Greek Council for Refugees


Dublin statistics: 2016

Outgoing procedure

Incoming procedure

















































United Kingdom
























Source: Asylum Service, Information provided to GCR, 9 February 2017.


The application of the Dublin criteria

The majority of outgoing transfers under the Dublin Regulation continue to take place in the context of family reunification. In 2016, 946 transfers were carried out, the vast majority of which on family reunification grounds.1

In 2016, like in 2015, the most frequent trend was for families not to have already applied for asylum in Greece, but for one or more family members to travel onwards and lodge their first application in another EU Member State. Besides, until November 2015, the northern border of Greece was almost completely open and the road to Central Europe easily accessible through the Balkan route.

By applying directly to another EU Member State, applicants may request their families to join them on the basis of Dublin’s family unity criteria,2 which are at the top of the hierarchy of responsibility criteria, rather than the discretionary clauses.3 Before 2015, the most frequent case used to concern families applying for asylum in Greece, where at some point – well beyond the 3-month deadline for submitting a request – one or more members moved onwards to apply in another Member State, where they requested for their family members to be admitted for the purposes of family reunification. Under the Dublin Regulation, these claimants should be returned to Greece, but could no longer be transferred after the M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece ruling. Although in such cases the receiving Member State is not obliged to accept the transfer of family members from Greece, in practice it invokes the Regulation’s discretionary clauses,4 and notifies Greece of its acceptance of the take charge request.

However, serious problems arise in the cases of unaccompanied children whose family members are present in another Member State. The system of appointing a guardian for minors is dysfunctional, as little is done after the Asylum Service or Police or Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) has informed the Juvenile Public Prosecutor who acts by law as temporary guardian for unaccompanied children; the Prosecutor merely assumes that capacity in theory. Unacceptable delays take place for the actual transfer of unaccompanied children below the age of 14 to another Member State where the family reunification request has been accepted, due to severe shortage of staff to escort the child and to the need for the Dublin Unit to request the Aliens Division to provide an escort for the transfer. In some cases in 2016, reports have referred to delays of one year or in some cases 15-18 months for children to reunite with family members.5

In order for a “take charge” request to be addressed to the Member State where a family or relative resides, the consent of the relative is required, as well as documents proving the legal status of the relative in the receiving country (e.g. residence permit, asylum seeker’s card or other documents certifying the submission of an asylum application) and documentation bringing evidence of the family link (e.g. certificate of marriage, civil status, passport, ID). The lack of such documentation leads in practice to non-expedition of an outgoing request by the Dublin Unit. In some cases, however, some Member States have requested more onerous evidence of family links such as DNA tests.6

In 2016, Greece issued a total 4,886 outgoing Dublin requests, mainly concerning Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, under the following criteria of the Regulation:

Outgoing Dublin requests by criterion: 2016

Dublin III Regulation criterion

Requests made in 2016

Family provisions: Articles 6 and 8-11


Article 6


Article 8


Article 9


Article 10


Article 11


Documentation and entry: Articles 12-15


Article 12


Article 13


Dependency and humanitarian clause: Articles 16 and 17(2)


Article 16


Article 17


“Take back”: Article 18


Total outgoing requests


Source: Asylum Service, Information provided to GCR, 9 February 2017.



The Dublin procedure is handled by the Dublin Unit in Athens. Regional Asylum Offices are competent for registering applications and thus potential Dublin cases, as well as to notify applicants of decisions after the determination of the responsible Member State has been carried out.7

In line with Article 21 of the Dublin III Regulation, where an asylum application has been lodged in Greece and the authorities consider that another Member State is responsible for examining the application, Greece must issue a request for that Member State to take charge of the applicant no later than 3 months after the lodging of the application.

Generally, outgoing requests by Greece receive a reply within 2 months after the request is submitted, in line with the time limits imposed by the Regulation.8 However, according to GCR’s experience, certain Member States such as Germany tend to delay their replies, due to heavy workload.

During 2016, Greece addressed 4,886 outgoing requests to other Member States under the Dublin Regulation. Within the same period, 2,462 requests were accepted and 1,001 rejected. Against those rejections, a request for review has been made by the Dublin Unit.9 At this point, it should be noted that there has been a remarkable increase in the number of outgoing requests compared to previous years:

Outgoing Dublin requests: 2014-2016





Outgoing requests




Source: Eurostat; Asylum Service.


Individualised guarantees

In family reunification cases through Dublin III, the reception conditions in the receiving state are not examined. It is sufficient that the applicant is willing to be transferred there and that he or she relinquishes his or her right to appeal against the decision rejecting the asylum application as inadmissible.


