General (scope, time limits)
According to data provided by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, the total number of pre-registrations of asylum claims (“registered intentions”) pending in 2022 was 26,631, a 40.58% increase compared to 2021. Of those 1,825 were submitted to the Asylum Service through the Skype procedure, 13,230 to the RIS and 11,576 to the Greek Police. Additionally, 14,942 appointments for registration were granted in 2022 through the Asylum Service electronic platform.
According to Greek law, an asylum application should be examined “the soonest possible” and, in any case, within 6 months, in the context of the regular procedure. This time limit may be extended for a period not exceeding a further 3 months, where a large number of third country nationals or stateless persons simultaneously apply for international protection. In any event, according to the Asylum Code, the examination of the application should not exceed 21 months.
Where no decision is issued within the maximum time limit fixed in each case, the asylum seeker has the right to request information from the Asylum Service on the timeframe within which a decision is expected to be issued. As expressly foreseen in the Asylum Code, ‘this does not constitute an obligation on the part of the Asylum Service to take a decision within a specific time limit.’
Decisions granting status are given to the person of concern in extract, which does not include the decision’s reasoning. According to the Asylum Code, in order for the entire decision to be delivered to the person recognised as a beneficiary of international protection, a special legitimate interest (ειδικό έννομο συμφέρον) should be established by the person in question.
Duration of procedures
However, despite the number of first instance decisions issued throughout 2022, significant delays occurred in processing applications at first instance if the total number of pending applications is taken into consideration, i.e. applications registered in previous years and are still pending by the end of 2022. According to the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, a total of 17,249 applications were pending by December 31st, 2022. Of this total, 4,134 (23.74%) had been pending for a period of over 12 months since the day they were registered, 2,334 (13.53%) were pending for a period of over 6 months and 10,781 (62.50%) were pending for a period of under 6 months.
Prioritised examination and fast-track processing
Both the IPA and the Asylum Code, which entered into force on 10 June 2022, set out two forms of prioritised examination of asylum applications.
Firstly, the Asylum Service shall process “by way of absolute priority”, claims concerning:
- Applicants undergoing reception and identification procedures who do not comply with an order to be transferred to another reception facility;
- Applicants who are detained.
Processing by way of “absolute priority” means the issuance of a decision within 20 days.
Secondly, the law provides that an application may be registered and examined by way of priority for persons who:
- Belong to vulnerable groups, insofar as they are under a “restriction of liberty” measure in the context of Reception and Identification procedures;
- Fall under the scope of the Border Procedure;
- Are likely to fall within the Dublin Procedure;
- Have cases which may be considered as manifestly unfounded;
- Represent a threat to national security or public order; or
- File a Subsequent Application;
- Come from a First Country of Asylum or a Safe Third Country;
- Have cases reasonably believed to be well-founded.
From 2014 up until the first half of 2021, Syrians and stateless persons were eligible to a fast-track procedure examining their cases and often resulting in the granting of refugee status. This also applied to those who formerly resided in Syria who could provide original documents such as passports, or who had been identified as Syrians/persons with a former residence in Syria within the scope of the Reception and Identification Procedure; provided that the EU-Türkiye Statement and the fast-track border procedure did not apply to their cases. However, the Joint Ministerial Decision 458568/2021 issued in December 2021, pursuant to Article 86 of L. 4636/2019, provides Türkiye as a safe country for applicants from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia. As a result, applications lodged by these categories of persons are now firstly channelled into the admissibility procedure to assess whether Türkiye is a safe third country and whether their cases are admissible and should be examined on the merits (for more details, see also Safe Third Country).
According both to the IPA and the Asylum Code, the personal interview with the applicant may be omitted where:
- The Asylum Service is able to take a positive decision on the basis of available evidence;
- It is not practically feasible, in particular when the applicant is declared by a medical professional as unfit or unable to be interviewed due to enduring circumstances beyond their control.
Moreover, the law foresees that when the applicant is not in the position to continue the interview for reasons attributable to him/her “the interview is terminated”. In this case, the applicant is provided with the opportunity to submit a written memo and supplementary evidences within 5 days. According to the IPA, the omission of a personal interview does not adversely affect the in merits decision on the application in which the reasons for omitting the interview should be stated.
Both the IPA and the Asylum Code further provide that, where the interview has been scheduled within 15 days from the lodging of the application and where the applicant is vulnerable, the authorities provide him or her with reasonable time not exceeding 3 days to prepare for the interview and obtain counselling. The possibility to request reasonable time is not granted to asylum seekers who are not vulnerable or whose interview has been scheduled more than 15 days after the submission of the application.
Under the regular procedure, the interview takes place at the premises of the RAO on the designated day and is conducted by one caseworker. The personal interview takes place without the presence of the applicant’s family members, unless the competent Asylum Service Officer considers their presence necessary. Moreover, the personal interview must take place under conditions that ensure appropriate confidentiality. However, GCR and other civil society organisations have expressed concerns relating to confidentiality in certain RAO or AAU due to the lack of appropriate spaces, lack of isolation and technical difficulties. For example, and as reported, this was the case in the RAO of Lesvos, in particular for the remote interviews that took place within the COVID-19 prevention measures, and the RAO of Samos where interviews were conducted simultaneously in different areas of the same container, which does not grant proper sound insulation and is not line with the principle of confidentiality.
The person conducting the interviews should be sufficiently qualified to take into account the personal or general circumstances regarding the application, including the applicant’s cultural origin. In particular, the interviewer must be trained concerning the special needs of women, children and victims of violence and torture. In case of female applicants, the applicant can request a case worker/interpreter of the same sex. If this is not possible, a note is added to the transcript of the interview.
