The updated AIDA report on Greece documents persisting deficiencies in the asylum procedure and reception conditions. Greece, which has seen as many as 715,000 persons arrive on its territory since the beginning of 2015, still suffers from a severe lack of hosting facilities, inadequate systems for registration and the lack of a proper identification and referral mechanism for the most vulnerable. As of the end of September, no First Reception Centre or Mobile Unit had been operating on Chios, Kos, Leros or Rhodes, while Samos is still only equipped with a Mobile Unit unable to meet the current needs.
Persons in need of protection still face considerable obstacles to accessing the asylum procedure. This is namely the case in Athens, where the Asylum Service has set up a system for appointments through Skype, which meets significant shortcomings in practice. Without adequate access to registration, persons remain at risk of detention and deportation as irregular migrants. In most cases where detainees successfully lodge an asylum claim, they remain in detention for the processing of their application, without proper consideration of necessity, proportionality and alternatives to detention.
Push backs have remained an issue of concern at the Greek-Turkish border, with a number of incidents reported in 2015 to various NGOs, such as the Greek Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières, Refugee Support Programme Aegean and the Network of Social Support for Refugees and Immigrants in Greece.
Deficiencies remain in appeals procedures as well. Under the Old Procedure regulated by Presidential Decree 114/2010 for asylum claims lodged before 7 June 2013, a backlog of over 23,000 appeals before the Appeals Committees. It should be noted that the Appeals Committees had halted their operation between January and April 2015. Similarly, in the New Procedure regulated by Presidential Decree 113/2013 before the Asylum Service, the Appeal Committees of the Appeals Authority suspended their operation on 24 September 2015 when the term of office of Committee members ended. This is likely to create a gap in the processing of appeals until Committee members restart their functions.
The findings of the AIDA report are of particular relevance in view of the European Commission’s intention to consider a recommendation for the reinstatement of transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, four years after their halt by the MSS v Belgium and Greece and NS v Secretary of State for the Home Department rulings.