Transfer procedure

In 2014, the Greek Dublin Unit was reorganised and reinforced with several new members, although there is still room for more adjustments to be made in order for the Unit to meet the actual needs attached to the high number of Dublin procedures. As a result, so far Dublin procedures appear to run smoothly and within the requisite deadlines. For example, deadlines for “take charge” requests as well as transfers are usually met without jeopardising the outcome of the reunification.

However, delays occur and the waiting time for transfers is still extremely high. The average duration of the transfer procedure, after a Member State had accepted responsibility, was approximately 5-6 months in 2016.10 Applicants who are to travel by plane to another Member State are picked up by the Hellenic Police from their house or from a location in proximity and are driven to the airport. The police officer escorts the applicants to the check-in counter. Once the boarding passes are issued, the escorting officer hands in the boarding passes, the laissez-passer and the applicant’s “asylum seeker’s card” to a police officer at the airport. The latter escorts the applicant into the aircraft, hands in the required documents to the captain of the aircraft and the applicant boards the aircraft.

Due to the lack of relevant funding, applicants under the Dublin Regulation are expected to cover their own travel expenses.11 NGOs endeavour to find sponsors or donors, since there are many cases where people cannot afford the transfer.

Compared to a total 4,886 requests in 2016, a total 946 transfers were implemented, thereby indicating a transfer rate of 19.36%.


Personal interview

Under the Dublin procedure, a personal interview is not always required.12

In practice, detailed personal interviews do not usually take place as per the merits, when outgoing requests are pending for the transfer of asylum seekers under the family reunification procedure, although questions mostly relating to the Dublin procedure are almost always addressed to the applicant in an interview framework. The applicant identifies the family member with whom he or she desires to reunite and provides all the relevant documentation. Questions relating to the Dublin procedure are always addressed to the applicant during the regular interview examining his or her asylum claim. According to GCR’s experience, applicants who revealed at this later stage (way after the 3-month deadline) the existence of a close family member in another EU Member State, thus fulfilling the criteria of Dublin III Regulation, where given the chance of an outgoing family reunification request by the Asylum Service.

Within the context of the pre-registration exercise, that took place between 9 June 2016 and 30 July 2016 (see Registration), Dublin requests were not recorded. Specific questions regarding the application of the Dublin Regulation were only made during the full registration of applications.

Interviews in non-family reunification cases tend to be more detailed when it is ascertained that an asylum seeker, after being fingerprinted, has already applied for asylum in another EU Member State before Greece. However, since the majority of the newly arrived have entered through the Greek-Turkish sea border, this type of interviews does not take place so often.




Applications for international protection are declared inadmissible where the Dublin Regulation applies.13 An applicant may lodge an appeal against a first instance decision rejecting an application as inadmissible due to the application of the Dublin Regulation within 15 days.14 Such appeal is also directed against the transfer decision, which is incorporated in the inadmissibility decision.15


Legal assistance

Access to free legal assistance and representation in the context of a Dublin procedure is available under the conditions described in the regular procedure (see section on Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance). The same problems and obstacles described in the regular procedure exist in the context of Dublin procedures, with NGOs trying in practice to cover this field as well.


Limited access to legal assistance creates difficulties for applicants in navigating through the complexities of the Dublin procedure. The case files of the applicants are communicated by the police or RAO competent for the registration of asylum applications to the Dublin Unit. Moreover, the Dublin Unit does not consider itself  responsible for preparing Dublin-related case files, as the applicants bear the responsibility of submitting to the Asylum Service all documents required in order for the Dublin Unit to establish a “take charge” request, such as proof of family links. The Asylum Service claims that its registration staff has been instructed to inform applicants who express the wish to be reunited with a family member in another Member State of the need for timely submission of the relevant documents.


Suspension of transfers

No recent information on suspension of transfers is available.


The situation of Dublin returnees

Transfers of asylum seekers from another Member State to Greece under the Dublin Regulation have been suspended since 2011, following the M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Joined Cases C-411/10 and C-493/10 N.S. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).16 However, during 2016, the Greek Dublin Unit received 4,415 incoming requests under the Dublin Regulation, coming mainly from Hungary. 97% of those incoming requests were based on the criterion of first country of entry.17 Only 3 persons were transferred back to Greece under the Regulation in 2016.18

In November 2016, the ECtHR has granted an interim measure twice with regard to two cases of Somali asylum seekers, supported by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and ordered the Hungarian authorities to suspend their transfer to Greece based on the Dublin Regulation.19

Following three Recommendations issued to Greece in the course of last year,20 on 8 December 2016, European Commission issued a Fourth Recommendation in favour of the resumption of Dublin returns to Greece, starting from 15 March 2017, without retroactive effect and only regarding asylum applicants who have entered Greece from 15 March 2017 onwards or for whom Greece is responsible from 15 March 2017 onwards under other Dublin criteria.21 Persons belonging to vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors are to be excluded from Dublin transfers for the moment, according to the Recommendation.22