The EUAA’s (previously EASO’s) role in the regular procedure
Following the amendments introduced by L 4540/2018, which have been maintained in the IPA, and the Asylum Code, the EUAA (formerly EASO) can be involved in the regular procedure, while EUAA personnel providing services at the Asylum Service premises are bound by the Asylum Service Rules of Procedure. The main form of support provided by EUAA caseworkers includes the conduct of interviews with applicants and the drafting of opinions to the Asylum Service, which retains responsibility for issuing a decision on the asylum application. According to the relevant provision, personnel involved in the regular procedure should consist of Greek-speaking case workers.
In 2022, the number of interviews carried out by EUAA caseworkers in Greece further decreased to interviews in the asylum cases of 16,639 applicants. Of these, 85% related to the top 10 citizenships of applicants interviewed by the EUAA, in particular Afghanistan (3,799), Bangladesh (1,957), Somalia (1,804), Palestine (1,403), Syria (1,396) and Democratic Republic of Congo (1,158). 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.
Interviews conducted through video conferencing
According to GCR, interviews continued to be regularly conducted through video conferencing in 2022, either with the interviewer or the interpreter (or often with both) participating through digital tools. This was particularly the case for applicants residing in camps on the mainland, who were interviewed without having to leave the camp, as well as in certain RAOs with certain interviewers being based in other RAOs. There have also been some cases where the interview was conducted remotely though telephone rather than through video conferencing.
At the beginning of the interview, the caseworker requests for the applicant’s consent for the use of video-conferencing to carry out the interview. The applicant gives his/her/their consent orally and it is recorded both in the audio recording of the interview as well as in the written transcript. However, applicants were not informed about possible consequences in case of refusal to use digital tools, such as rescheduling the interview at a later date. Other issues arising from the use of digital tools include technical issues such as poor internet connection and inadequate sound quality. Even under the best of conditions, video conferencing may negatively affect the quality of the interpretation and possibly the interview due to the loss of non-verbal communication cues.
Quality of interviews and decisions
Without underestimating the fact that the recognition rate of the first instance procedure remains high (in-merit decisions), a number of first instance cases to the knowledge of GCR, and inter alia the way the interview was conducted, the assessment of the asylum claims and/or the decisions delivered, corroborates concerns already expressed in relation to a “deterioration in quality at first instance”.
Among other, examples of such cases in 2022 include:
- The case of a young man from Guinea, living with HIV and a physical disability, whose application was rejected without taking into account the apparent and very grave vulnerabilities when examining whether the applicant would be eligible for subsidiary protection under Article 14(Β) of the Asylum Code. Instead, he was examined solely on whether serious and individual threat to his life or person could occur by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict.
- The case of a woman from Somalia, an FGM survivor, whose claims of persecution from Al Shabab were dismissed on credibility grounds. In examining whether the applicant was eligible for subsidiary protection, the Asylum Service concluded that while indiscriminate violence was taking place in the Banaadir province and in the capital, Mogadishu, the intensity of the indiscriminate violence was not high enough and there was no significant additional evidence concerning the individual characteristics of the applicant in order for her to be considered at risk of indiscriminate violence in accordance with Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive.
- The case of a single-parent family from Guinea, whose first instance interview was conducted before the competent authority completed the evaluation of vulnerability indicators. In particular, the main applicant is a survivor of serious forms of gender-based and sexual violence (FGM, genital mutilation & sexual violence) as well as international trafficking, facts that were not taken into account in examining whether the applicant is eligible for international protection.
- Cases of asylum seekers – from a group of 92 asylum seekers in Evros – whose applications were rejected at first instance as inadmissible under the safe third country concept vis-a vis Türkiye, while the rejection decisions themselves acknowledge that they had been subjected to degrading treatment by the Turkish authorities. In fact, regarding the rescue of this group by the Greek authorities, the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum had issued a statement and relevant statements were made also by the Minister, according to which the group had been abandoned by the Turkish authorities in Evros, the people had been subjected to degrading treatment in Türkiye and that this incident would be reported to the UN.
The law envisages that interpretation is provided to the applicants for making their application, submitting their case to the competent authorities, and for conducting their interview at the first and second instance. In accordance with an amendment of the IPA in May 2020 as well as the codification of the relevant legislation in the Asylum Code, in case that interpretation in the language of the choice of the applicant is proven to be unavailable, interpretation is provided in the official language of the country of origin or in a language that the applicant may reasonably be supposed to understand.
Until 30 September 2022, interpretation was provided both by interpreters of the NGO METAdrasi and EUAA interpreters. Following the non-renewal of the agreement with the NGO METAdrasi, the capacity of the interpretation services has been challenging, as currently, EUAA is the sole provider of such services. The use of remote interpretation has been observed more frequently and is not limited to distant RAOs and AAUs. Technical deficiencies and constraints should be taken into consideration when assessing the quality of remote interpretation. When it comes to rare languages, if no interpreter is available to conduct a direct interpretation from that language to Greek (or English in cases examined by EUAA case workers), more interpreters might be involved in the procedure to translate through different languages.
Recording and transcript
Both the IPA and the Asylum Code envisage audio recording of the personal interview. A detailed report is drafted for every personal interview, which includes the main arguments of the applicant for international protection and all its essential elements. Where the interview is audio recorded, the audio recording accompanies the report. For interviews conducted by video-conference, audio recording is compulsory. Where audio recording is not available, the report includes a full transcript of the interview and the applicant is invited to certify the accuracy of the content of the report by signing it, with the assistance of the interpreter who also signs it, where present. The applicant may at any time request a copy of the transcript, a copy of the audio file or both.
