Protect the most vulnerable to ensure protection for everyone

‘Restore legality to protect refugees and the society at large amidst the pandemic’


Open letter signed by 121 Organizations

To

The President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou

The President of the Hellenic Parliament, Constantine An. Tassoulas

The Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis

The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović

The Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom


Athens, 25 March 2020 – Recalling the letter issued on 6 March 2020, signed by more than 250 organizations throughout Europe, the undersigned organizations reiterate the dangers stemming from persisting in current arrangements on the management of the reception of asylum seekers and the respect for their right to seek asylum in Greece. Apart from violating national, EU and international laws, amid the pandemic, these arrangements also pose a major public health danger, arising from overcrowding in Greece’s Reception and Identification Centers (RICs) and in the country’s detention centers.

Asylum seekers, amongst them many children, who entered Greece with the aim of seeking protection are being detained for the purposes of return, as a result of the Emergency Legislative Decree (E.L.D) issued on 1 March 2020. The E.L.D. has suspended the registration of asylum applications allowing for the immediate deportation of those entering the Greek territory to their countries of origin or Turkey. A large number of refugees and migrants are now being held in prisons and in formal and informal detention centers that keep springing up throughout Greece. This is happening without ensuring minimum standards of hygiene or protection, even during this public health emergency. They are deprived of the right to apply for asylum and are detained under the threat of deportation. In a breach of all international Conventions that protect the right to seek asylum, Greek Courts have imposed severe penalties on them.

We stress that the suspension of the right to seek asylum and the violation of the principle of non-refoulement is an unprecedented abrogation of international obligations in post-war Europe. At the same time, following the Greek Asylum Service’s suspension of operations, in the context of social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the backlog of asylum applications and the uncertainty of asylum seekers who arrived in Greece before the 1st of March are growing daily, as no interim procedures have been defined.

More importantly, the coronavirus pandemic is threatening to affect refugee accommodation sites and camps. The camps, especially on the Aegean islands, suffer from severe overcrowding and lack of adequate sanitary facilities, making it impossible to ensure social distancing and hygiene conditions for both residents and employees. This poses a major threat to public health for both asylum seekers and for society as large. Similarly, the significant increase in the number of third-country nationals placed in administrative detention, in the weeks preceding and especially those following the E.L.D., notwithstanding issues of legality, puts the health of detainees and employees alike at grave risk.

We address all competent Greek authorities, requesting:

  • To immediately protect public health with steps designed to protect those residing in camps, camp employees and society at large. The first step should be to urgently decongest the islands, by prioritizing the transfer of those asylum seekers who are most at risk to the Greek mainland or to other EU Member States, in a manner that will protect the health of all involved, as well as public health.
  • To rescind the E.L.D, which is due to expire on 2 April 2020; to clarify that refugees who have entered Greece after 1 March 2020 will be granted protection and to suspend deportation decisions that, especially during the pandemic, jeopardize the lives, health, freedom and basic rights of returnees. Reinstating access to asylum, and in particular respecting the principle of non-refoulement, will restore the state of legality.
  • To implement alternatives to detention for all administrative detainees throughout Greece, and to prevent ongoing arrests by the police authorities on account of the lack of legal documents for the duration of the pandemic.
  • To take all necessary measures to ensure that, even under these emergency conditions, everyone wishing to apply for asylum will be able to do so before the Greek Asylum Service, in a way that safeguards the health of asylum seekers and employees alike.

We once more address the Institutions of the European Union and all member states, requesting:  

  • To safeguard the right to seek asylum, one of the core rights underlying the fabric of post-war Europe, by exercising their responsibility to ensure all EU member states comply with their international obligations.
  • To establish timely and fair relocation mechanisms that will, at minimum, take the most vulnerable, such as children and people with disabilities, away from the Greek islands and into appropriate accommodation within the reach of health services. As this is a health emergency, relocation should be facilitated, keeping only necessary checks to avoid spread of Covid-19.
  • To support the Greek Government in its effort to safeguard public health, which can only be achieved through the extensive decongestion of the RICs, the adoption of protective measures that include the population of refugees and migrants, and particularly through avoiding “ghettoization” or generalized detention.

