Rules for the registration and lodging of applications
Article 65 IPA transposes Article 6 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive relating to access to the procedure.
As outlined below, Greek law refers to simple registration (απλή καταγραφή) to describe the notion of “registration” and full registration (πλήρης καταγραφή) to describe the notion of “lodging” of an application for international protection under the Directive.
Registration of applications for international protection (“Καταγραφή”)
Article 65(1) IPA provides that any foreigner or stateless person has the right to “make” an application for international protection. In this case, the application is submitted before the competent receiving authorities, i.e. the Regional Asylum Offices (RAO), the Autonomous Asylum Units (AAU) or Mobile Asylum Units of the Asylum Service or the Regional Reception and Identification Services, depending on their local jurisdiction, which shall immediately proceed with the “full registration” (πλήρης καταγραφή) of the application. Ιn case of urgent need, the Asylum Service may be supported by Greek-speaking personnel provided by EASO for the registration of applications.
IPA foresees that the time limit in which such a full registration should take place, should not exceed 15 days. More precisely, according to the IPA, where “for whatever reason” full registration is not possible, following a decision of the Director of the Asylum Service, the Receiving Authorities may conduct a “basic registration” (απλή καταγραφή) of the asylum seeker’s necessary details within 3 working days, and then proceed to the full registration by way of priority within a period not exceeding 15 working days from “basic registration”. In such a case, the applicant receives upon “basic registration” a document indicating his or her personal details and a photograph, to be replaced by the International Protection Applicant Card upon the lodging of the full application.
According to the IPA, if the application is submitted before a non-competent authority, that authority is obliged to promptly notify the competent receiving authority and to refer the applicant thereto. However, in practice in order for an asylum application to be properly lodged, the applicant should lodge an application in person before the Asylum Service.
For third-country nationals willing to apply for asylum while in detention or under reception and identification procedures, the detention authority or RIS must register the intention to apply on an electronic network connected to the Asylum Service no later than within 3 working days under the IPA.
Moreover, according to the IPA, the lodging of the application with the Receiving Authorities must be carried out within 7 working days after the “basic registration” by the detention authority or the RIS. In order for the application to be fully registered, the detainee is transferred to the competent RAO or AAU.
Lodging of applications (“Κατάθεση”)
No time limit is set by law for lodging an asylum application. Article 78 IPA transposes Article 13 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive that refers to applicants’ obligations and foresees that applicants are required to appear before competent authorities in person, without delay, in order to submit their application for international protection.
Applications must be lodged in person, except under force majeure conditions. According to the IPA, the lodging of the application must contain inter alia the personal details of the applicant and the full reasons for seeking international protection.
For those languages where a Skype line is available, an appointment through Skype should be fixed by the applicant before he or she can present him or herself before the Asylum Service in order to lodge an application.
As a general rule, the IPA foresees that the asylum seeker’s card, which is provided to all persons who have been fully registered i.e., lodged their application, is valid for 1 year, which can be renewed as long as the examination is pending. However, asylum seekers’ cards for applicants remaining on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Leros, Kos and Rhodes subject to a “geographical limitation” are valid for 1 month, which can be also renewed.
Moreover, the IPA provides for a number of cases where the asylum seeker’s card can be valid for shorter periods. Thus, the validity of an asylum seeker’s card can be set for a period:
- No longer than 3 months, in the case that the applicant belongs to a nationality with a recognition rate lower than 35% in accordance with the official EU statistics and by taking into consideration the period for the issuance of a first instance decision expected; 
- No longer than 30 days, in the case that the communication of a decision or a transfer on the basis of the Dublin Regulation is imminent;
- No longer than 30 days, in the case that the application is examined “under absolute priority” or “under priority”, under the accelerated procedure, under Art. 84 (inadmissible) or under the border procedure.
In 2021, the Asylum Service registered 28,320 applications for international protection, mainly lodged by Afghans (4,618) and Pakistanis (4,273). 43% of the total number of asylum applicants (12,397) lodged applications in Attica. An important shift occurred in the Eastern Aegean, as only 22% of the total number of claims (6,320) were lodged on the islands. Lesvos accounted for most new applicants (3,219), followed by Kos (1,219), Samos (967) and Chios (667). 3,123 asylum seekers were registered in Fylakio, Evros.
Applicants from countries such as Turkey and Eritrea have no access to the Skype service. As a result, they have no procedural channels to access the asylum procedure in the Attica region. These applicants face prolonged delays with regard to registration. In cases followed by RSA, asylum seekers from Turkey remain unregistered for many months despite several unsuccessful attempts to appear before the RAO in person and interventions from their legal representatives.
Role of EASO (now EUAA) in registration
EASO (now EUAA) deploys Registration Assistants to support the Greek Asylum Service in charge of registration across the territory. Registration Assistants are almost exclusively locally recruited interim staff, not least given that, in countries such as Greece, citizenship is required for access to the database managed by the police (Αλκυόνη) which is used by the Asylum Service.
In 2021, EASO carried out 10,989 registrations in Greece. Of these, 87% related to the top 10 citizenships of applicants and in particular Afghans (3,015), Bangladeshis (1,989), Syrians (840), Pakistanis (835) and Somalis (742).
Access to the procedure on the mainland
Access to the asylum procedure remains a structural and endemic problem in Greece. Difficulties with regard to access to the asylum procedure have been observed since the very start of the operation of the Asylum Service in 2013, in particular due to Asylum Service staff shortages and the non-operation of all RAO provided by law. A system for granting appointments for registration of asylum applications through Skype, in place since 2014, has not solved the problem.
The Ombudsperson has constantly highlighted that accessing the asylum procedure through Skype is a “restrictive system, which appears to be in contrast with the principle of universal, continuous and unhindered access to the asylum procedure”. According to the Ombudsperson, the Skype system has become part of the problem, rather than a technical solution.
The UN Committee Against Torture, in its concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of Greece (September 2019), highlighted the fact that access to asylum on the mainland remains problematic, largely due to difficulties in accessing the Skype-based appointment system in place for registration, which has limited capacity and availability for interpretation and recommended to the State party to “reinforce the capacity of the Asylum Service to substantively assess all individual applications for asylum or international protection”. Said observations were confirmed by Greek NCHR in September 2020, and are still valid for 2021.
In 2021 there was a considerable increase in the number of applications lodged on the mainland compared to 2020. 43% of the total number of asylum applicants (12,397 out of 28,360) lodged applications in Attica and only 22% on the Eastern Aegean islands. According to GCR’s observations access to asylum on the mainland continued to be highly problematic and often completely impossible throughout 2021.
The Skype line was available in 17 languages for 29 hours per week for access to the Asylum Service on the mainland and on the Eastern Aegean Islands for some specific languages. The detailed registration schedule through Skype was available on the Asylum Service’s website. However, at the end of March 2022, it was available only in Greek. This procedure raises several obstacles for applicants insofar as it presupposes that they have access to a smartphone with a working camera, access to Wi-Fi or money for data, strong signal and the technical knowledge to download, install and use the app.
Deficiencies in the Skype appointment system, stemming from limited capacity and availability of interpretation and barriers to applicants’ access to the internet, hinder the access of persons willing to apply for asylum to the procedure. Consequently, prospective asylum seekers frequently have to try multiple times, often over a period of several months, before they manage to get through to the Skype line and to obtain an appointment for the full registration of their application, meanwhile facing the danger of a potential arrest and detention by the police. They are deprived of the assistance provided to asylum seekers, including reception conditions and in particular access to housing. Moreover, even if an appointment for full registration is scheduled via Skype, in the meantime the applicant is not provided with any document in order to prove that he/she has already contacted the Asylum Service and he/she faces arrest and detention in view of removal. The ineffectiveness of access to the procedure through the Skype service was reiterated by the Greek Ombudsman in January 2021.
GCR encountered cases of applicants being detained during 2021 because they lacked legal documentation either due to the fact that they did not manage to get a Skype appointment or that they did not possess any document proving that he/she had already fixed an appointment with the Asylum Service for registration through Skype, as such documents do not exist.
Additionally, since the start of June 2020, an electronic system for the full “self-registration” of the asylum application has been launched by the Asylum Service. However, that option was available only for persons whose intention to apply for asylum (βούληση) was already officially registered. This is the case of persons whose application is already pre-registered either by the Reception and Identification Service (RIS) when they entered Greece or by the Hellenic Police during an administrative detention period or by the Asylum Service via Skype and the application has not been fully registered yet. Thus, the system does not address the endemic and longstanding lack of access to the asylum procedure on the mainland. Moreover, following the “self-registration”, applicants are not informed on the next steps they have to follow concerning their asylum procedure. More precisely, after the self-registration is completed, no information is provided on whether an appointment for the provision of the asylum seeker’s card or for the interview before the Asylum Service has to be fixed. GCR is aware of cases of people who were “self-registered” and then had to have a new appointment fixed for the “full registration” before the Asylum Service “due to technical issues of the electronic self-registration” as reported by the competent RAO.
On 22 November 2021, a Circular from the Secretary General of Immigration Policy of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, as well as a Clarification by the Commander of the Asylum Service, were released announcing a major change of the procedure to access asylum in Greece. According to the Circular all persons entering Greece or already residing in Greece without documentation who cannot prove their identity and nationality through a document from a Greek authority would be subject to reception and identification procedures as outlined in Article 39 of IPA. That is to undergo pre-registration at one of six Reception and Identification Centers, only one of which is situated on the mainland, at Orestiada in the Evros region, while all others are situated on the islands of Samos, Chios, Leros, Kos and Lesvos. According to the Clarification, the Skype system will no longer be used for first instance applications but will continue to be used for subsequent applications. It also stated that only unaccompanied minors are excluded from the procedure defined in the Circular, meaning that they still can register their application for international protection before all competent receiving authorities. Other vulnerable groups can be excluded only if they provide documentation proving their vulnerability. According to GCR’s observations, in most of the cases, only documents issued from public hospitals were accepted by the Asylum Service as proof of vulnerability.
Local residents and MPs of the major opposition party strongly opposed to this change, as it implied that people who arrive at any point in Greece should be transferred to RIC on Western Aegean islands, despite government promises of lowering the number of people seeking asylum on these islands. UNHCR officials, NGOs and civil society actors also voiced concerns of the inhuman treatment of asylum seekers who are deprived of their right to access fair and efficient asylum procedures and who are concurrently forced into prison-like structures.
On 24 November 2021 the Circular by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and the Clarification by the Commander of the Asylum Service were re-issued. They clarified that those who arrive via the Aegean Sea will register their application before the RIC on the islands, meaning that the access to the asylum procedure on the islands remains largely unchanged. However, all those who enter via the mainland will be registered in undisclosed “designated spots” on the mainland. They also cite the use of Article 39 (4) IPA, which outlines de facto detention of people seeking asylum for the purpose of registering an asylum claim.
Although asylum seekers are able to register an asylum claim at Evros Fylakio RIC, this is not safe nor feasible in reality. The facility is overcrowded and not have the capacity to register an increased number of asylum claims, as a result of which asylum seekers risk to be sent to the nearby Pre-removal Detention Center. It must be noted that 2021 was the first year that more people arrived to Greece via land routes than via the sea, with 53% of new arrivals reaching Greece via the mainland. Moreover, it is highly unsafe to travel without any documentation in order to reach the facility.
The Commander of the Asylum Service confirms there will be two sites on mainland Greece for the registration of asylum applications, one in the North and one in the South, but the location is yet to be decided, causing additional concern as to when access to asylum will again be possible on mainland.
In practice, the majority of people on mainland Greece did not have access to asylum starting from 22 November 2021 up to the time of publication of the report.
In 2021 the Asylum Service suspended the reception of the public several times within the framework of Covid-19 preventive measures (see below), which resulted in considerable delays concerning full registrations.
Access to the procedure from administrative detention
Access to the asylum procedure for persons detained for the purpose of removal is highly problematic. The application of a detained person having expressed his or her wish to apply for asylum is registered only after a certain period of time. The person remains detained between the expression of the intention to seek asylum and the registration of the application, by virtue of a removal order. He is deprived of any procedural guarantees provided to asylum seekers, despite the fact that according to Greek law, the person who expresses his/her intention to lodge an application for international protection is an asylum seeker. Since the waiting period between expression of intention and registration is not counted in the Duration of Detention, asylum seekers may be detained for a total period exceeding the maximum detention time limit for asylum seekers.
The findings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2019 are still valid. The UN working group “observed that many detainees did not understand their right to apply for asylum and the corresponding procedure, with some individuals incorrectly believing that the process was initiated when they were fingerprinted. There was no established scheme for providing legal aid during the first-instance asylum application, and interpretation was not consistently provided, with asylum seekers relying on second-hand information from fellow applicants. The Working Group was informed that no information was provided by the police to detainees on their right to apply for international protection or on the procedural stages, and that such information was provided by non-governmental actors only.”
The time period between the expression of intention to apply for asylum and the registration varies depending the circumstances of each case, and in particular the capacity of the competent authority, the availability of interpretation, and the number of people wishing to apply for asylum from detention.
Suspension of access to the Asylum Procedure due to COVID-19 measures
Within the framework of the measures taken for the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19, since 1 January 2021 all RAOs only served urgent registrations, as well as notification of decisions, lodging of appeals, delivery of travel documents and deposition of Dublin documents until 5 November 2021. A specific number of interviews took place only for applicants whose appointments had been already scheduled through official interview invitations.
 Articles 63(d) as amended by Article 5 L. 4686/2020 and 65(1) IPA as amended by Article 6(1) L.4686/2020.
 Article 65(1) IPA as amended by Article 6(1) L.4686/2020.
 Article 65(3) IPA.
 Article 65(2) IPA as amended by Article 6(2) L.4686/2020.
 Article 65(9) IPA.
 Article 65(7) (b) IPA as amended by article 6(3) L.4686/2020.
 Article 65(6) IPA.
 Article 78(3) IPA.
 Article 65(1) IPA as amended by Article 6(1) L.4686/2020.
 Article 70 (1) IPA as amended by article 21(1) L.4825/2021, Gazette 157/ A/ 4.9.2021.
 Article 70 (2) IPA
 Article 70(3) IPA
 Article 70 (4) IPA as amended by Article 8(1) L.4686/2020
 It should be noted that Regulation 2021/2023 entered into force on 19 January 2022, transforming EASO into the EU Agency for Asylum (EUAA).
 Article 65 (16) IPA
 Information provided by EUAA, 28 February 2022.
 See e.g. Greek Ombudsman, Special Report: Migration flows and refugee protection, April 2017.
 In 2020 18,680 applications out of a total of 40,559 were registered on the mainland.
 Greek Ombudsman, Letter to the Asylum Service, 290565-291571/2367/2021, 15 January 2021.
 Global Detention Project & Greek Council for Refugees, Joint Submission to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Preparation for its Mission to Greece in December 2019, Submitted in October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2TRYmna.
 Communication from the UNHCR (15.5.2019) in the M.S.S. and Rahimi groups v. Greece (Applications No.30696/09, 8687/08).