General (scope, criteria, time limits)
Under Article 89 Asylum Code, an application can be considered inadmissible on the following grounds:
- Another EU Member State has granted international protection status to the applicant;
- Another EU Member State has accepted responsibility under the Dublin Regulation for the applicant;
- When the First Country of Asylum concept is applied;
- When the Safe Third Country concept is applied;
- The application is a Subsequent Application and no “new essential elements” have been presented;
- A family member has submitted a separate application to the family application without justification for lodging a separate claim.
Unless otherwise provided, the Asylum Service must decide on the admissibility of an application within 30 days.
Article 91(5) Asylum Code, incorporating Article 38(4) of the Asylum Procedures Directive, provides that where the third country in question does not allow the applicant to enter its territory, his/her application shall be examined on the merits by the Competent Examination Authorities.
The examination of the safe third country concept in practice used to take place under the scope of the fast-track border procedure since 2016. More specifically, up until June 2021 it was applied exclusively to Syrians who fell under the EU Türkiye Statement, namely those who had entered Greece via the Greek Aegean islands and who were subject to a geographical restriction. Syrians whose geographical limitation was lifted were then channelled to the mainland and were examined under the regular procedure. The situation changed significantly in 2021 following the Joint Ministerial Decision issued on 7 June 2021, designating Türkiye as a safe third country for asylum applicants coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Apart from the numerous concerns that have been repeatedly raised as to whether Türkiye should be considered a “safe third country” for the abovementioned asylum seekers in Greece, an additional significant element of the unfeasibility of this new decision concerns the fact that Türkiye has not been accepting any readmissions from Greece since March 2020. As a consequence, refugees whose applications have been/are rejected as inadmissible based on the “safe third country” concept end up in a state of limbo in Greece, exposed to a direct risk of destitution and detention, without access to an in-merit examination of their application and without the possibility to lodge a subsequent asylum application.
The Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission has reiterated several times the importance of examining the merits of these applications for international protection, in accordance with EU law. On 7 December 2021, the Commissioner issued a response to a joint open letter by civil society organisations, where she reiterated the Commission’s continued concerns over individuals left in “legal limbo” in Greece. As she stated, “in line with Article 38(4) of the Asylum Procedures Directive, the Greek authorities should ensure that applicants whose applications have been declared inadmissible under the Joint Ministerial Decision and who are not being admitted to Türkiye should be given access to the in-merits asylum procedure”.
According to the UNHCR’s position and recommendations on the Safe Third Country declaration by Greece:
‘The absence of a mutually agreed readmission arrangement or delay in the implementation elevates the risk of protracted detention and situations of legal limbo for those concerned who may not be readmitted, increasing human misery and in all likelihood, fuelling further onward movement within the EU. Where cooperation is not mutually agreed to, or required protection safeguards are not in place, an in-merit examination of asylum claims of applicants of those nationality groups should take place without undue delay to avoid legal limbo situations.’
According to Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament ‘Responding to repeated requests from the Greek authorities and the European Commission regarding the resumption of return operations, Türkiye has stated that no return operation would take place unless the alleged pushbacks along the Turkish-Greek border stop and Greece revokes its decision to consider Türkiye a Safe Third Country’ (24 May 2022).
Despite the fact that readmissions to Türkiye have been suspended since March 2020, the Asylum Service continues not to apply Article 38(4) of the Procedural Directive to applicants whose application is examined on the admissibility under the safe country concept vis-a vis Türkiye. Thus, applicants subject to the Joint Ministerial Decision, whose application has been rejected as inadmissible, are deprived of access to an in merits asylum procedure and they face the risk to remain in legal limbo, without access to reception conditions and health care and in risk of detention.
Data for 2022 is not available.
It should be noted that an application for the annulment of the JMD was submitted before the Greek Council of State and its examination was discussed on 11 March 2022. In a secision issued on 3 February 2023, the Council of State referred a question to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of article 38 of 2013/32/EU Directive, since Türkiye has not accepted any readmissions from Greece since March 2020 (Council of State (Plenary) Decision no 177/2023). In particular, the majority opinion considers that it is not possible to designate a country as a safe third country if the readmission of the applicant to that country does not appear to be possible. This possibility should be assessed both in terms of legal provisions and obligations of the third country to accept readmissions as well as the actual compliance to those legal provisions. Readmissions to Türkiye are not implemented and the competent authority did not adequately explore the possibility of Türkiye changing its stance. Thus, in view of ensuring a quick examination of asylum applications the national list established by the JMD should be annulled. There has also been two dissenting opinions on whether the non-implementation of returns should be taken into consideration either at the time of issuance of an individual decision on the asylum application assessing whether Türkiye is a safe third country or at the time of executing the decision of return and not before including this country in the national list of safe third countries.