We address the bodies of the Council of Europe and the United Nations, requesting:

  • To provide Greece with all possible assistance to avoid the public health crisis that could result, particularly, from the situation in the camps.
  • To strengthen the monitoring procedures and oversight for the European Union’s and its member states’ compliance with International Conventions and International Human Rights Standards.

In closing, we call on everyone to restore legality and be mindful of not neglecting refugees and other vulnerable groups in times of crisis. Prevailing conditions in the camps, coupled with the inadvertent effects of suspending access to asylum, not only undermine our laws, but can undermine public health in its entirety. These considerations only act to amplify our original plea to restore legality and safeguard our common European system of values.


LIST OF SIGNATORIES

A BUON DIRITTO (ITALY)

ACT ALLIANCE EU (BELGIUM)

ACCIÓN POLITEIA (SPAIN)

ACTIONAID HELLAS

ACTIONAID INTERNATIONAL

ACTIONAID ITALIA

ACTION FOR EDUCATION (GREECE)

ADDART (GREECE)

A DROP IN THE OCEAN (DRÅPEN I HAVET)

AED EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS (GERMANY)

AFGHAN HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION (UK)

AIDOS – ASSOCIAZIONE ITALIANA DONNE PER LO SVILUPPO (ITALY)

ΑΙΤΙΜΑ (GREECE)

ALLIANCE FOR AFRICAN ASSISTANCE (ITALY)

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

AMURT-AMURTEL HELLAS

ANASA CULTURAL CENTER (GREECE)

ANTIGONE (GREECE)

ANTI-TRAFFICKING AND LABOUR EXPLOITATION UNIT (ATLEU) (UK)

AOI, ASSOCIATION OF ITALIAN NGO’S FOR COOPERATION AND SOLIDARITY

ARSIS – ASSOCIATION FOR THE SUPPORT OF YOUTH (GREECE)

ASGI ASSOCIAZIONE PER GLI STUDI GIURIDICI SULL’IMMIGRAZIONE (ITALY)

ASINITAS, ROMA (INTERCULTURAL CENTERS) (ITALY)

ASSOCIATION DE SOUTIEN AUX TRAVAILLEURS IMMIGRES – ASTI ASBL (LUXEMBOURG)

ASSOCIATION FOR INTEGRATION AND MIGRATION (CZECH REPUBLIC)

ASSOCIATION FOR LEGAL INTERVENTION (POLAND)

ASOCIACIÓN POR TI MUJER (SPAIN)

ASVIS (ITALIAN ALLIANCE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT)

ASYLOS (UK)

ATTIKA HUMAN SUPPORT

AVOCATS SANS FRONTIÈRES

BABEL DAY CENTER (GREECE)

BAOBAB EXPERIENCE (ITALY)

BORDER CRIMINOLOGIES-OXFORD UNIVERSITY (UK)

BORDERLINE-EUROPE HUMAN RIGHTS WITHOUT BORDERS (GERMANY)

BRIGHTON MIGRANT SOLIDARITY (UK)

CARE DEUTSCHLAND E.V.

CARITAS HELLAS

CCM – COMITATO COLLABORAZIONE MEDICA (ITALY)

CENTER FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY AND FREEDOM (CEPS) (MONTENEGRO)

CENTRAL ASYLUM YORKSHIRE

CENTRE DIOTIMA (GREECE)

CENTRE FOR PEACE STUDIES (CENTAR ZA MIROVNE STUDIJE) (CROATIA)

CENTRE FOR TRAUMA, ASYLUM AND REFUGEES, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX (UK)

CESIE (ITALY)

CESSMIR, UNIVERSITY OF GHENT (BELGIUM)

