Registration of the asylum application

Greece

Country Report: Registration of the asylum application Last updated: 10/06/21

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Greek Council for Refugees Visit Website

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,[1] depending on their local jurisdiction, which shall immediately proceed with the “full registration” (πλήρης καταγραφή)  of the application.  Following a legislative reform in 2018, in case of urgent need, the Asylum Service may be supported by Greek-speaking personnel provided by EASO for the registration of applications.[2] This is now also exclusively foreseen by the IPA.[3]

Following the “full registration” of the asylum claim,[4] the application for international protection is considered to be lodged (κατατεθειμένη).[5]

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”.[6] 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 application.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] In order for the application to be fully registered, the detainee is transferred to the competent RAO or AAU.[11]

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,[12] except under force majeure conditions.[13] 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.[14]

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 fully registered i.e. lodged their application, is valid for 6 months, which can be renewed as long as the examination is pending.[15]  However, asylum seeker’s cards for applicants remaining on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Leros, Kos and Rhodes subject to a “geographical limitation” is 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 the asylum seeker’s card can be set for a period:

  • No longer than 3 months, in 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; [16]
  • No longer than 30 days, in case that the communication of a decision or a transfer on the basis of the Dublin Regulation is imminent;[17]
  • No longer than 30 days, in case that the application is examined “under absolute priority”, “under priority”, under the accelerated procedure, under Art. 84 (inadmissible) or under the border procedure.[18]

In total, the Asylum Service registered 40,559 asylum applications in 2020. Afghans were the largest group of applicants with 11,514 applications, followed by Syrians with 7,768 applications.[19]

Role of EASO in registration

EASO 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. As of July 2019, registration support was provided in areas including Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos, Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Crete, Alexandroupoli, Fylakio, as well as pre-removal detention centres such as Paranesti.[20]

In the first half of 2019, out of a total of 30,443 asylum applications lodged in Greece, 16,126 were lodged with the support of EASO. This means that more than half of the applications (53%) were lodged with the support of EASO during that period.[21] In 2020, EASO carried out a total of 16,619 registrations, mainly of Afghan, Syrian and Pakistani applicants.[22]

 

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 had already been observed since the 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.[23]

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”.[24] Said observations were confirmed by Greek NCHR in September 2020.[25]

During 2020 there was a considerable decrease in the number of applications lodged on the mainland (18,680 applications out of a total of 40,559[26] compared to 37,708 applications out of a total of 77,287 in 2019[27]). However, access to asylum on the mainland continued to be highly problematic and intensified throughout 2020.

The Skype line is 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 is available on the Asylum Service’s website. However, despite the fact that the schedule was updated in November 2020, at the end of March 2021 it is available only in Greek. [28]  During 2019 two staff members of the Asylum Service together with an interpreter were dealing with the operation of the Skype application system for six hours on a daily basis[29]. More recent information is not available despite GCR’s request to the Asylum Service.

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 the Skype line and to obtain 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 meanwhile 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.

GCR has encountered cases of applicants being detained during 2020 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[30]. 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.

The average time between the moment of fixing an appointment for registration through Skype and full registration was 44 days in 2019.[31] Such data is not available for 2020 despite several requests addressed by GCR to the Asylum Service. In 2020 the Asylum Service suspended the reception of the public several times within the framework of Covid-19 preventive measures (See below), which leaded to 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 will 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,[32] 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.[33]

In July 2020 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention[34] “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 willing to apply for asylum from detention.

 

 Suspension of access to the Asylum Procedure on the basis of the Emergency Legislative Order (March 2020)

As mentioned in Reception and identification procedures on the islands, following the tension that erupted at the Greek-Turkish land borders at the end of February 2020,[35] the Greek Authroties issued an Emergency Legislative Order (Πράξη Νομοθετικού Περιεχομένου/ΠΝΠ) on 2 March 2020 which suspends access to the asylum procedure for persons entering illegaly in the country during March 2020. [36] “The extremely urgent and unpredictable need to face the assymetrical threat against the security of the country” and the “the sovereign right[s]” of the country have been invoked in order to justify the issuance of the Order.[37]

According to the Order:

“1. The lodging of the asylum application from persons who enter the county illegaly(sic) since the entry into force of the present Order is suspended. These persons are returned in their country of origin or transit without registration.

  1. The provision of para. 1 is valid for (1) one month [until 31 March 2020]
  2. With and act of the Ministerial Council the period set in para. 2 can be shortened.”

As stated by UNHCR on the same day of the issuance of the Emergency Legislative Order,

“[a]ll States have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner.

