The Greek asylum crisis Moving beyond the blame game to a genuine solution
A unique period of freezing cold temperatures in the beginning month of the year 2017 highlighted the grave flaws in Greece’s asylum seekers policy. Camps that housed tens of thousands of refugees from conflict were affected with freezing rain and snow as residents were subjected to temperatures of sub-zero and Arctic winds.
The winter crisis dominated news all over the world. There was no doubt about the fact that, ten months since the EU-Turkey deal resulted in a dramatic drop in migrant flows into Greece, Greece is still struggling to deal with the issue of asylum.
Significant funds have been provided for the purpose of addressing the immigration crisis, directly to relevant departments and to international non-governmental organizations.
According to an earlier European Commission report, Greece has received EUR295 million of the amount of EUR861 million that was allocated to the refugee crisis across Europe. Of the EUR295 million, at most 50% has been provided directly to international organizations. But this isn’t working.
The impossible mission of Greece
Greece is confronted with the challenge of a Sisyphean job. It is required to provide the right initial conditions for asylum seekers, which includes housing, health care as well as education for children. Also, it should accelerate the relocation of refugee groups to the other EU countries. Approximately 4,455 people were relocated towards the close of the month.
Then, it has to process the demands of those who entered following the agreement between Turkey and Europe signed in March 2016 with the intention of returning the refugees to Turkey. As of now, asylum committees have found many of the claims to be valid and thus are able to be dealt with in Greece.
Greece is currently the home of more than 60,000 refugees. Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
According to figures published by government officials from the Greek government according to data released by the Greek government, the Greek islands have a capacity of 8,375 spaces; they currently accommodate more than 10,000 asylum-seekers, surpassing the capacity of 25 percent. Similar figures reveal that refugee camps located in the northern part of Greece are halved empty, whereas those in the area of Athens are filled to capacity.
Although the overcrowding of the islands has been a source of concern in the past however it was the deficiency of winter facilities that drew media attention, as refugees were left in frigid winter air and faced with a miserable living environment. However, beyond the immediate relief of the living life on islands the biggest issue is the actual process for asylum applications.
How did we get here?
It is believed that the EU asylum process has thus, to date, been based on two pillars. First, there is a clear line between asylum seekers, those who are fleeing conflict or persecution as well as violence and insecurity, and those who seek an improved life and job opportunities.
This second rule is codified by the Dublin Regulation, which states that asylum applications must be handled in the initial country of entry.
The Mediterranean crisis in migration that occurred between 2015 and 2016 has effectively destroyed both of the principles.
The majority of them came starting from the Turkish coast, to the Greek islands of the Aegean sea, and also in Libya up to Lampedusa or Sicily. More than one million people came to the coasts in the southern part of Europe in the year 2015. An additional 390,000 were in the region in 2016.
The two corridors accommodated diverse nationalities: Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis left their homes in war using the route Turkey-Greece. The Libya-Italy route is mostly utilized by Eritreans, Nigerians, Somalis, and other Sub-Saharan Africans, presenting a greater variety of people who have strong protection and motivations for work.
The distinction between asylum and migration, which is the fundamental principle behind EU asylum seekers’ policy, is becoming increasingly unclear as various groups of people use the same routes and use the same smuggling routes to travel across the EU’s exterior border illegally.
The massive amount of people who have arrived has resulted in the actual suspension of the principle of first safe country.
The causes of suffering
Since the agreement between Turkey and Europe was signed the, number of refugees that have arrived through this Greek way has drastically decreased. There is still the queue of applications clogged in Greece, which is facing an economic crisis of its own.
Greek asylum laws were revised in April of 2016 and were reformed to allow the Joint Statement between Turkey and the EU to be applicable within Greek territory. The law reform was essentially a way to create an asylum system that is unique to frontier areas.