Notification of First Instance Decisions
The IPA further introduced the possibility for first instance decisions not to be communicated in person to the applicant (‘fictitious service’ πλασματική επίδοση) or the first instance decision to be communicated to the applicant by administrative authorities other than the Asylum Service. Both practices were maintained in the Asylum Code throughout 2022 and may significantly underestimate the possibility of the applicant to be informed about the issuance of the first instance decision and/or the content of said decision and/or the possibility to lodge an appeal. Consequently, deadlines for submitting an appeal against a negative first-instance decision may expire without the applicant being actually informed about the decision, for reasons not attributable to him/her. As the Greek Ombudsman has noted with regard to the provisions of fictitious service, said provisions effectively limit the access of asylum seekers to legal remedies.
More precisely, according to the IPA and the Asylum Code, a first instance decision can be communicated:
- in person or;
- with a registered letter sent by the Asylum Service to the applicant or;
- by e-mail to the applicant or;
- by uploading the Decision on an electronic application managed by the Asylum Service or ;
- by communicating the decision to authorised lawyers, consultants, and representatives. In this regard, it should be mentioned that according to the IPA, once a lawyer is appointed by the applicant at any stage of the procedure, the lawyer is considered to be a representative of the applicant for all stages of the procedures, including the service of the decision regardless of the actual representation of the applicant at the time of the fictitious service unless the appointment of the lawyer is revoked by a written declaration of the applicant with an authenticated signature.
Where the deadline for lodging the Appeal begins on the next day of the fictitious service, with the exception of the cases where the service of the decision is taking place with electronic means, the deadline begins 48 hours after the dispatch of the electronic message. According to Art. 83(2) IPA, together with the decision, a document in the language that the applicant understands or in a language that they may reasonably be supposed to understand is also communicated to the Applicant, where the content of the document is explained in simple language, together with the consequences of the decision and action he/she may pursuit. Alternatively, a link to the webpage of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum where relevant information is provided is provided in the said document.
In cases where the Applicant remains in a Reception and Identification Centre or remains detained in a detention facility, the Decision is sent to the Head of the RIC or the Detention facility, who announces the receipt of the Decision and the time schedule so that the Applicant is able to present himself/herself to receive the decision. The deadline for lodging an Appeal begins 3 days after the communication of the Decision to the Head of the RIC or the Detention Facility.
No force majeure reasons should be invoked in order for a decision to be serviced with one of the ways described above. In the event the Applicant cannot be found/contacted with one of the means/ways described above and no lawyer has been appointed, the Decision is served to the Head of the RAO/AAU of the Asylum Service or the head of the RIC or the detention facility, and following this service of the Decision, it is considered that the applicant had knowledge of the Decision.
In practice, for applicants on the mainland, it is mainly the communication of first instance decisions by a registered letter or via e-mail which has been used by the end of the year. In cases of electronic communication of first instance decisions, provision for legal aid for the appeals procedure can be requested either in person at the competent RAO or by the electronic application of the Ministry for Migration and Asylum. In cases where the latter is the only option as the applicant lives far from the competent RAO, it 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 notification of first instance decisions is also carried out by the Head of the RICs on the islands and Evros and the Head of Pre-removal detention facilities in Athens (Amigdaleza and Tavros). In both cases, the inability of the applicants to understand the content of the communicated documents and the procedure they have to follow has been observed.
It has also been observed that in state accommodation facilities in Northern and Central Greece (where the asylum seekers address is evidently known to the State), as well as facilities on Northern Aegean islands, the Asylum Service has resorted to the ‘fictitious service’ of decisions, without trying to locate the applicants at their registered address, nor, in cases where the applicant is represented by a lawyer, reaching out to their lawyer. Τhe current practice of ‘fictitious service’ of decisions has resulted in the expiration of deadlines for submitting an appeal, thereby effectively depriving asylum seekers of their right to an effective remedy.
Since the entry into force of the IPA on 1 January 2020, the Independent Appeals Committees are the sole administrative bodies competent for the examination of appeals lodged against first instance asylum decisions.
Establishment and Composition of the Independent Appeals Committees of the Appeals Authority
The legal basis for the establishment of the Appeals Authority was amended several times in recent years and has been further amended by the IPA. More precisely and following an amendment in 2016, the composition of the Appeals Authorities consisted of the participation of two active Administrative Judges in the new three-member Appeals Committees (Ανεξάρτητες Αρχές Προσφυγών) and a third member, holding a university degree in Law, Political or Social Sciences or Humanities with specialisation and experience the fields of international protection, human rights or international or administrative law. According to the amendment introduced by the IPA, the three-member Appeals Committees are composed by three active Administrative Judges of First Instance Administrative Courts and Administrative Courts of Appeal. Moreover, a single member/Judge Committee has been introduced.
These amendments have been highly criticised and issues of unconstitutionality have been raised due to the composition of the Committees exclusively by active Administrative Judged inter alia by the Union of Administrative Judges, and the Union of Bar Associations. An Application for Annulment with regards inter alia the compliance with the Greek Constitution of the single member/Judge Appeals Committee was filed by GCR before the Council of State in 2020. The hearing has been set for 28 March 2023. GCR is aware of at least two occasions of postponement of a hearing of an annulment case before the First Instance Administrative Court, pending a decision by the Council of State.
Moreover, and as mentioned above, Appeals Committees are composed of active Administrative Judges of both First Instance and Appeal Administrative Courts. However, and following the entry into force of the IPA, the responsibility for judicial review of the second instance decisions issued by the Appeals Committees has been attributed to the First Instance Administrative Courts and thus further issues of constitutionality may occur. In October 2020, the Council of State triggered its pilot procedure upon referral of three cases from the Administrative Court of Athens, supported by the RSA, with a view to adjudicating on the constitutionality of the competence of Administrative Courts to judicially review decisions of the Appeals Committees, given that decisions of the second instance decisions on asylum applications may be – and often are – taken by Committees composed by higher-court judges (Administrative Judges of the Administrative Courts of Appeal).
