According to Article 69 IPA (as amended by Article 7 L.4686/2020), 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. Interpretation, (or tele-interpretation when the physical presence of the interpreter is not possible) 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. The Greek State is responsible to cover the cost of this service.
In 2020 the Asylum Service’s website was deactivated. Since then, 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 for 2020 is 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
- Proceed by self-registering an application for international protection
- 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
The above-mentioned applications are available in multiple languages.
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 crisis, the adjustment of the applicants and beneficiaries to this new reality was not easy, and at times, not even impossible. 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 of those services. Another impediment in using this new system is the lack of access to internet in all the Registration and Identification Centers (RICs). The need for improvement and for the provision of alternative solutions was raised by the Legal Aid Working Group and GCR teams on the ground.
Additionally, a number of actors are engaged in information provision concerning the asylum procedure.
The whole year brought constant changes, not only in the legal framework, but in the asylum procedure per se as well, which required follow up on a daily basis. This reality, combined with the pandemic lockdown, the restriction of movement, especially to those residing in Open Reception Facilities across Greece and the consecutive suspension of activities of the Regional Asylum Offices hindered the applicants’ and beneficiaries’ access to comprehensive information. In March 2020, access of Non-Governmental Organizations’ staff was restricted to the hotspots on the Aegean islands and the temporary accommodation sites in mainland due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provision of legal aid in second instance remained limited thought 2020. Given that legal aid is provided by law only for appeal procedures and remains limited in practice (see Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance), applicants often have to navigate the complex asylum system on their own, without sufficient information. NGOs present in the field raised their concerns on the matter of the provision of insufficient information to the applicants of international protection by signing a joint statement at the beginning of 2021, following the decision of the Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos to restart the delivery of rejection decisions, without prior notice. This service, along with the deadline for the submission of appeals on first instance rejection decisions, was informally suspended in the aftermath of the fire that destroyed Moria camp in the beginning of September of 2020, and was resumed in the beginning of January “without any explanation or information being provided to the applicants” .
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. Based on the delegation’s findings, “…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” . 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.
In this most recently publication of the CPT in November of 2020, 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”.
 See: https://migration.gov.gr/en/
 See: https://applications.migration.gov.gr/en/ypiresies-asylou/.
 Press Release, co-signed by 20 Organizations and lawyers calling for a vote against provisions that endanger the fundamental rights of applicants for international protection, available at: https://bit.ly/3dRmgrT
 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, 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, para.22 -23.