CHANGE MAKERS LAB (GREECE)

CHEER INTERNATIONAL GROUP (CHEERING) (GREECE)

CHILD AND YOUTH CARE ASSOCIATION (SMAN) (GREECE)

CIRÉ (COORDINATION ET INITIATIVES POUR REFUGIES ET ÉTRANGERS) (BELGIUM)

COLLECTIVE AID (SERBIA)

COMHLÁMH (IRELAND)

CONCORD ITALIA

COORDINADORA DE ORGANIZACIONES PARA EL DESAROLLO (SPAIN)

COSPE ONLUS (ITALY)

CZECHIA AGAINST POVERTY AND INEQUALITY

DANISH REFUGEE COUNCIL (DRC)

DEFENCE FOR CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL GREECE

DIRTY GIRLS (ΕΛΛΑΔΑ)

DONATE4REFUGEES

DUTCH COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES (DCR)

DUTCH LEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (NETHERLANDS)

ECHO100PLUS (GREECE)

ECOLOGICAL MOVEMENT OF THESSALONIKI (GREECE)

EDUCATIONAL INNOVATION (GREECE)

ELIX (GREECE)

ELPIDA HOME

END FGM EUROPEAN NETWORK

EPAPSY (GREECE)

EQUAL RIGHTS BEYOND BORDERS (GREECE)

EQUAL SOCIETY (GREECE)

EUROPEAN ANTIPOVERTY NETWORK (EAPN)

EUROPEAN COUNCIL ON REFUGEES AND EXILES (ECRE)

EVERY CHILD PROTECTED AGAINST TRAFFICKING (ECPAT)

FEDERAZIONE DEGLI ORGANISMI CHRISTIANI SERVIZIO INTERNATIONALE VOLONTARIO (ITALY)

FENIX HUMANITARIAN LEGAL AID

FIX IN ART (GREECE)

FORENSIC ARCHITECTURE (GREECE)

FREEDOM FROM TORTURE (UK)

FREE MOVEMENT SKATEBOARDING (UK)

FUNDACION CEPAIM (SPAIN)

GAASBEEK EN GAASBEEK ADVOCATEN (NETHERLANDS)

GATWICK DETAINEES WELFARE GROUP

GCAP EUROPE (BELGIUM)

GCAP HELLAS

GCAP ITALIA

GENERATION 2.0 RED (GREECE)

GERMAN NGO FORUM ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT

GLOCAL ROOTS (SWITZERLAND)

GREATER MANCHESTER IMMIGRATION AID UNIT (GMIAU)

GREEK COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES (GCR)

GREEK FORUM OF MIGRANTS

GREEK FORUM OF REFUGEES

GREEK NETWORK FOR THE RIGHT TO SHELTER AND HOUSING

HARINGEY MIGRANT SUPPORT CENTRE (HMSC)

HELLENIC ANTIPOVERTY NETWORK

HELLENIC LEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (HLHR)

HELLENIC PLATFORM FOR DEVELOPMENT

HELLO MY FRIEND

HELP REFUGEES / CHOOSE LOVE

HERTS FOR REFUGEES (UK)

ΗΙΑS GREECE

HIGGS (GREECE)

HUMANITY NOW (USA)

HUMANRIGHTS360 (GREECE)

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

HUBB – HUMANS BEFORE BORDERS (PORTUGAL)

I AM YOU HUMANITARIAN AID (SWEDEN)

ILIAKTIDA AMKE (GREECE)

IMMIGRANT COUNCIL OF IRELAND

INDIGO VOLUNTEERS (UK)

INITIATIVE FOR THE DETAINEES’ RIGHTS (GREECE)

INSTITUTE OF RACE RELATIONS (UK)

INTELEKTUALET E RINJ, SHPRESE (IRSH) (ALBANIA)

INTER ALIA (GREECE)

INTEREUROPEAN HUMAN AID ASSOCIATION GERMANY E.V.

INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR ERITREAN REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS – ICERAS

INTERNATIONAL PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION – EUROPEAN NETWORK (IPPF EN) (BELGIUM)

INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMMITTEE (IRC)

INTERSOS HELLAS

INTERSOS ORGANIZZAZIONE UMANITARIA ONLUS (ITALY)

INTERVOLVE (GREECE)

IRIDA WOMEN’ S CENTER (GREECE)

IRISH ANTIPOVERTY NETWORK

ISLAMIC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

ITALIAN COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES

JOINT COUNCIL FOR THE WELFARE OF IMMIGRANTS (JCWI) (UK)

JRS PORTUGAL

JRS GREECE

JUSTRIGHT SCOTLAND

KHORA COMMUNITY CENTRE (GREECE)

KITRINOS HEALTH CARE (GREECE)

L’AUBERGE DES MIGRANTS (FRANCE)

LAW CENTRES NETWORK (UK)

LEEDS NO BORDERS (UK)

LEGAL CENTRE LESVOS (GREECE)

LEGAL SECTOR WORKERS UNION (LSWU) (UK)

LEROS SOLIDARITY NETWORK (GREECE)

LESVOS SOLIDARITY (GREECE)

LIGHTHOUSE RELIEF (LHR)

LIVERPOOL LAW CLINIC (LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY) (UK)

MASS ACTION

MEDICAL AID FOR REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PEOPLE (MARDI)

MED.IN MEDICAL INTERVENTION (GREECE)

MEDECINS DU MONDE – GREECE (MDM – GREECE)

MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES – GREECE (MSF – GREECE)

MELISSA NETWORK (GREECE)

ΜΕΤΑDRASI (GREECE)

METHORIA LAST RIGHTS (GREECE)

MIDDLESBOROUGH DIOCESE JUSTICE AND PEACE COMMISSION

MIGRANT’S RIGHTS NETWORK (UK)

MIGRANT VOICE (UK)

MIGRATION MOBILITIES BRISTOL (UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL)

MISSION LIFELINE E.V. (GERMANY)

MOBILE INFO TEAM (GREECE)

MOVEMENT ON THE GROUND (THE NETHERLANDS)

NETWORK FOR CHILDREN’S RIGHTS (GREECE)

NETWORK FOR THE SOCIAL SUPPORT OF REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS (GREECE)

NETWORK ITALIANO SALUTE GLOBALE

ODYSSEA (GREECE)

OFFICE OF DISPLACED DESIGNERS (ΕΛΛΑΔΑ)

OMANIAE VZW ORGANISATIE (BELGIUM)

OMNES (GREECE)

ONE HAPPY FAMILY (GREECE)

ONE PUMP COURT (UK)

ORGANIZATION EARTH (GREECE)

OXFAM

OXFORD AGAINST IMMIGRATION DETENTION (UK)

OXFORD MIGRANT SOLIDARITY

PAMPIRAIKI SUPPORT INITIATIVE FOR REFUGEES & MIGRANTS (GREECE)

PAR – PLATFORMA DE APOIO AOS REFUGIADOS (PORTUGAL)

PAX CHRISTI INTERNATIONAL (BELGIUM)

PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (FINLAND)

PLATFORM FOR INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION ON UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS (PICUM)

POSITIVE ACTION IN HOUSING

POVORD INSTITUTE (SLOVENIA)

PRAKSIS (GREECE)

PRAXIS COMMUNITY PROJECTS (UK)

PROJECT ARMONIA (GREECE/SWITZERLAND)

PUBLIC INTEREST LAW CENTRE (PILC) (UK)

QUAKER ASYLUM AND REFUGEE NETWORK (QARN)

RAV REPUBLICAN LAWYERS ASSOCIATION (GERMANY)

RED ACOGE (SPAIN)

REFOCUS MEDIA LABS

REFUGEE AID SERBIA (SERBIA)

REFUGEE BIRIYANI AND BANANAS (UK)