Neither the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees nor EU refugee law provides any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications”.[38]

Moreover the Greek National Commission for Human Rights (GNCHR), in a public statement issued on 5 March 2020, noted that:

“there are no clauses allowing for derogation from the application of the aforementioned provisions [the right to seek asylum and the prohibition of refoulement] in the event of an emergency situation, on grounds of national security, public health etc” and

“Call[ed] upon the Greek Government: […]to lift the decision to suspend the lodging of asylum applications as well as the decision to automatically return newcomers to the states of origin or transit, while providing for a legal access route to asylum in a coordinated manner”.[39]

Respectively, in an open letter addressed to the Greek Government and the EU institutions, 152 civil society organisations urged

the Greek Government to [w]ithdraw the illegal and unconstitutional Emergency Legislative Decree and to respect the obligations of the Greek State concerning the protection of human life and rescue at sea and at the land borders” and the European Commission “as the guardian of the Treaties, [to] protect the right to asylum as enshrined in EU law”.[40]

On 12 March 2020, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has stated: “Individuals in the European Union have the right to apply for asylum. This is in the treaty, this is in international law. This we can’t suspend”.[41]

As a result of the Emergency Legislative Order, access to the asylum procedure for potential applicants who entered Greece in an irregular manner during March 2020 was suspended by law. In practice, this means that third country nationals who entered the Greek territory irregularly throughout March 2020, were arrested and a number of them were prosecuted due to the “illegal entry”.[42] Depending on the decision of the Penal Court they either remained in (penal) custody or they were transferred to migration detention facilities where they are detained in view of removal without having access to asylum. In particular those arriving on the islands were transferred for detention on the mainland in two new detention facility operating since mid-March 2020, namely in Malakasa (Attica Region) and Serres (North Greece).

According to UNHCR, 347 persons have arrived through the land borders in Evros region (Greek – Turkish land borders) and 2,207 persons arrived on the Greek islands during the month of March 2020.[43]

GCR filed an application for annulment and an application for suspension against the said Emergency Legislative Order before the Council of State, along with a request of interim order due to the refusal of the authorities to register asylum applications of three Afghan women who entered Greece on 1 March 2020 from Evros and were subsequently deprived access to asylum. On 30 March 2020, the Council of State, partially accepted the request for interim order for 2 of these cases, and ordered the authorities to refrain from any forcible removal.[44]

In April 2020, the suspension of access to asylum on the basis of the Emergency Legislative Order was lifted and persons who had entered Greece during March 2020 were allowed to access the asylum procedure. However, given that the Asylum Service was not operating at that time due to the COVID-19 measures, the registration of the applications was not feasible up until the resumption of the operation of the Asylum Service (18 May 2020).[45] For those entered Greece during March 2020 and remained detained after the lift of the suspension of access to asylum on the basis of the Emergency Legislative Order, police authorities gradually recorded their will to apply for asylum, while the registration of the application took place following the resumption of the work of the Asylum Service on 18 May 2020.

 

Suspension of access to the Asylum Procedure due to the COVID-19 measures

Within the framework of the measures taken for the prevention of the spread of the COVID 19, since 13 March 2020 the Asylum Service and all RAO and AAU had suspended the reception of public, including the registration of new asylum applications.[46] The suspension was valid up until 15 May 2020 and the Asylum Service resumed its operation on 18 May 2020.[47] However, with the exception of persons under administrative detention, the registration of new asylum applications did not take place until the end of May.

After the second wave of Covid-19 cases in Greece, “in order to protect public health and impede the further spread of the COVID-19 virus”, the Director of the Asylum Service decided to suspend the operation of RAOs in the Attica region from 6 October 2020 to 9 October 2020[48]. Said suspension was extended until 16 October[49]. Moreover, between 7 and 30 November 2020, new measures against Covid-19 were applied to RAOs and AAUs nationwide[50]. During this period, even though “programmed interviews and registrations via Skype took place according to schedule”, full registrations of asylum applications were not conducted except for those of very vulnerable applicants.

 

 

[1]  Articles 63(d) as amended by Article 5 L. 4686/2020 and 65(1) IPA as amended by Article 6(1) L.4686/2020.

[2] Article 36(11) L 4375/2016, as amended by Article 28(7) L 4540/2018.

[3]  Article 65(16) IPA.

[4]  Article 65(1) IPA as amended by Article 6(1) L.4686/2020.

[5]   Article 65(3) IPA.