However, given that reasonable doubts arose as to the meaning of Article 38 of the Directive, the Court postponed its final judgement and formulated preliminary questions to the CJEU. The Court requested clarification as to whether Article 38 of the Directive should be interpreted as precluding national (regulatory) provisions, which characterises a third country as generally safe for certain categories of applicants for international protection and that country has undertaken the legal obligation to readmit those categories of applicants to its territory, despite for a period of over twenty months, that the country that is considered as safe third country having refused readmissions ; or whether the readmission to the third country is a cumulative condition for the issuance of the national (regulatory) act, according to which a third country is characterised as generally safe for certain categories of applicants for international protection, or for the issuance of the individual act, according to which a specific application for international protection is rejected as inadmissible on the “safe third country” ground; or, finally, whether the readmission to the “safe third country” should only be determined at the time of the decision’s execution, when the decision to reject the application for international protection is based on the “safe third country” ground.
Finally, the 42799/3-6-2021 JMD declaring Türkiye as a safe third country was amended by Decision no. 458568/2021 (FEK 5949/16-12-2021) to include Albania and Northern Macedonia as safe third countries for all nationals entering Greece from the countries listed.
In addition to this, JMD 78391/10-02-2022 (FEK 667/15-02-2022) was issued in February 2022 regarding the national list of safe countries of origin. The list includes Egypt, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Georgia, Ghana, Gambia, India, Morocco, Bangladesh, Benin, Nepal, Ukraine, Pakistan, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia. In December 2022, Ukraine, after almost one year of war, was finally removed from the national list of safe countries of origin
The conduct of an interview on the admissibility procedure varies depending on the admissibility ground examined.
According to Article 94(2) Asylum Code, as a rule, no interview should be held during the preliminary examination of a subsequent application. The examination of a subsequent application takes place only through written submissions and submitted documents together with the elements of the first asylum application. The interview is conducted only if the subsequent application for asylum is deemed admissible (see section on Subsequent Applications). As regards the process for Dublin cases, see section on Dublin.
Personal interviews in cases examined under the “safe third country” concept focus on the circumstances that the applicants face in Türkiye. More specifically, focus is put on:
- whether they have asked for international protection in Türkiye and;
- if not, which reasons prevented them from doing so;
- whether they have family and friends in Türkiye;
- how long they remained in Türkiye;
- if they had access to work, housing, education and health care;
- and in general, if Türkiye is a safe country for them.
Since 1 January 2020, it is possible for the admissibility interview to be carried out by personnel of EUAA or, in particularly urgent circumstances, trained personnel of the Hellenic Police or the Armed Forces. The training needs to be in international human rights law, EU Law on Asylum and the procedures for conducting interviews. Such personnel are not allowed to wear military or law enforcement uniforms during interviews. However, EUAA caseworkers do not draft Opinions on cases where the JMD 42799/2021 designating Türkiye as a safe third country applied, as it fell outside their competence. The number of concluding remarks issued by EUAA decreased to 5,071 in 2022, almost half of those issued in 2021 (9,230). This is due to the fact that, following the new Joint Ministerial Decision designating Türkiye as a safe third country for applicants from five of the most common countries of origin in Greece, the drafting of concluding remarks by EUAA caseworkers is no longer required for a large share of cases, that is those examined on admissibility. Instead, EUAA caseworkers, following the interview, can send to Asylum Service caseworkers an annex with notes and comments on crucial issues to be taken into consideration.
Different practices were adopted by the various RAOs in the different islands in 2022 as regards to the conduct of asylum interviews. In Kos the asylum interviews were conducted with the physical presence of the caseworkers and usually an interpreter was also present. However, in certain cases the interpreter was only present through teleconference. In Lesvos interviews were carried out both in person and through videoconferencing. Moreover, in view of the EUAA’s significant reduction of staff during 2022, EUAA case workers were under pressure to conduct at least two interviews per day and deliver three opinions per day or four admissibility interviews per day.