In October 2021, the Council of State held by majority that the competence of First Instance Administrative Courts to judicially review decisions of the Appeals Committees, even in cases where the second instance decisions on asylum applications are taken by Committees composed by higher-court judges, is constitutional. Specifically, it considered that Appeals Committees are a “collective administrative body” which exercises “competences of a judicial function”, and that judges participate therein not as judicial officials but as “state officials – members of independent authorities of the executive”. First-instance administrative courts therefore judicially review decisions by executive bodies, not rulings by judicial officials. Accordingly, the judicial review carried out by lower judges of decisions taken by higher judges was not deemed contrary to the principle of judicial independence and impartiality.
EASO’s (now EUAA) role at second instance
Since 2017, the law foresees that “in case of a large number of appeals”, the Appeals Committees might be assisted by “rapporteurs” provided by EASO (now EUAA). These rapporteurs have access to the files and are entrusted with drafting a detailed and in-depth report, that will contain a record and statement of the facts of the case along with the main claims of the appellant, as well as a matching of said claims (αντιστοίχιση ισχυρισμών) with the country of origin information that will be presented before the competent Committee in order to decide. Both the IPA and the Asylum Code maintain the same tasks for “rapporteurs” provided by EASO. However, according to the IPA, this is not only foreseen “in case of a large number of appeals”. Articles95(4) IPA and 100 (4) Asylum Code stipulate that each member of the Appeals Committee may be assisted by “rapporteurs” provided by EASO. As of 31 December 2021, 20 Rapporteurs were assisting the Appeals Committees members pursuant to Art. 95(4) IPA. Since they are seconded to the individual Committees, these Rapporteurs are not supervised or line-managed by EASO/EUAA.
Number of appeals and recognition rates at second instance
|Decisions on the merits by the Independent Appeals Committees: 2022|
|Refugee status||Subsidiary protection||Rejected & Inadmissible|
Source: Ministry of Migration and Asylum
As in previous years, the recognition rate at second instance remained significantly low at 11.6%, slightly higher than the 10.6% rate in 2021. Out of the total in-merits decisions, the rejection rate reached 88.19%, while the refugee recognition rate stood at 7.40% and the subsidiary recognition rate at 4.40%.
Time limits for lodging an Appeal before the Appeals Committees
An applicant may lodge an Appeal before the Appeals Committees against a first instance decision of the Asylum Service rejecting the application for international protection.
An applicant may lodge an appeal before the Appeals Committees against a first instance decision of the Asylum Service rejecting the application for international protection as unfounded under the regular procedure, as well as against the part of the decision that grants subsidiary protection for the part rejecting refugee status, within 30 days from the notification of the decision or from the date he or she is presumed to have been notified thereof. In cases where the appeal is submitted while the applicant is in detention, the appeal should be lodged within 20 days from the notification of the decision.
Scope of the Appeal
According to Articles 97(10) IPA and 102(10) Asylum Code, the Appeals Committees conduct a full and ex nunc examination of the asylum application. Based on legal precedents, Committees have the power to carry out their own assessment of the evidence and elements of the file. Contrary to this position, however, some Committees have declared themselves as lacking jurisdiction to examine issues such as the need of the applicant for special procedural guarantees, where the first instance authority concluded that he or she is not vulnerable.
Form of the Appeal
According to both Article 93 IPA and Article 98 Asylum Code, the Appeal should inter alia be submitted in a written form and mention the “specific grounds” of the Appeal. If these conditions are not fulfilled, the Appeal will be rejected as inadmissible without an examination on the merits. This provision has been largely criticised as severely restricting access to the appeal procedure in practice, and appears to contradict EU law, namely Article 46 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive and Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental rights. The requirements set by Article 93 IPA and maintained by the Asylum Code, in practice, can only be fulfilled when a lawyer assists the applicant, which is practically impossible in the majority of the cases, considering the gaps in the provision of free legal aid especially in remote Regional Asylum Offices. Accordingly, as stated by the UNHCR, ‘[i]n some circumstances, it would be so difficult to appeal against a rejection that the right to an effective remedy enshrined in international and EU law, would be seriously compromised’. Moreover, as noted ‘the obligation for the applicant to provide specific reasons instead of simply requesting the ex nunc examination of his/her application for international protection, does not seem to be in accordance with the [Asylum Procedural Directive]’. In 2021, the number of the Appeals rejected pursuant to Article 93 IPA doubled in comparison to the 2020 (53 Decisions) yet still remained relatively low (110 Decisions) as the Appeals Committees interpreted the said provision broadly and considered that even Appeals written by the Applicants in his/her native language and without mentioning “specific grounds” were admissibly lodged. Data concerning the number of appeals rejected pursuant to Article 93 IPA or 98 Asylum Code was not provided.
Appeals before the Appeals Authority had automatic suspensive effect in all procedures under the previous law. The IPA abolished the automatic suspensive effect for certain appeals, in particular those concerning applications rejected in the accelerated procedure or dismissed as inadmissible under certain grounds. The Asylum Code that came into force in the second half of 2022 has maintained these provisions. In such cases, the appellant may submit an application before the Appeals Committees, requesting their stay in the country until the second-instance appeal decision is issued. However, considering the significant lack of an adequate system for the provision of free legal aid, it is questionable if such appellants will in fact be able to submit the relevant request. Suspensive effect covers the period “during the time limit provided for an appeal and until the notification of the decision on the appeal”.
