According to Article 74 paras1 to 8 of the Asylum Code (Greek Law 4939/2022 ratifying the Code on reception, international protection of third-country nationals and stateless persons, and temporary protection in cases of mass influx of displaced persons) applicants should be informed, in a language that they understand and in a simple and accessible manner, on the procedure to be followed, their rights and obligations, the consequences of the rejection of their application, as well as on the possibilities of challenging it.
The Asylum Service assists applicants in understanding the information document, applicants and state whether they have actually understood its contents. A copy of the document with the applicant’s signature is kept in the applicant’s file.
Interpretation, (or tele-interpretation when the physical presence of the interpreter is not possible using appropriate technical means) is provided during the submission of the application for international protection, as well as in all the stages of the examination of the asylum application, meaning both in first and second instance as long as the necessary communication cannot be ensured without a translator. The cost of interpretation is borne by the State where it is demonstrably impossible to provide interpretation in the language of the applicant’s choice, interpretation shall be provided in the official language of the applicant’s country of origin or in another language that the applicant is reasonably expected to understand, including international sign language.
All information regarding the operation and structure of the Reception and Identification Service, the operation of the Asylum Service and the Regional Asylum Offices, information and updates about the Asylum Procedure on first and second instance, as well as press releases and announcements pertinent to those seeking for or/ and have been granted international protection are available in Greek and English language at the Ministry of Migration and Asylum’s website.
For accurate and timely dissemination of the latest update on asylum and migration issues, the Ministry has also created a Viber community.
Another initiative in 2020 was the launching of the new platform of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, where applicants and beneficiaries of international protection, as well as their representatives, can proceed to the following actions:
- Set an appointment with the competent Regional Asylum Office
- Be informed on the renewal of international protection cards
- Apply for change of personal data and contact information
- Submit application for separation of files
- Submit application to request statement of application status
- Submit application to postpone/ expedite the interview date
- Submit additional documents
- Request for copies of personal file
- Apply for legal aid on second instance
- Apply for notification of ΠΑΑΥΠΑ (Provisional Social Security and Health Care Number)
- Apply for notification of Tax Registration Number
Although these initiatives were supposed to make the Asylum Service accessible to everyone, as well as to avoid congestion and long waiting queues outside the Regional Asylum Offices, especially during the pandemic, the adjustment of the applicants and beneficiaries to this new reality was not easy, and at times, not even possible. The main difficulty was the actual access to the platform, since many of the persons of concern were either illiterate or technologically illiterate. This issue, combined with the fact that the Asylum Offices did not serve requests that could be submitted through the online system, eventually excluded many applicants and beneficiaries from those services. The need for improvement and for the provision of alternative solutions was raised by several NGOs through a letter addressed to the National Commission of Human Rights in December 2021. In 2022, Amnesty International also drew attention to the fact that the platform is still not available in all languages, the initial menu is only in Greek and English, and there is a special section for refugees from Ukraine – which is an obvious discrimination against the rest of the refugee population, – providing more information and facilitations options for the user of Ukrainian origin – (pending referral to the section regarding regulation of status of population of Ukrainian origin).
Moreover, legal aid for the appeals procedure must be requested via the electronic application of the Ministry for Migration and Asylum, which significantly hinders access for those not familiar with the use of electronic applications or who do not have access to the required equipment/internet. Moreover, in practice the Head of the RICs on the islands and Evros and the Head of Pre-removal detention facilities in Athens (Amigdaleza and Tavros) notify applicants of first instance decisions. In both cases, the inability of the applicants to understand the content of the communicated documents and the procedure has been reported.
For those detained and due to the total lack of sufficient interpretation services provided in detention facilities, access to information is even more limited. According to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (CPT)’s report to the Greek Government, foreign nationals detained in facilities across the country are deprived from their right to be informed about their rights in a language they could understand. According to the delegation, “a two-page information leaflet (Δ-33 form) detailing the rights of detained persons was generally available and pinned to the wall in various languages in most police stations visited, none of the persons interviewed by the CPT’s delegation had obtained a copy of it”. Furthermore, the detainees complained that “they had signed documents in the Greek language without knowing their content and without having been provided with the assistance of an interpreter”. These findings remain valid in 2021 and 2022.
The same issue is raised in the report published in November of 2020, in which the Committee refers to migrants held in the two cells in the Coastguard premises, who “were not even provided with the notification on detainees’ rights in a language they could understand”. Use of fellow detainees as interpreters is a practice that, according to the Committee’s suggestion, should be avoided. The delegation reports that ‘[…] access to a lawyer often remained theoretical and illusory for those who did not have the financial means to pay for the services of a lawyer. The provision of legal advice for issues related to detention and deportation was generally inadequate in all the detention places visited, including the Filakio RIC and the Filakio pre-departure centre. As a result, detainees’ ability to raise objections against their detention or deportation decisions or to lodge an appeal against their deportation was conditional on them being able to access a lawyer’. Similar observations were made by the Council of the European Union after the 2021 evaluation and its recommendations to the Greek Government that followed.  and were reported once again in a legal note issued in June 2022 by NGO Refugee Support at the Aegean (RSA).
 Letter signed by 14 NGOs communicated to the National Commission of Human Rights on 16 of December 2021.
 CPT, Report to the Greek Government on the visit to Greece carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 28 March to 9 April 2019, CPT/Inf (2020) 15, April 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3MDGG8Z, para. 100.
 CPT, Report to the Greek Government on the visit to Greece carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 13 to 17 of March 2020, CPT/Inf (2020) 36, Strasbourg, 19 November 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3quLJ4r, para.22 -23.
 Council of the European Union, Council Implementing Decision setting out a recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2021 evaluation of Greece on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of return, 9 November 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3BVJWYB.