[6]  Article 65(2) IPA as amended by Article 6(2) L.4686/2020.

[7]  Ibid.

[8] Article 65(9) IPA.

[9]  Article 65(7) (b) IPA as amended by article 6(3) L.4686/2020.

[10] Ibid.

[11]  Ibid.

[12]  Article 65(6) IPA.

[13]  Article 78(3) IPA.

[14]  Article 65(1) IPA as amended by Article 6(1) L.4686/2020.

[15] Article 70 (1) IPA.

[16] Article 70 (2) IPA

[17]  Article 70(3) IPA

[18]  Art 70 (4) IPA as amended by Article 8(1) L.4686/2020

[19] Information provided by the Asylum Service 31 March 2021.

[20] ECRE, The Role of EASO Operations in national asylum systems, November 2019, available at: bit.ly/3cSt5rs, 7.

[21] Ibid.

[22]  Information provided by EASO, 26 February 2021.

[23]  See e.g. Greek Ombudsman, Special Report: Migration flows and refugee protection, April 2017.

[24] UN Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations on the seventh periodic report of Greece, 3 September 2019, CAT/C/GRC/CO/7, available at: https://bit.ly/39Sp8la.

[25]  NCHR,  Available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3aLsA3m,  p. 57

[26]  Information provided by the Asylum Service, 31 March 2021

[27]  Information provided by the Asylum Service, 17 February 2020

[28] Asylum Service, Registration Schedule from 22 June 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2R8qR15 , Asylum Service, Registration Schedule from 10 August 2020 Asylum Service, available only in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3t2ubrR , Asylum Service, Registration Schedule from 2 November 2020, available only in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3t8Xp8l

[29] Information provided by the Asylum Service, 17 February 2020

[30]  Asylum Service, Electronic self-registration available at: https://bit.ly/332MF0K, Login instructions can be found here: https://bit.ly/2S64ABu

[31]  Information provided by the Asylum Service, 17 February 2020

[32] 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.

[33] Communication from the UNHCR (15.5.2019) in the M.S.S. and Rahimi groups v. Greece (Applications No.30696/09, 8687/08).

[34] Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Visit to Greece 2 – 13 December 2019, A/HRC/45/16/Add.1, 29 July 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3dPiHSX , para. 61-62

[35]  Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights, Time to immediately act and to address humanitarian and protection needs of people trapped between Turkey and Greece, 3 March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/39Hm0sd.

[36]  Emergency Legislative Order as of 2 March 2020, Gov. Gazette A/45/2 March 2020.

[37]  Emergency Legislative Order as of 2 March 2020, recitals 2 and 3.

[38] UNHCR, UNHCR statement on the situation at the Turkey-EU border, 2 March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2Q62sWN.

[39]  Greek National Commission for Human Rights, Reviewing asylum and immigration policies and safeguarding human rights at the EU borders, 5 March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/39HtXh3;.

[40] Οpen Letter of 152 organizations regarding the current developments at the Greek border, 4 March 2020 available at: https://bit.ly/2vWgnrr.

[41] The Guardian, ‘Greece warned by EU it must uphold the right to asylum’, 12 March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3d2TfrV.

[42] Art. 83 L. 3386/2005.

[43] UNHCR, Operational Portal, available at: https://bit.ly/36b7w2X.

[44] GCR, Σχόλιο του ΕΣΠ σχετικά με την προσωρινή διαταγή του ΣτΕ, 30 March 2020, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2WusMNL.

[45] Emergency Legislative Order as of 11 March 2020, Gov Gazette A’ 55/11.3.2020.

[46] Emergency Legislative Order as of 11 March 2020, Gov Gazette A’ 55/11.3.2020.

[47]  The Guidance of the EU Commission on the implementation of relevant EU provisions in the area of asylum during the COVID 19 prevention measures, issued in April 2020, stated that “even if there are delays, the third-country nationals who apply for international protection must have their application registered by the authorities and be able to lodge them”. Communication from the Commission, COVID-19: Guidance on the implementation of relevant EU provisions in the area of asylum and return procedures and on resettlement, 17 April 2020, 2020/C 126/02.

[48] See Ministry of asylum and migration, «Temporary suspension of operation of Asylum Service offices», available at: https://bit.ly/3eSbzWj

[49] See, Ministry of asylum and migration, available at : https://bit.ly/3gV2u1F

[50]  See, Ministry of asylum and migration, New measures for the protection of public health (Saturday 11 Nov 2020 until Monday 30 Nov 2020), available at : https://bit.ly/3vApJlS

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation