman.

Attention! From 15 th of March 2017 onwards, it is possible that this practice will not continue and the authorities may consider to reunite a family to Greece if the first asylum claim was made there and the majority of the family members live there and if this is considered in the best interest of a child. This means: If your relatives in another European country have applied for asylum before you did/do in Greece, it will not be a problem. If you have been together in Greece and applied for asylum together and then you get separated and only one / some of you arrive/s in another country and you want to apply for reunification, then first seek the advice of a lawyer.


What evidence about my situation in Greece is relevant to collect during my stay in Greece in order to prove that I shouldn’t be returned there?

Collect any evidence about anything bad / any human rights violations you personally suffered from while you are in Greece. This can be:

- Illegal detention and / or bad detention conditions (overcrowding, mixed detention, under-aged adults or women with men for example), filthy and inadequate detention conditions, bad food, sleeping on the floor, no access to phones, being sick without medical help, darkness and lack of lamps etc.

- Bad living conditions (sleeping homeless, living in a tent, living without heating in the cold, no access to clean and adequate toilets and showers, bad food etc)

- No access to the asylum service and / or lawyers for legal aid

- Any form of abuse, ill-treatment (i.e. beatings) or even torture specifically by the authorities (i.e. police, soldiers, civil servants, coast guard etc.) and fascist/extremist/racist groups, but also by others

- Any form of exploitation (sexual or work exploitation for example).

- Also document any form of protest you participated in: demonstrations, self-harm, hunger strikes.

What form can documentation have?

- You can take photos of yourself / your family under the bad conditions you suffered from, showing injuries, showing yourself in long queues for food or before the asylum service, showing fences or security forces that hinder access to specific services. It would be good to note the date when the photo was taken somewhere.

- Also you can record videos / films showing you / your family in the inadequate conditions or suffering specific conditions. Also here: try to remember the date, when the video was taken.

- Save any medical and psychological documents and certificates on your condition.

- Save any official documents you get from the authorities or the asylum service.

- Save any certificates issued by NGOs about your condition and keep the contact cards / names of the persons servicing you there (name, family name, telephone number and email), so you can contact them at any point for further information / documentation even after leaving Greece.

Attention! You might not be able to estimate which documentation might be relevant, so keep copies of everything and then show all the documentation to your lawyer in the country of destination so he / she can sort out which ones to use. Better to have too much than too little. Attention! Take photos of all these pieces of evidence and keep them safe in your e-mail or facebook account, so you will not lose them even if you lose your phone or your papers. Be careful, who you share it with. Not everything should be published on your facebook page, but just stored so that you can use it in case you need it.

Attention! At least in Germany mobile phones are now regularly checked during the asylum application and data get downloaded from the phone you present to the authorities. The aim is to find out if you lied about your country of origin for example. So have in mind that the phone you will carry with you will be controlled.

Attention! Always document yourself in these conditions, your own individual situation. You can also collect general materials on the situation in Greece but most importantly you need evidence about your own personal situation.

What do I need to do after arriving at my destination in order to protect myself from a Dublin return to Greece?

1) Build your own team!

Like in most other struggles, you can succeed to stop a deportation if you are able to build a team. For your team you need some experts: counsellors who have knowledge about Dublin-deportations and how to stop them, most probably also a lawyer, for sure contacts to good NGOs are helpful, maybe a good doctor and/or psychologist. And most importantly: friends who will support you and encourage you to not give up.

2) Contact support groups and look for counselling after arrival!

If you had to give fingerprints in Greece, you should contact support groups in your country of arrival as soon as possible. In most countries and in most cases you will also need a lawyer. Seek advice from support groups or NGOs for contacts to good, experienced lawyers to prevent a deportation based on the Dublin III Regulation to Greece.

3) Take a lawyer and fight for your rights in front of a court!

Tell your lawyer or your supporters openly about your fingerprints and ask specifically for support to protect you from a return to Greece. In some countries (for example in Germany) lawyers are very useful in the procedure. Usually they take money to support your case (this is not the case in all European countries, the best is to check first with a counselling service that is for free, what are usual fees for lawyers and which lawyers are recommended in your case). 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 – it makes a lot of sense to invest this money. In other countries (for example France) lawyer work for free and/or are paid by the state. The moment when you receive a letter with a deportation order is the latest moment when YOU HAVE TO SEEK HELP of a lawyer IMMEDIATELY. There is only one week for the lawyer to appeal before the court against your deportation. In the best case you would have already taken a lawyer in advance and you will be prepared to fight against your deportation. Don’t wait until the last moment! The chances to stop a deportation to Greece in front of a court are often given (for sure depending on the country and the place you finally are), because many judges know that the situation in Greece for refugees is very bad.

You can ask for good contacts for lawyers here: http://w2eu.info/en/articles/contacts.

For Germany it is also useful to check here: https://www.proasyl.de/beratungsstellen-vor-ort/ - Or you can ask Pro Asyl, Tel +49 (0)69-242 314 20 (Mo–Fr 10–12 [&] 14–16) or email proasyl@proasyl.de.

4) In case you have medical or psychological problems look for a good doctor and/or psychologist!

In order to appeal against your deportation, it is important to express your vulnerabilities and – if you have any - show evidence for why your living circumstances in the country they want to deport you to are so sub-standard that you cannot return. Vulnerable groups such as families with small children, sick persons, mentally ill, single mothers etc. are more likely not to be deported. Prepare a good documentation of your vulnerability. Lawyers need documents to argue on your behalf, so start early to collect any written evidence by doctors, psychologists, social workers etc.

5) Mention family links if possible already in your first interview!

If you have any family members in the country where you are registered and where you want to stay, 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 Greece, 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. It is good to mention all sorts of family links – authorities can decide not to follow the Dublin-procedure because of family links.

6) Continue to fight against your deportation even if the court rejected your appeal!

There are many people who manage to prevent Dublin-deportations even after negative 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, the authorities have six months to carry out the deportation. After this time limit expires, the country of arrival will be responsible. So there are many people who managed to exceed this time limit:

a) they were (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: i.e. 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 who are 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.

Attention! Sometimes, when there are many new asylum applications at once the asylum system including the registration system and the comparison of fingerprints is blocked. The resulting delays lead in some cases to the expiration of deadlines 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 him/herself. He/she needs your permission to look into your file.

Good luck and a lot of strength for you for the future!

Freedom of Movement for everyone!