REFUGEE COUNCIL (UK)

REFUGEEED

REFUGEE FOUNDATION (SERBIA)

REFUGEE INFO BUS (FRANCE AND GREECE)

REFUGEE LEGAL SUPPORT (RLS)

REFUGEE RESCUE (UK)

REFUGEE RIGHTS EUROPE (RRE)

REFUGEE SUPPORT AEGEAN (RSA)

REFUGEE SUPPORT EUROPE

REFUGEE WOMEN’S CENTRE (FRANCE)

REFUGEE YOUTH SERVICE (GREECE/UK)

RIGHT TO REMAIN (UK)

ROOM FOR REFUGEES (UK)

RTI HELLAS

SAFE PASSAGE INTERNATIONAL

SAMOS VOLUNTEERS (GREECE)

SANTE REFUGEE MENTAL HEALTH ACCESS PROJECT

SAO ASSOCIATION FOR DISPLACED WOMEN (SWITZERLAND)

SAVE THE CHILDREN

SCI HELLAS

SCOTTISH REFUGEE COUNCIL

SEEBRÜCKE

SHOWER POWER FOUNDATION (GREECE)

SLOVENE PHILANTHROPY

SOAS DETAINEE SUPPORT (UK)

SOCIAL HACKERS ACADEMY – SOCIAL HACKER A.M.K.E.

SOCIETY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (SID)

SOLIDARITY4ALL (GREECE)

SOLIDARITYNOW

SOS RACISMO (SPAIN)

SOUTH YORKSHIRE MIGRATION AND ASYLUM ACTION GROUP (SYMAAG)

STATE OF CONCEPT

STATEWATCH (UK)

STILL I RISE (GREECE)

STIL-UTRECHT (THE NETHERLANDS)

SÜDWIND (AUSTRIA)

SWINDON CITY OF SANCTUARY

SXEDIA STIN POLI (GREECE)

SYMBIOSIS SCHOOL OF POLITICAL STUDIES (GREECE)

SYMBOLO – ROMA NORDOVEST PER LA SINISTRA (ITALY)

SYNDICAT INTERPROFESSIONNEL DE TRAVAILLEUSES ET TRAVAILLEURS (SIT) (SWITZERLAND)

TEXNODROMO (GREECE)

TERRE DES HOMMES HELLAS

THALASSA OF SOLIDARITY (GREECE)

THE BALKAN FORUM (KOSOVO)

THE BRIGHTON TRUST (UK)

THE DAY OF THE ENDANGERED LAWYER FOUNDATION (NETHERLANDS)

THE HOME PROJECT (GREECE)

THE INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE ASSISTANCE PROJECT (IRAP) (USA)

THE LAVA PROJECT (GREECE)

THE SUSSEX REFUGEE AND MIGRANT SELF SUPPORT GROUP

THE INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE ASSISTANCE PROJECT (IRAP) (USA)

THE ROUTES OF THE OLIVE TREE (GREECE)

THESSALONIKI PRIDE (GREECE)

ΤHESS DICTIO – VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS’ NETWORK OF THESSALONIKI (GREECE)

THOUSAND 4 1000 (UK)

TOGETHER FOR BETTER DAYS (GREECE)

TO MOV (GREECE)

TRP SOLICITORS (UK)

TRANSGENDER SUPPORT ASSOCIATION (GREECE)

UNITED AGAINST INHUMANITY – UAI

UTOPIA 56 (FRANCE)

VELOS YOUTH (GREECE)

VEREIN FAIR (SWITZERLAND)

VICTORIA SQUARE PROJECT

VIRGO SOLICITORS

VLUCHTELINGEN ONDERSTEUNING SINT-NIKLAAS (BELGIUM)

WESLEY GRYK SOLICITORS

WORLD WITHOUT WARS AND VIOLENCE (GREECE)

YOUNG ROOTS

ZA’ATAR NGO (GREECE)