More precisely, according both to Article 104 IPA and Article 110 of the Asylum Code, the appeal does not have an automatic suspensive effect in case of an appeal against a first instance decision rejecting the application as inadmissible:
- in case that another EU Member State has granted international protection status;
- in case that another State, bound by Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, has taken responsibility for the examination of the application for international protection, pursuant to the Regulation
- in virtue of the first country of asylum concept;
- the application is a subsequent application, where no new elements or findings have been found during the preliminary examination; in case of an appeal against a second subsequent asylum application, and in a number of cases examined under the Accelerated Procedure.
In its report “Comments on the Draft Law of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum”, the National Commission for Human Rights remarked that while the abolition of the automatic suspensive effect of an appeal against a decision rejecting an application for international protection is on principle in conformity with Union law, an appeal against a return or removal decision pursuant to Article 6 par. 6 or 8 par. 3 respectively of the Directive should automatically have a suspensive effect as this decision may expose the third country national to a real risk of treatment contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in conjunction with Article 33 of the Geneva Convention. However, as put forward in the relevant FRA Opinion on “The recast Return Directive and its fundamental rights”: 
‘If a return decision were to be implemented before a final decision on international protection, this would also undermine the right to asylum (Article 18 of the Charter) and the principle of non-refoulement (Article 19 of the Charter and Article 3 of the ECHR) as interpreted by the CJEU and the ECtHR in their respective case law. Closely connecting or merging the two procedural steps must not lead to the reduction of safeguards which are necessary to ensure that Articles 18 and 19 of the Charter are not circumvented.’
The practice of Appeals Committees in 2022 showed that the requirement of a separate request for suspensive effect under Article 104(2) IPA and Article 110(2) Asylum Code has introduced a superfluous procedural step, as the Committees systematically dismiss requests for suspensive effect as having no object (άνευ αντικειμένου), after having issued a positive or negative decision on the merits of the appeal.
In 2021, 4,653 requests were submitted to the Appeals Authority to stay in the country until the second-instance decision has been issued. During the reference period, the Appeals Authority issued 4,476 second instance decisions rejecting requests for suspensive effect and ordering the removal of the appellant. Relevant data for 2022 was not provided.
Procedure before the Appeals Authority
Written procedure: As a rule, the procedure before the Appeals Committee is a written one and the examination of the Appeal is based on the elements in the case file. The Appeals Committees shall invite the appellant to an oral hearing when:
- The appeal is lodged against a decision which withdraws the international protection status (see Cessation and Withdrawal);
- Issues or doubts are raised relating to the comprehensiveness of the appellant’s interview at first instance;
- The appellant has submitted substantial new elements
Under L 4375/2016, the appellant could also be invited to an oral hearing if the case presented particular complexities, which is no longer the case.
The prohibition first foreseen in Article 105 IPA on reverting cases back to the first instance posed difficulties in cases rejected by the Asylum Service as being inadmissible on the basis of the Safe Third Country concept, as asylum seekers had only been interviewed on points relating to the “safe third country” concept and not on the merits of their claim. Appeals Committees did not adopt a consistent approach: while some ordered an oral hearing for the applicant to substantiate the application on the merits, others proceeded directly to an assessment of the case sur dossier. This resulted in grants of subsidiary protection to applicants on the basis that they did not meet the criteria for refugee status, even though they were never requested to provide information on their reasons for fleeing their country of origin e.g. Syria. In 2021, 250 appellants were invited for an oral hearing before the Appeals Committees. Article 111 of the Asylum Code, whilst maintaining the prohibition on reverting cases back to the first instance, provides that in cases when the Appeals Committee considers it necessary to hold an interview, the interview shall be conducted by the Committee itself, in accordance with the provisions of Article 82.
Obligation of the Appellant to present in person before the Appeals Committees on the day of the examination: Despite the fact that the procedure before the Appeals Committees remains written without hearings as a rule, Articles 97(2) and 78(2) and (3) IPA as well as Articles 102(2) and 83(2)(3) of the Asylum Code impose an obligation on the appellant to personally appear before the Appeals Committee on the day of the examination of their appeals on penalty of rejection of their appeal as “manifestly unfounded”. This is an obligation imposed on the appellant even if he/she has not been called for an oral hearing.
Where an appellant resides in a RIC or Accommodation Centre, a written certification of the Head of the RIC or the Accommodation Centre can be sent to the Committee prior of the date of the examination, by which it is certified that he/she remains there. This certification should have been issued no more than 3 days prior of the examination of the appeal, or alternatively, an appointed lawyer can appear before the Committee on behalf of the appellant.
Where a geographical limitation has been imposed to the appellant or an obligation to reside in a given place of residence, a declaration signed by the appellant (and the authenticity of the signature of the appellant is verified by the Police or the Citizens Service Centre (KEP)), can be sent to Committee, prior of the date of the examination. This certification should have been issued no more than 3 days prior of the examination of the appeal or alternatively, an appointed lawyer can appear before the Committee on behalf of the appellant.
As noted, these provisions impose an unnecessary administrative obligation (in-person appearance of the applicant/lawyer as well as transmission of extra certifications) and further introduced a disproportionate “penalty”, as the in-merits rejection of the Appeals without examination of the substance raises serious concerns as to the effectiveness of the remedy and the principle of non-refoulment. This obligation first imposed by the IPA and maintained by the Asylum Code confirmed the criticism that the law on asylum “puts an excessive burden on asylum seekers and focuses on punitive measures. It introduces tough requirements that an asylum seeker could not reasonably be expected to fulfill”. As UNHCR has noted these provisions “are expected to have a negative impact on applicants’ access to the second instance and the proper examination of their appeal, and as such seriously undermine the right to an effective remedy”.
