The report was previously updated in May 2022.
- Key asylum statistics: The Asylum Service received 37,362 asylum applications in 2022 (compared to 28,320 in 2021), mainly from applicants from Afghanistan (5,624 applications), followed by applicants from Syria (5,050 applications), Pakistan (4,572 applications), Palestine (2,907 applications) and Iraq (2,671 applications). The recognition rate on the merits at first instance was 57.4% (compared to 60% in 2021). However, a significant number of applicants were not provided with access to an in merits examination and their applications were examined under the safe third country concept, following the issuance of the Joint Ministerial Decision designating Türkiye as a safe third country for applicants from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh. The backlog of pending applications was of 22,316 at the end of 2022 (compared to 31,787 at the end of 2021).
- Number of arrivals: In 2022, a total of 18,780 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece. This marks an increase of 105.09% compared to 9,157 in 2021. 12,758 persons arrived in Greece by sea in 2022 compared to 4,331 in 2021 and 6,022 persons arrived through the Greek-Turkish land border of Evros in 2022, compared to a total of 4,826 in 2021. The majority originated from Palestine (21.7%), Afghanistan (17.2%) and Somalia (14.1%). Nearly half of this population were women (17.8%) and children (28.3%), while 54% were adult men. The registered number of entries in 2022 may however under-represent the number of people actually attempting to access Greek territory, given the number of alleged pushbacks, which continued to be systematically reported during the year.
- Push-back practices: An increasing number of allegations of pushbacks continued to be reported in 2022 and have been largely criticised inter alia by UN, Council of Europe and European Union monitoring bodies. In a report issued in April 2022, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants stated that ‘[i]n Greece, pushbacks at land and sea borders have become de facto general policy’. The ECtHR granted Interim Measures in all 24 cases supported by GCR, since March 2022 and ordered the Greek authorities not to remove the applicants from the territory and to provide them with food, water and proper medical care. In July 2022, the ECtHR delivered its judgment in the case of Safi and others v. Greece (Farmakonisi case), supported inter alia by GCR. The case referred to a shipwreck, resulting in the death of 11 people, which occurred during an alleged pushback at sea incident. The Court found violations of articles 2 and 3 ECHR. The newly established mechanism for compliance with fundamental rights in reception and asylum procedures (Fundamental Rights Officer and Special Commission on Fundamental Rights Monitoring at the Ministry of Migration and Asylum) has been widely criticised, including by the Greek Ombudsman and the NCHR, as not in line with the independence and effectiveness requirements. Human rights organisations and lawyers supporting pushback victims face defamation, intimidation and risk of criminalisation. As highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur ‘human rights defenders promoting and protecting the rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees, including human rights lawyers, humanitarian workers, volunteers and journalists, have been subjected to smear campaigns, a changing regulatory environment, threats and attacks and the misuse of criminal law against them to a shocking degree’’.
- Access to the asylum procedure:Access to asylum on the mainland remains highly problematic. Since September 2022, persons who want to submit an asylum application on the mainland should initially book an appointment through an online platform and then present themselves in one of the two registration facilities in Diavata (Thessaloniki) or Malakasa (Attica) to complete registration of their application. However, access to the online platform is not always possible, in some cases appointments for registration are assigned many months later, and applicants while waiting for the day of their appointment are not protected from detention and do not have access to reception conditions. Lastly, once they present themselves at the registration facilities, they may be subject to de facto detention for a period up to 25 days, contrary to the requirements of Art. 8 of the Reception Directive. Access to the asylum procedure for persons detained in pre-removal centres remains also a matter of concern.
- Subsequent applications: Subsequent applications after the first one are subject to a fee of EUR 100 per applicant and, in case of families, EUR 100 per family member. Greece is the only EU Member State which requires payment of a fee to lodge a subsequent application, thereby raising concerns as to access to the asylum procedure. An Application for Annulment of the relevant JMD has been filled by GCR and RSA before the Council of State and was still pending at time of publication of this report.
- Processing times: The number of the pending asylum applications decreased in 2022. Despite this, at the end of 2022, almost 1 out of 4 pending applications had been pending for over 12 months. Out of the total number of 17,249 applications pending at the end of 2022, 10,781 (62.50%) had been pending for under 6 months, 2,334 (13.53%) had been pending for over 6 months and 4,134 (23.74%) had been pending for over 12 months.
- Legal assistance: No state-funded free legal aid is provided at first instance, nor does the law establish an obligation to provide it. A state-funded legal aid scheme operates for the appeal procedure, on the basis of a registry of lawyers managed by the Asylum Service. However, obstacles in accessing free legal aid continued to be reported, inter alia because of the digitalisation of the procedure and the fictitious service of negative first instance decisions. Less than 1 out of 2 appellants received legal assistance under the free legal aid scheme in 2022. Out of the 16,830 appeals lodged against Asylum Service decisions in 2022, legal assistance in the appeals procedure was provided in 7,925 (47.08%) cases.
