The Greek Council for Refugees has published a report of its latest monitoring visits to Leros and Kos, held in September and November 2016 respectively. At the moment, 2,287 asylum seekers are on Kos, far beyond its maximum capacity. Leros is currently hosting 871 asylum seekers.
Among other findings, the report provides insights into the workings of the asylum procedure on the two islands, where the Asylum Service has set up Mobile Units in the absence of dedicated Regional Asylum Offices.
Shortages in Asylum Service staff on Kos have led to developments raising concerns for the Greek Council for Refugees. On the one hand, five police officers have been enlisted to perform administrative duties in the procedure, thereby calling into question the institutional transition of the Greek asylum system from police authorities to a specialised Asylum Service in 2013. On the other hand, several interviews with asylum seekers are conducted by Asylum Service staff in Athens through videoconference, compromising the quality and effective exercise of asylum seekers’ right to be heard.
For its part, EASO is present on both islands, although its role on Kos and Leros diverged at the time of the visits. While EASO staff conducted both admissibility and eligibility interviews on Leros, their support in the examination of applications was limited to admissibility procedures on Kos. There, persons of low recognition rate nationalities, who are not subject to admissibility assessments, were interviewed by Asylum Service officials. Other nationalities have started undergoing registration on Leros but have not yet had their claims examined, as the authorities were awaiting instructions on their treatment. For Syrians, the Asylum Service has issued template decisions for the admissibility procedure.
The implementation of procedural guarantees for vulnerable applicants is also problematic in practice. Whereas Law 4375/2016 exempts vulnerable groups from the application of the exceptional border procedure on the islands, the Asylum Service – responsible for such a determination – on both islands encounters obstacles to accessing individual files from the vulnerability screening conducted by the Reception and Identification Service upon arrival, as these are withheld for confidentiality reasons. On Kos, the Greek Council for Refugees also observed that officials were not always aware that unaccompanied children were exempt from the exceptional border procedure under the law.
Finally, the Greek Council for Refugees confirms that detention is systematically applied on both islands and subject to inhuman conditions.
For more information, see:
- Greek Council for Refugees, Fact-finding missions.
- AIDA, Greece: #1 European Union to remove existing guarantees against Turkey returns, 8 December 2016.
- ECRE et al., The implementation of the hotspots in Italy and Greece, 5 December 2016.