The Recommendation has been sharply criticised by numerous civil society organisations, including Doctors of the World,23 Amnesty International,24 and Human Rights Watch.25 In a letter addressed by the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and Greek civil society organisations GCR, Aitima and SolidarityNow, to the President of the European Commission and the Greek Minister of Migration Policy on 15 December 2016, the organisations stressed:

“The envisaged resumption of transfers of asylum seekers under the Dublin III Regulation to Greece is in our view premature in light of the persistent deficiencies in the Greek asylum system, that are unlikely to be resolved by the envisaged date of 15 March 2017. Moreover, it disregards of the pending procedure before the Council of European Committee of Ministers on the execution of the M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece judgment of the European Court of Human Rights and is at odds with ongoing efforts to increase relocation from Greece.”26

The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) in a Statement of 19 December 2016, has expressed its “grave concern” with regard to the Commission Recommendation and noted that

“[I]t should be recalled that all refugee reception and protection mechanisms in Greece are undergoing tremendous pressure... the GNCHR reiterates its established positions, insisting that the only possible and effective solution is the immediate modification of the EU migration policy and in particular of the Dublin system, which was proven to be inconsistent with the current needs and incompatible with the effective protection of human rights as well as the principles of solidarity and burden-sharing among the EU Member-States.”27

Nevertheless, the Commission Recommendation has led a number of Member States beyond Hungary to take steps towards transferring asylum seekers to Greece again. Germany has recently announced that its suspension of transfers to Greece will cease on 15 March 2017, while Belgium has also voiced support for reinstatement of Dublin procedures.28

  • 1. Information provided by the Asylum Service, 9 February 2017.
  • 2. Information provided by the Asylum Service, March 2015.
  • 3. Articles 8-11 Dublin III Regulation, more particularly Article 10.
  • 4. Article 17 Dublin III Regulation.
  • 5. See e.g. The AIRE Centre and ECRE, With Greece: Recommendations for refugee protection, July 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/29DULlv, 20.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. For more information, see The AIRE Centre & ECRE, With Greece: Recommendations for refugee protection, July 2016, 20.
  • 8. Article 22(1) Dublin III Regulation.
  • 9. Asylum Service, The work of the Asylum Service in 2016, 17 January 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2jFEqiW, 2.
  • 10. Information provided by the Asylum Service, 9 February 2017.
  • 11. Information provided by the Asylum Service, 9 February 2017.
  • 12. Article 5 Dublin III Regulation.
  • 13. Article 54(1)(b) L 4375/2016.
  • 14. Article 61(1)(b) L 4375/2016.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. ECtHR, M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece, Application No. 30696/09, Judgment of 21 January 2011; CJEU, Joined Cases C-411/10 and C-493/10 N.S. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Judgment of 21 December 2011.
  • 17. Asylum Service, 'The work of the Asylum Service in 2016', 17 January 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2jFEqiW, 2.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. ECtHR, M.S. v. Hungary, Application No 64194/16, 10 November 2016; ECtHR, H.J. v. Hungary, Application No 70984/16, 30 November 2016; Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary: Update on Dublin Transfers, 14 December 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2omSwrF.
  • 20. Commission Recommendation of 10 February 2016, C(2016) 871: http://bit.ly/2k8Wgf9; Commission Recommendation of 15 June 2016, C(2016) 2805: http://bit.ly/2kKqLvd; Commission Recommendation of 28 September 2016, C(2016) 6311: http://bit.ly/2k90QKm.
  • 21. Commission Recommendation of 8 December 2016 addressed to the Member States on the resumption of transfers to Greece under Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013, C(2016) 8525, available at: http://bit.ly/2kLKs1L.
  • 22. Commission Recommendation C(2016) 8525, para 9.
  • 23. Doctors of the World Greece, ‘Επανέναρξη των επιστροφών «Δουβλίνου»’, 14 December 2016, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2gHDKMJ.
  • 24. Amnesty International, ‘EU pressure on Greece for Dublin returns is “hypocritical”’, 8 December 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2kG8Dzf.
  • 25. Human Rights Watch, ‘EU: Returns to Greece Put Refugees at Risk’, 10 December 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2hgVaNi.
  • 26. ECRE, GCR, Aitima and SolidarityNow, Letter to the President of the European Commission and the Greek Minister of Migration Policy “Re: Joint Action Plan on EU-Turkey Statement and resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece”, 15 December 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2kGcc8P.
  • 27. National Commission for Human Rights, Statement in response to the recommendation of the European Commission to reactivate the refugee return mechanism under the Dublin system, 19 December 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2kGi7us.
  • 28. See e.g. ECRE, ‘Germany: suspension of Dublin procedures to Greece set to end on 15 March 2017’, 13 January 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2jE3Vks.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti