According to Article 55 L 4375/2016, a country shall be considered to be a “first country of asylum” for an applicant provided that he or she will be readmitted to that country, if the applicant has been recognised as a refugee in that country and can still enjoy of that protection or enjoys other effective protection in that country, including benefiting from the principle of non-refoulement.
The guarantees applicable to the “first country of asylum” concept have been lowered by L 4375/2016 compared to the previous legal framework. While Article 19(2) PD 113/2013 required the Asylum Service to take into account the safety criteria of the “safe third country” notion when examining whether a country qualifies as a “first country of asylum”, this requirement has been dropped in Article 55 L 4375/2016. This means, for instance, that application can be dismissed as inadmissible on the ground of first country of asylum even if said country, in the current context Turkey, does not satisfy the criteria of a “safe third country”.
Similar to the safe third country concept, the first country of asylum concept started being examined in April 2016 under the fast-track border procedure on the Eastern Aegean islands for applications lodged by Syrian nationals entering Greece after 20 March 2016. An admissibility examination is also taking place since December 2016 for applications lodged by nationalities with a recognition rate over 25%.
In practice and based on the decisions known to GCR, a number of first-instance decisions have considered Turkey inter alia as a “first country of asylum” even for Syrian refugees who transited Turkey for a few days and have never been granted a temporary protection status by the Turkish authorities. Moreover, GCR is aware of a number of first-instance decisions where the application was rejected as inadmissible on the ground that “Turkey is a first country of asylum and/or safe third country”, without clarifying under which of the two concepts the application was rejected.