In Samos, Kos, Lesvos and Chios, interviews on the examination of the asylum application were mainly conducted before an efficient vulnerability assessment had been completed. Requests for the interviews’ postponement (until the vulnerability assessment is completed) have been rejected by the Regional Asylum Offices (RAOs), despite the fact that the recognition/certification of a vulnerability can have a significant impact on the outcome of individuals’ asylum procedure, inter alia with regard to the credibility of the asylum applicant’s claims. Additionally, the asylum interviews of alleged minors were conducted before an age assessment procedure had been completed. However, the legal actors noticed that the asylum interview was concluded and the issuance of the decision was frozen until the issuance of a decision on the age assessment procedure. In general, no reasonable time has been provided before the interview for applicants to access information on asylum procedures, legal aid, prepare for the interview and collect and submit significant documents/evidence in support of their application for international protection.
Even if indications of vulnerability arose during an asylum interview, the caseworkers did not refer the applicants for psychosocial assessment. There was thus no individualised assessment of the specific profile and circumstances of the asylum-seeker.
3,601 asylum applications were found inadmissible based on the “safe third country” concept in 2022, including 3,445 in which Türkiye was the “safe third country”, 96 where it was North Macedonia and 60 where it was Albania. More specifically, 1,089 asylum applications by Afghans and 1,259 asylum applications by Syrians were found to be inadmissible based on Türkiye being a “safe third country”.
According to internal SOPs that were circulated within the Asylum Service in autumn 2021, asylum seekers of these nationalities, who had entered Greece from Türkiye and one year (or more) had passed since then, must be considered as not having a special link with the third country or that in any case the special link with Türkiye had been breached (See Safe third country).
In Lesvos, the asylum application of a Palestinian single woman who grew up in a Syrian refugee camp was rejected as inadmissible. Despite the fact that this category of asylum seekers (stateless persons with one of the 5 countries of JMD on STC and Türkiye as countries of habitual residence) is not explicitly mentioned in the relevant JMD on STC and Türkiye, stateless persons with one of the 5 countries of the JMD as countries of habitual residence were included in the admissibility procedure. Based on this reasoning, Lesvos RAO examined the aforementioned applicant on admissibility grounds and rejected her at first instance.
Additionally, in Lesvos, legal aid actors that undertook and represented the cases of survivors of the shipwreck of 6 October 2022 reported that the survivors’ asylum procedures that followed were particularly fast. Namely, a Somali single woman who survived the shipwreck received a first instance negative decision on admissibility just a few days after her interview. Her vulnerability assessment had not been concluded, nor had it been explored during the interview. The shipwreck was never mentioned by the case worker, nor was it mentioned in the negative decision.
Moreover, many subsequent applications were firstly examined on admissibility based on the safe third country concept under the JMD. In February 2022, the RAO of Thessaloniki accepted the subsequent application of a single vulnerable woman from Syria as admissible in the preliminary stage on the basis that ‘the absence of the applicant from [Türkiye] for more than a year is a new element’. Additionally, the RAO considered that the link with Türkiye was ‘weakened due to the lapse of a period of more than a year’ according to Article 86(1)(f) of Law 4636/2019. The subsequent application was firstly examined on admissibility based on the safe third country concept under the JMD. During the interview the case worker deemed that Türkiye could not be considered a safe third country for the applicant and found her claim to be admissible. Accordingly, the interview continued, her claim was examined on its merits and she was granted refugee status.
In practice, the Asylum Service did not issue nor notify applicants of their admissibility decisions. As a result, many of them received an invitation to their personal interview on its merits before RAOs without prior information on the admissibility decision and the next step of the procedure, thus not being able to prepare for the interview. In many cases, the interview on the merits followed the interview on admissibility on the same day without a prior notification of the applicants and provision of information as regards the different procedures.
According to the Asylum Code, the deadlines for appealing an inadmissibility decision, the automatic suspensive effect of appeals and the format of the Committee examining them depend on the inadmissibility ground invoked in the first instance decision under the regular procedure:
|Time limits and automatic suspensive effect: Appeals against inadmissibility|
|Protection in another EU Member State||20||×||Single judge|
|First country of asylum||20||×||Collegial|
|Safe third country||20||√||Collegial|
|Subsequent application with no new elements||5||×||Single judge|
|Application by a dependent||20||√||Single judge|
The Appeals Committee must decide on the appeal within 20 days, as opposed to 30 days in the regular procedure.
Following the entry into force of the JMD on STC declaring Türkiye a safe third country, most of the cases lodged by Syrians, Afghans and Somalis were considered inadmissible at first instance and quickly confirmed as inadmissible by the Appeals Committees.