- Second instance procedure: Most appeals are rejected at second instance. Out of the total in-merit second instance decisions issued in 2022 (8,939), 7.4% resulted in the granting of refugee protection, 4.4% resulted in the granting of subsidiary protection and 88.19% resulted in a negative decision. During 2022, 1,790 appeals were rejected as “manifestly unfounded” without an in-merit examination, due to the fact that the appellants did not comply with the obligation of an in-person appearance of the appellant or their appointed lawyer before the Committee, or to present a certification of residence to the Committee, which constitutes a disproportionate administrative burden imposed to the appellants. Appeals against decisions rejecting the application in the accelerated procedure or as inadmissible under certain grounds do not have automatic suspensive effect, despite the fact that these decisions also incorporate a return decision with immediate effect.
- Dublin: Additional obstacles to family reunification under Dublin continued to occur in 2022 due to restrictive practices (requirements for official translations of documents proving family links, sometimes unnecessary DNA tests, age assessments of unaccompanied children to be conducted according to the requested state’s methods) adopted by a number of receiving Member States, which may undermine the right to family life. A total of 1,077 Dublin transfers were implemented in 2022, compared to 2,133 in 2021. By the end of 2022, 5,164 individuals in total, including 1,333 unaccompanied children had been relocated to another EU Member States under the voluntary relocation scheme, launched by the EU Commission in March 2020.
- Safe third country inadmissibility:In 2021, by a JMD Greece designated Türkiye as a “safe third country” for asylum seekers originating from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia, despite the fact that no readmissions to Türkiye have taken place since March 2020. As a result, applications for international protection lodged by persons of said nationalities throughout the Greek territory (borders and mainland) are examined under the safe third country concept and not on their individual circumstances and the risks they face in their country of origin (in merits examination). Moreover, and as no readmission takes places, 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, are exposed to a direct risk of destitution and detention, without access to an in-merit examination of their application. Following an Application for Annulment lodged by GCR and RSA before the Council of State, in February 2023, the Council of State decided to refer a question to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of article 38 of 2013/32/EU Directive.
In 2022, 6,105 inadmissibility decisions were issued based on the JMD declaring Türkiye as a safe third country, out of which 3,409 first instance inadmissibility decisions and 2,696 second instance inadmissibility decisions, despite the suspension of readmissions to Türkiye. Contrary to Art. 38 (4) of the Asylum Procedure Directive, applicants are not provided with an in merits examination. As stated repeatedly by the EU Commission, ‘to the extent the applicant is not permitted to enter the territory of the safe third country, in particular if the underlying situation preventing entry persists since 2018 or 2020, the Member State shall ensure, in accordance with the Asylum Procedures Directive, that access to a procedure is given to the applicant’.
- Identification of vulnerability: the low quality of the medical and psychosocial screening process (if any) has remained a source of serious concern with regards to the identification of vulnerabilities on the islands. Vulnerabilities are often missed, with individuals going through the asylum procedure without having their vulnerability assessment completed first. No public health structures specialised in identifying or assisting torture survivors in their rehabilitation process exist across the country.
- Freedom of movement: Asylum seekers subject to the EU-Türkiye statement, i.e. arriving on Greek islands, are subject to a geographical restriction (geographical limitation) order, which obliges them not to leave the respective island until the end of the asylum procedure. The geographical limitation is applied en masse and without any prior individual assessment to all new arrivals to the Greek islands, while the regulatory framework that entered into force in January 2020 significantly limited the categories of applicants for whom the restriction can be lifted and does not necessarily amount to an immediate change in living conditions or the actual departure from the islands. In August 2022 the ECtHR granted interim measures in the case of vulnerable applicants in need of emergency medical treatment due to their condition who remained for prolonged period in Samos despite the fact that they could not receive appropriate medical treatment on the island.
- Reception capacity: According to the available statistics 12,239 asylum seekers were accommodated in mainland camps (March 2022) and 4,371 asylum seekers remained in Reception and Identification Centers/Closed Controlled Access Centers on the islands. 1,843 applicants were accommodated in ESTIA accommodation scheme (urban apartments) in November 2022, but the scheme was terminated at the end of 2022.
- Living conditions: On the mainland, the termination of the ESTIA accommodation scheme at the end of 2022 consolidates a camp-based approach to reception where applicants’ access to some of their rights (material reception conditions) entails isolation from society and where other rights, such as access to healthcare or education, cannot be effectively fulfilled. In 2022 and the beginning of 2023, complaints with regard to poor and unsanitary conditions in housing units and the overall living conditions in mainland camps were increasingly reported. The construction of high fences and the installation of surveillance systems in a number of mainland camps have increased the sentiment of isolation and exclusion. Significant concerns are reported with regard to reception conditions in the newly established Closed Control Access Centers (CCACs) on the islands. For example, as mentioned for Samos CCAC despite improvements (e.g. decongestion and the placement of containers instead of tents), Samos CCAC remains ’a hostile environment, and fails to receive people in humane and dignified conditions’. The infrastructure problems, including interruptions in the water supply and lack of access to heating and air conditioning, aggravate the living conditions in the winter and summer respectively. Samos CCAC is surrounded by a double layer of barbed wire, camera surveillance is in operation, and entry and exit is allowed between 8 am – 8 pm.