In 2022, 1,790 Appeals were rejected as “manifestly unfounded” compared to 532 such decisions in 2021. Currently, there is no available information as to whether these rejections were issued on the basis of provisions imposing the in-person appearance of the appellant or his/her lawyer before the Committee or the communication of certification of residence (Article 83(3) of the Asylum Code to the Committee. 
Examination under a single-member Appeals Committee/three members Appeals Committee: the IPA provides that appeals are examined under a collegial format by the three members Committee or in a single judge format when it comes to appeals filed after the deadline as well as for certain appeals in the Accelerated Procedure and the Admissibility Procedure, which should thus be examined by a single-judge. Following an amendment of the Regulation for the functioning of the Appeals Committees which was issued in November 2020, the categories of cases examined under a single-judge format has been extended, as all appeals submitted by applicant residing in Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos, Leros are examined by a single judge committee irrespectively of the procedure applied.
Issuance of a Decision: According to IPA, the Appeals Committee must reach a decision on the appeal within 3 months when the regular procedure is applied. The Asylum Code, which entered into force in the second half of 2022, provides that decisions have to be issued as soon as possible and in any case:
- Within thirty (30) days of the hearing of the case in regular procedure cases,
- Within twenty (20) days of the hearing in accelerated procedure case,
- Within ten (10) days of the hearing in cases where the appellant is under administrative detention,
- Within twenty (20) days of the hearing in cases when the application is rejected as inadmissible in accordance with Article 89,
An exception is introduced for priority cases, as the decision must be issued within fifteen (15) days of the hearing.
Notification of second instance decision: Similar to the fictitious service at first instance, both the IPA and the Asylum Code also provide the possibility of a fictitious service (πλασματική επίδοση) of second instance decisions as described above. Once again, as a result of this provision on the possibility of a “fictitious” service of the second instance decision – which triggers the deadline for lodging an appeal – these deadlines for legal remedies against a negative second instance decision may expire without the applicant being actually informed about the decision. Accordingly, it should be noted that the IPA reduced the deadline for lodging a legal remedy before Court against a second instance negative decision from a period of 60 days to a period of 30 days from the notification of the decision (see Judicial review). As noted by the Greek Ombudsman since the initial introduction of the possibility of a fictitious service in 2018, these provisions ‘effectively limit the access of asylum seekers to judicial protection” and even if “the need to streamline procedures is understandable … in a state governed by law, it cannot restrict fundamental democratic guarantees, such as judicial protection’.
Following the amendment of the IPA in May 2020, the right to remain in the country is terminated once the second instance decision is issued, irrespective of when the decision is communicated. As noted by the UNHCR:
‘UNHCR is concerned that such amendment would allow for the removal of a person from the territory before a second instance decision is notified to him/her. The parallel notification of a negative appeal decision is also undermining the right to judicial protection […], as persons whose claims are rejected will not be able to submit an application for annulment or an application for suspension in practice, which could ultimately lead to a violation of the principle of non-refoulement. The deprivation of legal stay before a notification of a negative decision has further premature negative repercussions on the enjoyment of the rights of asylum seekers from which they are to be excluded only following the notification of negative decision (e.g. the right to shelter and cash assistance)’.
Persons whose asylum applications are rejected at second instance no longer have the status of “asylum seeker”, and thus do not benefit from reception conditions.
According to the IPA, applicants for international protection may lodge an application for annulment (αίτηση ακύρωσης) of a second instance decision of the Appeals Authority Committees solely before the Administrative Court of First Instance of Athens or Thessaloniki within 30 days from the notification of the decision.
According to the IPA, following the lodging of the application for annulment, an application for suspension/interim order can be filed. The decision on this single application for temporary protection from removal should be issued within 15 days from the lodging of the application.
The effectiveness of these legal remedies is severely undermined by a number of practical and legal obstacles:
- The application for annulment and application for suspension/interim order can only be filed by a lawyer. In addition, no legal aid is provided in order to challenge a second instance negative decision. The capacity of NGOs to file such applications is very limited due to high legal fees. Legal aid may only be requested under the general provisions of Greek law, which are in any event not tailored to asylum seekers and cannot be accessed by them in practice due to several obstacles. For example, the request for legal aid is submitted by an application written in Greek; free legal aid is granted only if the legal remedy for which the legal assistance is requested is not considered “manifestly inadmissible” or “manifestly unfounded”. As noted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention “[i]nadequate legal aid is provided for challenging a second instance negative decision on an asylum application, and the capacity of NGOs to file this application is very limited given the number of persons in need of international protection”.
- The application for annulment and application for suspension/interim order do not have automatic suspensive effect. Therefore between the application of suspension/interim order and the decision of the court, there is no guarantee that the applicant will not be removed from the territory.
- The Administrative Court can only examine the legality of the decision and not the merits of the case.
- The judicial procedure is lengthy. GCR is aware of cases pending for a period of about two years for the issuance of a decision of the Administrative Court of Appeals following an application for annulment.
Moreover, according to Article 108(2) IPA and Article 114(2) of the Asylum Code, the Minister on Migration and Asylum, also has the right to lodge an application for annulment against the decisions of the Appeals Committee before the Administrative Court. In 2020, the Minister on Migration and Asylum lodged one Application for Annulment against a second instance decision of the Appeals Committees. The Appeals Committee ruled that an applicant for whom a decision to discontinue the examination of the asylum application due to implicit withdrawal has been issued, cannot be removed before the nine months period during which she can report again to the competent authority in order to request her case be reopened. In 27-6-2022, the Council of State issued decision Nr. 1398/2022, which accepted the Minister’s application for annulment.
A total of 433 applications for annulment before the Administrative Court of Athens and Thessaloniki were lodged against second instance negative decisions in 2021. Relevant data for 2022 was not provided.
As mentioned above, the Council of State confirmed the competence of First Instance Administrative Courts to judicially review decisions of the Appeals Committees, in cases when the second instance decisions on asylum applications are taken by Committees composed by higher-court judges. Consequently, the examination of the Applications for Annulment before the First Instance Administrative Courts of Athens and Thessaloniki, has resumed.
In 2022, out of a total of 287 decisions issued on Applications for Annulments, 230 were rejected and 50 were granted, raising the approval rate to 20%.
Asylum seekers have the right to consult, at their own cost, a lawyer or other legal advisor on matters relating to their application.
Legal assistance at first instance
No state-funded free legal aid is provided at first instance, nor is there a legal obligation to provide it. A number of non-governmental organisations provide free legal assistance and counselling to asylum seekers at first instance, depending on their availability and presence across the country. The scope of these services remains limited, taking into consideration the number of applicants in Greece and the needs throughout the whole asylum procedure – including registration of the application, first and second instance, judicial review and the complexity of the procedures followed, in particular after the entry into force of the IPA. As noted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ‘[t]he Working Group urges the Government to expand the availability of publicly funded legal aid so that persons seeking international protection have access to legal advice at all stages of the process, from the moment of filing their application until a final determination is made’.
Legal assistance at second instance
Free legal assistance shall be provided to applicants in appeal procedures before the Appeals Authority under the terms and conditions set in the Ministerial Decision 3449/2021.
The first Ministerial Decision concerning free legal aid to applicants was issued in September 2016. However, the state-funded legal aid scheme on the basis of a list managed by the Asylum Service started operating, for the first time, on 21 September 2017.
According to Joint Ministerial Decision 3449/2021 regulating the state-funded legal aid scheme, asylum seekers must request legal aid at least: 
- 10 days before the date of examination of the appeal under the regular procedure,
- 5 days before the date of examination of the appeal under the Accelerated Procedure or the application has been rejected as inadmissible,
- 3 days before the date of examination of the appeal in case the appellant is in RIC or in case of revocation of international protection status.
When Article 90(3) IPA or 95(3) of the Asylum Code (“fast track border procedure”) applies, the application for legal assistance is submitted at the time of lodging the appeal. The decision also explicitly provides for the possibility of legal assistance through video conferencing in every Regional Asylum Office. The fixed fee of the Registry’s lawyers is €160 per appeal and €90 per overdue appeal.
In practice and given the fact that as described above, first instance decisions may be notified to the applicants with a registered letter or other ways of notification and the fact that access of applicant to RAOs/AAU continues to be restricted due to COVID-19 preventive measures, requests for legal aid at second instance can be mainly submitted online, by filling a relevant electronic form on the electronic application of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum. This may pose additional obstacles to applicants who are unfamiliar with the use of electronic applications or who do not have access to the required equipment/internet.
As reported by the National Commission for Human Rights in September 2020,
‘a basic problem, remaining over the time and which it has not been resolved in practice, despite the corrective actions of the Administration, is the limited capacity of covering all requests of appellants for free legal aid at second instance in line with national and EU law’.
The National Commission for Human Rights notes as ‘worrying’, the information received by the registry of lawyers of the Asylum Service regarding
‘an unusual dramatic reduction in the requests submitted for legal aid, after the entry into force of the IPA, as amended by L. 4686/2020. Amendments of the procedure for the notifications of first instance decision (fictitious service to the Head of the RAO/AAU and notification from RICs) and the digitalization of the procedure throughput the platform of the Asylum Service result in the inability of the asylum applicants to request on time free legal aid. Moreover, delays occur in the assignments of cases by the RAOs to Registry’s lawyers, resulting in certain cases […] the assignment of the case to take place after the lodge of the appeal, with an imminent risk the appeal to be rejected as inadmissible’.
At the beginning of 2021, NGOs present in the field raised concerns regarding the insufficient provision of information to applicants for international protection 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 the Moria camp at the beginning of September 2020, and was subsequently resumed at the beginning of January 2021 “without any explanation or information being provided to the applicants”. Following concerns expressed by legal actors, the notification of first instance rejections was postponed until April 2021 due to a lack of legal assistance. Post-April 2021, access to legal assistance was restored and first instance decision notifications resumed.
As indicated above, a total of 16,830 appeals were lodged against Asylum Service decisions in 2022. According to Ministry of Migration and Asylum data, appellants only received free legal assistance in 7,925 cases through the Registry of Lawyers managed by the Asylum Service under the terms and conditions set in the Ministerial Decision 3449/2021. Since it is unlikely that the remaining 47.08% of appellants either had sufficient funds and/ or access to free legal provided by NGOs, this discrepancy highlights the difficulties faced by applicants in accessing and securing state funded free legal aid in appeals procedure, as provided by law.
 MoMA, Reply of the Ministry to the Greek Parliament 2608/2022, 24 January 2022
 The IPA in force during the first semester of 2022 and the Asylum Code that came into force on 10 June 2022.
Article 83(3) IPA and article 88(3) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 83(6) IPA and Article 88(6) ASYLUM CODE
Article 69(5) IPA and Article 74(6) ASYLUM CODE
 MoMA, Reply of the Ministry to the Greek Parliament, 16 March 2023, https://bit.ly/3JIy0y6.
 MoMA, Reply of the Ministry to the Greek Parliament, 16 March 2023, https://bit.ly/3JIy0y6.
 Articles 39(1) and 83(7) IPA, citing Article 39(10)(c) IPA and Articles 38(1) and 88(7) citing Article 46(c) ASYLUM CODE
 Ibid, citing Article 46(8) IPA and Articles 38(1) and 88(7) citing Article 50(8) ASYLUM CODE.
 Articles 39(2) and 83(7) IPA and Articles 38(2) and 88(7) ASYLUM CODE
 Information provided by the Asylum Service, 31 March 2021.