Appeals Committees do not apply Art. 38(4) of the Procedural Directive with regard to applications having been rejected as inadmissible on the basis of the safe third Country concept vis a vis Türkiye, despite the fact that readmissions to Türkiye have been suspended since March 2020. It is only in a limited number of cases that the Appeals Committees have proceeded to an on merits examination of the Application, invoking, inter alia, Article 38(4) of the Procedural Directive by taking into consideration the suspension of readmissions to Türkiye.
A characteristic example concerns the case of a single man of Syrian nationality, who entered Greece in September 2019 and submitted a first asylum application. After having received a final rejection, on the grounds of a safe third country, he submitted a subsequent asylum application on 20 October 2021. His subsequent application was rejected at first instance due to the lack of new elements, despite the fact that he had explicitly invoked Article 91(5) of the Asylum Code and that no readmission had taken place for over two years since he had first arrived in Greece. Following the initial rejection, the same request was also submitted with his appeal, at second instance. However, in January 2022, a final rejection was issued by the Appeals’ Committee, which stated that the applicant’s claim that he had not been readmitted to Türkiye for over two years, may be a new, but it is not a substantial, element as it is not a reason that could lead to recognition of international protection status. The Committee concluded that the legal framework on which the applicant was supposed to be readmitted was still in force. Furthermore, the Committee did not consider the period of more than two years since the applicants’ entrance in Greece as a substantial element that could overturn the initial judgement regarding the establishment of his connection to Türkiye as a safe third country.
In May 2022, the 4th Appeals Committee accepted the appeal of an Afghan family, composed of a couple and 5 minor children, and overturned the first instance negative decision of the Regional Asylum Office of Western Greece that had rejected their asylum application as inadmissible, based on the safe third country concept. The Appeals Committee noted that the family has been residing in Greece for 3 years and that during this period the children “have integrated in a social reality in Greece, attending Greek schools”. The Appeals Committee also acknowledged the inexistence of any family members or social support network in Türkiye, and concluded that “due to the situation of the appellants, it will be particularly difficult for them to contact the Turkish authorities in order to obtain the necessary documentation in order to get access to health facilities and to education”. Finally, the Appeals Committee also highlighted that women and girls are vulnerable to sexual and labour exploitation in Türkiye, putting the mother and several of the children at risk.
In April 2022, the 10th Appeals Committee accepted the appeal of a single Somali woman and overturned the first instance negative decision that had rejected her asylum application as inadmissible based on the safe third country concept. The Appeals Committee took into consideration the applicant’s gender, the fact that she was travelling alone, and that she remained in Türkiye for 15 days, during which she didn’t search for a job nor develop any link with the country, where for 5 days she was slept on the road.
In September 2022, the 8th Appeals Committee accepted the appeal of an Afghan couple, whose asylum application had been found as inadmissible at first instance by the Kos RAO based on the safe third country concept and recognised them as refugees. The Appeals Committee took into consideration the asylum applications of the two minor siblings of the second appellant, who had been accepted at first instance by the same RAO. The Public Prosecutor of the Court of Kos at first instance had assigned to the second appellant the temporary real care of her siblings, pending the issuance of the decision on the custody of the two minor children. The Public Prosecutor took into consideration the report that was submitted by the RIS that affirmed the strong connection among the siblings and explicitly stated that: “it is estimated that the separation of the minors from their sister would cause damage in the mental and their broader emotional development” and that it would harm family unity irreparably. Even though the RIS connected the cases, the Asylum Service found the Afghan couple’s case as inadmissible and laid down a seven-day deadline for their voluntary departure from Greece, endangering the unity of the family for all family members. The Appeals Committee found that it was essential for the appellant not to be readmitted to Türkiye and her claim as well as her husband’s was to be examined on the merits.
Legal Assistance in the admissibility procedure does not differ from the one granted for the regular procedure (see section on Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance). Thus, asylum seekers do not have access to free legal assistance during the admissibility procedures at first instance. The lack of legal assistance has proven particularly problematic, especially for cases falling under the JMD designating Türkiye as a safe third country. Newly arrived persons did not receive information from the authorities regarding the application of the JMD or have access to legal aid, since they were rushed through the procedures (the full registration of the asylum application was conducted immediately after the end of the quarantine while, in numerous cases, asylum interviews were conducted within 2 days from the day of arrival or the end of the quarantine).
While there is provision of legal aid services at second instance, meaning the submission of an appeal against the first instance negative decision on admissibility, the 5-day deadline for the submission of the appeal following the notice of an inadmissibility decision is not, in any case, adequate for asylum applicants, who had not been informed of the admissibility procedure, nor for the registry lawyers to be properly prepared for the appeal procedure and prepare an effective representation before the Appeals Authority.
 Article 88(2) Asylum Code. Different deadlines are provided ie. for subsequent applications; when the safe third country concept is examined under the fast-track border procedure, etc.
 Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) 42799/2021, Gov. Gazette 2425/Β/7-6-2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3KBM4HG.
 Indicatively see: GCR, Greece deems Türkiye ‘safe’, but refugees are not: The substantive examination of asylum applications is the only safe solution for refugees, 14 June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3E3qgCe.
 For instance see: MoMA, 28-07-2021, New request from Greece for the return of 1.908 illegal economic migrants to Türkiye : https://bit.ly/3rl5bhy; European Commission, Commission Staff Working Document: Türkiye 2020 Report, 6 October 2020, https://bit.ly/3xgt4aK, 48.
 Answers given by Ms Johansson on behalf of the European Commission, EN P-000604/2021, 1 June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3M01UMo; E-003875/2021, 18 October 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3uxkTbg; E-004131/2021, 21 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3KuohcB.
 Joint Open Letter, Denying food: instead of receiving protection people go hungry on EU soil, available at: https://bit.ly/3uyeEEb.
 Ylva Johansson, Ares S(2021)8048555, 7 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3Jyt7V4.
 UNHCR’s Position and Recommendations on the Safe Third Country Declaration by Greece, 2 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3EuyKm1.
 Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament sixth annual report on the Facility for Refugees in Türkiye, 24 May 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/417mB1B.
 GCR, Press Release, Εκδικάστηκε ενώπιον του ΣτΕ η αίτηση ακύρωσης της Απόφασης με την οποία η Τουρκία χαρακτηρίστηκε ασφαλής τρίτη χώρα, 15 March 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/365HUJ9.
 As provided by Article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 38 of the 2013/32/EU Directive.
 The formation of the National List of Safe Countries of Origin is provided in Article 92 para. 1 (b) of the Asylum Code.
 Article 82(1) Asylum Code.
 Article 82(12) (c) Asylum Code.
 Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.
 Information acquired during the Lesvos LAsWG meeting, 28 June 2022.
 Reply of the Ministry to the Greek Parliament.
 Information acquired during the Lesvos LAsWG meeting, 25 October 2022.
 Information acquired during the Lesvos LAsWG meeting, 25 October 2022.
 The case was represented by GCR and a second instance decision is still pending at the time of writing.
 FenixAid, Regional Asylum Office of Thessaloniki recognises a vulnerable single woman from Syria as a refugee after accepting her subsequent application as admissible, 23 June 2022, available in: https://bit.ly/3I8hi94.
 Article 97(d). Kindly note that the deadline for appealing against decisions issued under the provision of Article 95 Asylum Code (border procedure) is 10 days.
 Article 101 (d) L4636/2019, as amended by Article 25 (d) L4686/2020.
 Indicatively: 21st Appeals Committee, Decision 115795/2022, issued 28 February 2022, 10th Appeals Committee, Decision 224433/2022, issued 20 April 2022, 3rd Appeals Committee, Decision 345521/2022, issued 16 June 2022.
 Article 91 (5), transposing Article 38(4) of the Asylum Procedures Directive provides that: ‘where the third country in question does not allow the applicant to enter its territory, his application shall be examined on the merits by the Competent Examination Authorities.’
 3rd Appeals Committee, No 8620/2022, 7 January 2022, para IV.4, p.23 in Equal Rights Beyond Borders, HIAS Greece and RSA, The State of the Border Procedure on the Greek Islands, September 2022, https://bit.ly/3EjqYMY
 FenixAid, Appeals Authority accepts the appeal of the B. family and overturns the first instance decision rejecting their asylum application as inadmissible, 23 June 2022, available in: https://bit.ly/3Ys2WaJ
 GCR, HIAS, RSA et al, Greek Asylum Case Law Report, Issue 1/2022, p.7, 10η ΕπΠροσ 224433/2022 και 224438/2022.
 Decision No. 511455/5.9.2022, 8th Appeals’ Committee, represented by GCR.