Detention of asylum seekers
- Statistics on detention: The total number of third-country nationals detained in Pre-removal Detention Facilities (PRDFs) during 2022 was 18,966, compared to 12,020 in 2021. At the end of 2022, there were 2,715 persons in administrative detention, including 1,344 asylum seekers. Out of the total number of detainees at the end of 2022, 2,500 were detained in pre-removal facilities and 316 in several other detention facilities countrywide such as police stations, border guard stations etc. About 28% of the detainees in pre-removal detention facilities at the end of 2022 (724 detainees out of 2,500) had been detained for over 6 months.
- Detention in case of non-feasible return: During 2022, applicants for international protection as well as rejected asylum seekers continued to remain systematically detained without any proper consideration of the prospect of return to Türkiye, despite returns being suspended since March 2020. A number of Court decisions acknowledged that in the absence of an actual prospect of removal, detention lacks a legal basis.
- Detention of applicants who have already asked for asylum though the online platform while at liberty: Applicants who have booked a registration appointment through the Ministry’s platform are in practice arrested and detained in view of removal, despite holding a document proving the existing appointment. In a number of Court decisions on cases brought before the Courts by GCR, the practice has been considered unlawful, as according to those decisions following accessing the online platform and scheduling an appointment for full registration the person acquires the status of an asylum seeker.
- Detention conditions: In many cases, detention conditions in pre-removal centres fail to meet adequate standards, inter alia due to their carceral and prison-like design. Police stations and other police facilities, which are by nature not suitable for detention exceeding 24 hours, continue to fall short of basic standards. No doctor was present in Tavros, Xanthi, and Kos PRDFs. Only one doctor was present in Amigdaleza, one in Corinth and one in Paranesti PRDFs, with a detention population of 866, 897 and 349 persons respectively at the end of 2022.
- Legal remedies against detention: No free legal aid is provided for a detainee to challenge their detention decision before Courts, contrary to national and EU law. In 2022, out of the total 18,966 detention orders issued, only 5,011 (26.4%) were challenged before a Court. Ex-officio judicial scrutiny of detention orders remains largely ineffective and illusionary. Out of the total 6,847 detention decisions transmitted to Administrative Courts for ex officio examination the extension of detention was not approved in only 21 cases.
Content of international protection
- Renewal of residents permits: Long waiting periods are observed in a number of cases of renewal, which can reach as far as GCR is aware up to nine months. Pending the issuance of a new residence permit, beneficiaries of international protection are granted a certificate of application (βεβαίωση κατάστασης αιτήματος) valid for six months. In practice, beneficiaries of international protection holding these certificates are only protected from detention and do not have access to any rights pending their residence permit’s renewal.
- Family reunification:Refugees who apply for family reunification face serious obstacles which render the effective exercise of the right to family reunification impossible in practice. Lengthy procedures, administrative obstacles as regards the certification of documents, the issuance of visas even in cases where the application for family reunification has been accepted, the requirement of documents which are difficult to obtain for refugees, and lack of information on the possibility of family reunification, the three-month deadline and the available remedies are reported among other issues.
- Housing of recognised refugees: Beneficiaries of international protection residing in accommodation facilities must leave the centres within 30 days of being granted international protection. Given the limited integration of recognised beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, this results in a high risk of homelessness and destitution. In spring 2022, Germany decided to refrain from returning recognised refugees to Greece and to process their claims on the merits, apart from exceptional cases. The Netherlands recently followed suit with a similar policy in September 2022 refraining from returning recognised refugees to Greece. Moreover, on 29 September 2022, the European Commission opened infringement procedures against Belgium, Germany, Greece and Spain for failing to comply with the Return Directive 2008/115/EC.
The information given hereafter constitute a short summary of the 2022 Report on Temporary Protection, for further information, see Annex on Temporary Protection.
- Key temporary protection statistics: 21,532 persons were granted temporary protection in Greece in 2022, almost exclusively Ukrainian nationals; this is out of the reported 80,000 persons who were potentially entitled to temporary protection present in Greece at some point throughout 2022.
Temporary protection procedure:
- Scope of protection: the temporal scope of protection was broadened in Greece in that persons who had arrived in Greece from 26 November 2021 onwards were eligible for temporary protection, instead of having to have fled on or after 24 February 2022. However, as regards third country nationals, only stateless persons and beenficiaries of international protection or equivalent national protection are eligible, and not those with permanent residence in Ukraine and unable to return to their country of origin.
- Vulnerability identification: there was no specific procedure introduced for the identification of vulnerable applicants or beneficiaries, nor was the procedure adapted to the needs of unaccompanied minors entitled to temporary protection.
Content of temporary protection
- Rights attached: persons benefit from specific family reunification rules foreseen for temporary protection, freedom of movement, access to the labour market and to education and vocational training, social welfare, healthcare although not to the level of Greek nationals or other legally residing third country nationals.
- Housing: the main form of accommodation provided was reception centres; in July 2022, accommodation was also provided through the HELIOS project to support successful integration, as accommodation support is offered along with language courses and employment support.