Relocation

Greece

Author

Greek Council for Refugees

Relocation statistics: 22 September 2015 – 15 January 2017










Relocation from Greece

 

Submitted requests

Relocations

Total

13,865

7,441

France

3,447

2,413

Germany

2,335

644

Portugal

1,270

550

Netherlands

1,097

836

Spain

768

544

Finland

775

560

Source: Asylum Service: http://asylo.gov.gr/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Relocation-procedures-up-to-15-01-17_gr.pdf.

The relocation scheme set up by Council Decisions (EU) 2015/1523 and 2015/1601 in September 2015, for a target of 160,000 asylum seekers, was designed as an emergency measure to alleviate pressure on Italy and Greece and constitutes a partial derogation to the Dublin Regulation rules. Out of the target of 66,400 asylum seekers to be relocated from Greece, 7,441 had effectively been transferred as of 15 January 2017. The European Commission has been regularly reporting on the scheme, highlighting a number of challenges resulting in slow and inefficient implementation of Member States’ commitments.1

In 2016, a total 12,999 places for relocation were offered to Greece by the countries participating in the scheme:



























Relocation pledges to Greece in 2016

Member State

Number of places offered

Belgium

300

Bulgaria

150

Croatia

10

Cyprus

80

Czech Republic

30

Estonia

177

Finland

690

France

3,200

Germany

2,200

Ireland

484

Latvia

289

Lichtenstein

10

Lithuania

480

Luxembourg

180

Malta

52

Netherlands

1,000

Norway

310

Portugal

1,200

Romania

877

Slovakia

30

Slovenia

100

Spain

750

Switzerland

400

Total

12,999

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

The following section draws on information provided to GCR by the Asylum Service as of February 2017, unless otherwise specified.

 

The relocation procedure in practice

A special Relocation Unit has been created within the Asylum Service for the implementation of the relocation scheme. The Relocation Unit in Athens is stationed in the region of Alimos, far from the main Asylum Service premises. 66 officers are deployed there, another 15 in Thessaloniki and 3 in Thrace.

The relocation scheme is applied to persons:

  • Belonging to a nationality with an EU-wide average recognition rate of 75% or above; and

  • Entering Greece between 16 September 2015 and 19 March 2016.

During the registration of an asylum seeker, if he or she falls under the scope of the relocation scheme, the person is requested to state his or her preference over 8 European countries out of the list provided to him or her by the Asylum Service, to which he or she would wish to be relocated.

Subsequently, the Relocation Unit conducts the so-called “matching” of the asylum seeker to a Member State or according to the wording used in Article 5(3) of the Council Decisions  “conducts the identification of the individual applicants who could be relocated to a specific Member State”, taking into account the preferences stated by the applicants, where possible,. According to Recitals 27 and 28 of Council Decision 2015/1523 and Recital 33 and 34 of Council Decision 2015/1601:

“The integration of applicants in clear need of international protection into the host society is the cornerstone of a properly functioning Common European Asylum System.[...]Therefore, in order to decide which specific Member State should be the Member State of relocation, specific account should be given to the specific qualifications and characteristics of the applicants concerned, such as their language skills and other individual indications based on demonstrated family, cultural or social ties which could facilitate their integration into the Member State of relocation. In the case of particularly vulnerable applicants, consideration should be given to the capacity of the Member State of relocation to provide adequate support to those applicants and to the necessity of ensuring a fair distribution of those applicants among Member States. With due respect for the principle of non-discrimination, Member States of relocation may indicate their preferences for applicants based on the above information on the basis of which Italy and Greece, in consultation with EASO and, where applicable, liaison officers, may compile lists of possible applicants identified for relocation to that Member State.”

For the implementation of all aspects of the relocation procedure as described in Article 5 of the Council Decisions, Member States may decide to appoint liaison officers to Italy and to Greece. Those liaison officers in Greece are the contact point of the Greek Relocation Unit with their respective Member State and facilitate administrative cooperation and information exchange.

 

Interviews of asylum seekers conducted in Greece

After the “matching” of the applicant to the Member State of relocation, several Member and Associated States, including France, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ireland, conduct interviews with the person eligible for relocation in Greece, usually in the Member State’s embassy. This step is not explicitly mentioned in the Council Decisions but is considered to fall within the scope of each country’s right to collect all the information needed in order to decide if an applicant constitutes a “danger to their national security or public order” or whether “there are serious reasons for applying the exclusion provisions”,2 to apply the grounds for rejecting relocation. This step was first introduced by France, following the November 2015 attacks in Paris, and follows French practice on resettlement.3

The lack of an explicit provision for such a procedure in the Council Decisions creates a vacuum that leaves applicants unprotected. According to GCR’s first-hand information, the interviews conducted in the French embassy, after the initial acceptance of the relocation applicants by France, are proper refugee status determination interviews, going beyond the identification of grounds for applying the exclusion provisions.4 These interviews are usually conducted by two officers of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA), with interpretation, but without keeping any kind of record of the procedure. The presence of a legal advisor in those interviews is prohibited.

 

Relocation of unaccompanied children

Regarding unaccompanied minors, 523 have been registered in the relocation scheme since September 2015, while 350 have already been accepted by a Member State, as of 20 January 2017:
















Relocation requests regarding unaccompanied children: 20 January 2017

Member State

Unaccompanied children accepted

Belgium

24

Finland

119

France

3

Germany

18

Ireland

24

Luxembourg

24

Netherlands

34

Norway

30

Portugal

16

Romania

1

Spain

38

Switzerland

19

Total

350

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

 

Duration of the relocation procedure

The question of the speed in the relocation procedure is of central importance, for Member States and the implementing authorities. According to the Asylum Service, the average time between the registration of an asylum seeker eligible for relocation and the outgoing request by the Relocation Unit is 49 days.

