Inhumane Asylum System of Greece: A Critique
Author: Shaurya Shukla, Chanakya National Law University, Patna.
Reports of the reputed institutions like Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees accused Greece of putting vulnerable refugees at greater risk and systematically undermining the right to seek asylum by tightening asylum laws. Reports also shed light on the rapid increase of sexual violence at refugee camps. The new law which is introduced by Greece forces thousands of refugees to live in the squalid and putrid refugee camps on five islands in the Aegean Sea. Due to such inhumane and challenging living conditions, refugees are facing a huge health crisis. With the support of EU (European Union), Greece is rejecting all the claims concerning the various refugee rights very easily. EU is also getting criticized as they are supporting such harsh law which instead of providing a safe asylum to the families and their children, either deports them back or mandates them to live in a harsh environment without proper health and sanitation facilities. The author through this blog aims to shed some light on how Covid-19 made this situation worse, the author will further focus of non-observance of international as well as domestic law by the Greek Government and finally, the author will conclude with his outlook on the instant situation.
Role of Covid-19 in the instant situation
Though refugee persecution is not a new word as many people are suffering due to this anathema from long now. The wake of Coronavirus(Covid-19) pandemic has played the role of a catalyst in case of refugee persecution. The deadly virus named Covid-19 which has claimed many lives across the globe is highly contagious and to avoid its further spread various countries started imposing lockdown in which all the services of the country except police and hospital were closed. For maintaining the norm of “social distancing” ,Greek Parliament voted to suspend access to asylum in Greece. This suspension was to be applied to all the people arriving between 1 March and 31 March and was flexible to further extentions.
Instead of protecting vulnerable people from Covid-19, the Greek government is using this crisis to refrain from its international and domestic law obligations. This new law suspends all the rights of the refugees who have fled war and persecution to find a safe and protected asylum in Greece. Families and children seeking asylum in Greece are forced to live in filthy and mucky living conditions before being deported to the place where they face a threat to their life and liberty. Such law is a clear cut violation of refugee rights guaranteed by the various UNO (United Nations Organization) conventions as well as the Greek Law which will be discussed in the latter part of the blog.
International Legal Obligations-
Convention relating to the status of refugees which is both signed and ratified by Greece in its article 23 mandates all the parties of this convention to treat all the lawful refugees of their country respectfully and they should be given same public facilities as the nationals of Greece. This obligation gets macerated in the asylum centres of Greece.
Article 3 of a Greek signed and ratified convention named Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment provides that no person should be extradited to the place where there are substantial grounds of believing that his/her life and liberty will be in danger but under the umbrella of new asylum law passed by the Greek assembly, Greek authorities have arbitrarily deported back many asylum seekers to the place where they have a grave danger to their lives.
UDHR(Universal Declaration of Human Rights) also supports some basic human rights which must be guaranteed to an asylum seeker or refugee. UDHR in its article 14 upholds the right to seek asylum in any country.
Greek law guarantees various rights to the refugees such as:
New asylum law of Greece has separated plenty of families even though the Greek law mandates the asylum authorities to maintain the family unity of the refugees.
Those who are provided refugee status in Greece should be given a residence permit for three years as per the Greek law but this rule is also neglected by the new asylum rule.
The new asylum rule also fails to fulfil the obligation of providing mandatory education to the minor refugees, adults are also being refrained from enrolling in the educational training and development programs.
Greek Laws mandate the asylum authorities to look after the social welfare of the refugees and the new asylum law of Greece is lacking of this criterion.
The Greek asylum system is forcing the refugees to live in the squalid conditions which is disrespecting the Greek law guarantee of proper and adequate healthcare to the refugees.
The author wants to conclude that this move of the Greek government deserves to be criticized and denounced. The Greek government is not only transgressing the international refugee law but also it is transgressing the Greek law. According to the international refugee law, if a refugee is lawfully coming to a country to seek asylum, he must be treated respectfully and he must not be humiliated by violence and putrid asylum conditions. In such tough times, Greece instead of assisting the refugees is using this pandemic as a tool to persecute the refugees which is highly unreasonable and must be stopped.