 JMD 458568/2021, Gov. Gazette Β’ 5949/16-12-2021
 Article 77(7) IPA and 82(7) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(7) IPA and 82(7) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(9) IPA and 82(9) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(4) IPA and 82(4) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(10) IPA and 82(10) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(11) IPA and 82(11) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(12)(a) IPA and 82(12)(a) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(5) IPA and 82(5) ASYLUM CODE.
 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 and 69(16) ASYLUM CODE.
Article 65(16) IPA and 69(16) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 1(2) Asylum Service Director Decision No 3385 of 14 February 2018.
Article 65(16) IPA and 69(16) ASYLUM CODE.
 Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.
 Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.
 Decision in file with the author.
 Decision in file with the author.
 Decision in file with the author.
 Decision in file with the author.
 Article 77(3) IPA and 82(3) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 69(3) IPA, as amended by L. 4686/2020 and 74(3) ASYLUM CODE.
 METAdrasi, ‘METAdrasi was officially informed about the non-renewal of the agreement for the provision of interpretation services at the Asylum Service’, October 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/42Y1qPO
 Article 77(13) IPA and 82(13) ASYLUM CODE.
 Article 77(15) IPA and 82(15) ASYLUM CODE.
 Ombudsman, Παρατηρήσεις στο σχέδιο νόμου Προσαρμογή της Ελληνικής Νομοθεσίας προς τις διατάξεις της Οδηγίας 2013/33/ΕΕ (αναδιατύπωση 29.6.13) σχετικά με τις απαιτήσεις για την υποδοχή των αιτούντων διεθνή προστασία κ.ά. διατάξεις, April 2018.
 Article 82(3) IPA, as amended by L. 4686/2020 and 87(3) ASYLUM CODE
 Article 82(3) IPA, as amended by L. 4686/2020 and 87(3) ASYLUM CODE
 Article 82(4) IPA, as amended by L. 4686/2020. and 87(4) ASYLUM CODE
 Article 82(5) IPA, as amended by L. 4686/2020 and 87(5) ASYLUM CODE
 RSA, The Greek asylum procedure in figures in 2022: Analysis of main trends in refugee protection, 28 March 2023, https://rsaegean.org/en/greek-asylum-statistics-2022/
 Article 92(1) IPA and 97(1) Asylum Code
Article 92(1)(a) IPA and 97(1) Asylum Code
Article 92(1)(b) IPA and 97(1) Asylum Code
 Council of State (Plenary), Decision 1694/2018, 21 August 2018, para 19.
 19th Appeals Committee, Decision 6219/2021, 25 May 2021, para 4; 12th Appeals Committee, Decision 56970/2021, 10 June 2021, para A.7; 11th Appeals Committee, Decision 59841/2021, 11 June 2021, para 7; 11th Appeals Committee, Decision 62800/2021, 14 June 2021, para 9; 3rd Appeals Committee, Decision 75059/2021, 18 June 2021, para II.2; 6th Appeals Committee, Decision 140330/2021, 21 July 2021, 12; 8th Appeals Committee, Decision 1592/2021, 21 July 2021, para 3; 12th Appeals Committee, Decision 233902/2021, 9 September 2021, 3
 6th Appeals Committee, Decision 2411/2019, 28 February 2020, para 10; 6th Appeals Committee, Decision 30955/2020, 18 May 2021, para II.4
 UNHCR, UNHCR urges Greece to strengthen safeguards in draft asylum law, 24 October 2019
 Article 104(2) IPA and Article 110(2) ASYLUM CODE
 Article 104(1) IPA and Article 110(1) ASYLUM CODE
 Article 104 L. 4636/2019 as amended by Article 20 L. 4825/2021 and Article 110 ASYLUM CODE
 Information provided by the Appeals Authority, March 2022
 Article 97(1) IPA and Article 102(1) ASYLUM CODE
 Article 97(3) IPA and Article 102(3) ASYLUM CODE
 Article 62(1)(d) L 4375/2016
 21st Appeals Committee, Decision 29458/2020, 19 November 2020; 10th Appeals Committee, Decision 22083/2020, 28 April 2021; 5th Appeals Committee, Decision 202299/2021, 25 August 2021; 21st Appeals Committee, Decision 364000/2021, 4 November 2021; 21st Appeals Committee, Decision 398486/2021, 19 November 2021
 5th Appeals Committee, Decision 12366/2020, 14 September 2020; 5th Appeals Committee, Decision 12365/2020, 2 October 2020; 21st Appeals Committee, Decision 28217/2020, 7 December 2020; 10th Appeals Committee, Decision 25173/2020, 19 November 2021; 20th Appeals Committee, Decision 29118/2020, 19 November 2021.
 Information provided by the Appeals Authority, 2022
 Article 111 ASYLUM CODE
 Article 106 ASYLUM CODE
 Article 71(1) IPA and Article 76(1) ASYLUM CODE
 Ministerial Decision 3449/2021, Gov. Gazette 1482/13.04.2021. MD 3686/2020 was repealed by MD 3449/2021 according to Article 6 of MD 3449/2021, MD 12205/2016 was repealed by MD 3686/2020 according to Article 6(2) MD 3686/2020
 Ministerial Decision 12205/2016, Gov. Gazette 2864/B/9-9-2016
 Joint Ministerial Decision 3449/2021, Gov. Gazette 1482/B/13-4-2021. MD 3686/2020, Gov. Gazette 1009/B/24-3-2020 was repealed by MD 3449/2021 according to Article 6(2) MD 3449/2021
 Article 1(3) MD 3449/2021.
 Article 1(7) MD 3449/2021
 Article 3 MD 3449/2021.