The answer is usually received within 29 days, while the transfer needs another 58 days in order to be completed.

However, this is a best case scenario. In reality, this is not usually the case, since Member States are not pledging on a stable basis and according to the size of their allocations. The total number of places available for relocation was 15,164 on 1 February 2017, while the total number of people eligible for the programme was 24,233. This means that, in fact, people stay in the relocation procedure much longer, usually 8 to 10 months, according to GCR’s knowledge. This delay makes the programme less reliable and appealing, thereby contributing to insufficiency of reception conditions and thus ‘feeding’ secondary movements.

 

Refusal of relocation

Grounds for not sending an outgoing relocation request

The first ground for not sending a relocation request is the applicability of the Dublin Regulation, where the family reunification provisions come into play (see section on Dublin).

Secondly, GCR has often observed a particular administrative practice of the Relocation Unit regarding certain applicants eligible for relocation. After the initial registration of the application, the Relocation Unit conducts an internal search in domestic and European lists, such as the National List of Unwanted Aliens and the Schengen Information System (SIS II).If an entry ban in the Schengen area has been imposed on a certain applicant, the Asylum Service’s view is that this applicant cannot be referred to the emergency relocation mechanism, with a request for emergency transfer to another Member State.

However, even in cases where a “hit” appears in those lists, the Relocation Unit does not send an outgoing relocation request and automatically transfers the applicant to the Greek asylum procedure. A mere “hit” in those lists could simply be a synonymy or point to two very similar names. Yet the Relocation Unit does not go into a more in-depth investigation of the case, since the relocation procedure must move very fast and such investigations need more time. GCR has intervened in the case of a Syrian family, where such a “hit” was found in SIS II regarding the father. The Relocation Unit removed the whole family from the relocation programme and set a specific day for an asylum interview with an officer of the Asylum Service. The family asked for GCR’s assistance to re-enter the relocation programme, explaining that the “hit” could never be accurate, since the whole family had never travelled outside Syria before. After several months of long discussions with the Relocation Unit and after communicating the problem to Supplementary Information Request at the National Entries (SIRENE) of the Department of the Hellenic Police, the family re-entered relocation and was eventually accepted by a Member State.

 

Grounds for rejecting relocation requests

Article 5(7) of Council Decisions 2015/1523 and 2015/1601 gives Member States “the right to refuse to relocate an applicant only where there are reasonable grounds for regarding him or her as a danger to their national security or public order or where there are serious reasons for applying the exclusion provisions set out in Articles 12 and 17 of [the recast Qualification Directive]”.

According to the Relocation Protocol, adopted by Member States participating in the relocation programme (not publicly available), when the reason of rejection is the application of exclusion provisions, this should be communicated to the Greek Relocation Unit, while in cases of rejection due to national security or public order reasons, the communication should be addressed to the Greek Security Forces. Unfortunately, in practice, Member States make use of the provision of Article 5(7) of the Council Decisions without specifying the reason of rejection or providing any additional information to the Greek authorities. When a person is rejected by a Member State, the Relocation Unit does not try to allocate him or her to another Member State, but informs him or her that Greece is responsible for the examination of his or her asylum application from that point on.

The abovementioned rejection is not delivered in writing to the respective applicant. It is only orally announced and does not inform the person of the real reasons for his or her rejection or give him or her the possibility to contest them in order to re-enter the relocation scheme. Since September 2015, dozens of applicants have requested GCR’s assistance in order to find out the reason for their rejection. GCR’s constant requests to the Relocation Unit have always received identical replies: that relocation is a burden-sharing mechanism between European Member States and being an applicant or a beneficiary of the relocation programme is not a right, contrary to seeking asylum. Accordingly, the Relocation Unit states that there is no obligation on the authorities to inform the person officially – in writing – in case of rejection. Moreover, there is no right to appeal whatsoever, against such a decision of rejection.

 

Appeal against a transfer decision

According to the Asylum Service, given that the applicant cannot choose the Member State of relocation, he or she should have a right to appeal against a relocation decision, in accordance with the Dublin Regulation, solely for the purpose of safeguarding his or her fundamental rights. Article 27(1) of the Dublin III Regulation, applicable mutatis mutandis in the relocation procedure, provides for the right to an effective remedy, in the form of an appeal or a review, in fact and in law, against a transfer decision. According to the Asylum Service, this applies where it is impossible to transfer an applicant to the Member State primarily designated as responsible because there are substantial grounds for believing that there are systemic flaws in the asylum procedure and in the reception conditions for applicants in that Member State, resulting in a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment.5 This contrasts with the interpretation of the provision by the CJEU.6

In practice, few such appeals have been filed, given the fact that, when an applicant receives a positive decision for relocation to another Member State, he or she is simultaneously required to sign a resignation from the right to appeal. If the applicant does not wish to be relocated, he or she may also submit a subsequent application in order to enter the Greek asylum procedure.7

 

  • 1. The Commission’s reports on relocation and resettlement are available at: http://goo.gl/VkOUJX.
  • 2. Article 5(7) Council Decisions 2015/1523 and 2015/1601.
  • 3. AIDA, Admissibility, responsibility and safety in European asylum procedures, September 2016, 28.
  • 4. For more information, see AIDA, Country Report France, 2016 Update, February 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2lPwbCv, 68.
  • 5. Article 3(2) Dublin III Regulation.
  • 6. CJEU, Case C-155/15 Karim v. Migrationsverket, Judgment of 7 June 2016.
  • 7. AIDA, Admissibility, responsibility and safety in European asylum procedures, September 2016, 30.

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