New UNHCR report finds Greece has improved its asylum system but serious problems remain and Governments should refrain from returning asylum seekers
UNHCR continues to recommend that asylum seekers should not be returned to Greece
02 February 2015
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a new report on Friday examining the current situation of asylum in Greece.
You can read the 42-page UNHCR Observations on the Current Situation of Asylum in Greece here.
The report is based on an assessment done during the last quarter of 2014.
Notably, the UNHCR report recommends that asylum seekers should still not be returned to Greece. That extends the advice UNHCR first made in 2008.
The report does acknowledge that Greece has made improvements to its asylum system, stating: "Significant improvements have taken place in the quality of the adjudication of asylum claims and of decisions. These include the reduced timeframe under the new procedure for completing the examination of cases at first instance and appeal, the improved quality of interviews and decisions, as well as the observance of procedural guarantees. Some of the limited resources of the Asylum Service have also been used to prioritize the processing of asylum applications of persons in pre-removal detention."
UNHCR says, however, that numerous challenges remain, with the main problems said to include difficulties in accessing the asylum procedure, a continuing backlog of unresolved cases under the old procedure, risk of arbitrary detention, inadequate reception conditions, lack of identification and support for individuals with specific needs, push-backs of people at the border, concerns over integration prospects and support for refugees, and xenophobia and racist violence.
A UNHCR press release further noted: "Integration prospects and related support for refugees are practically non-existent. Many are marginalised or excluded in the absence of concrete integration measures. In addition, refugees face considerable difficulties with family unification, a right that is denied altogether to those provided with subsidiary protection. Finding accommodation is particularly difficult. There are no specific facilities for social housing or any alternative forms of support. Moreover, there is no targeted national strategy to promote employment of refugees, and, as a result, many face destitution."
In light of the situation described, the report's short conclusion simply states that UNHCR continues to advise Governments to refrain from returning asylum seekers to Greece.