- Outgoing requests: 2015 (January-September): 913
- Germany: 529
- Sweden: 135
- Switzerland: 67
- Incoming requests: 2015 (January-September): 65
- Switzerland: 48
- Germany: 4
- Belgium/Netherlands: 3
- Outgoing transfers: 2015 (January-September): 571
- Germany: 345
- Sweden: 129
- Switzerland: 34
- Incoming transfers: 2015 (January-September): 9
- Switzerland: 8
- Netherlands: 1
The application of the Dublin criteria
Returns of asylum seekers from another Member State to Greece under the Dublin Regulation are still frozen, since EU Member States and Associated States have halted Dublin transfers following the MSS v Belgium & Greece ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).2 Between January-September 2015, only 9 transfers were carried out to Greece by Switzerland3 and the Netherlands.
In the first 9 months of 2015, Greece has received 65 incoming requests under the Dublin Regulation. Out of these, Greece accepted 31. However, only 9 transfers have actually been completed, mainly concerning persons in possession of a residence permit in Greece.4
The majority of outgoing transfers under the Dublin Regulation take place in the context of family reunification. In 2015 (until end September 2015), 571 transfers are reported to have actually been accomplished, the vast majority of which on family reunification grounds.5
The most frequent case used to concern families applying for asylum in Greece, where at some point – well beyond the 3-month deadline for submitting a request – one or more members moved onwards to apply in another Member State, where they requested for their family members to be admitted for the purposes of family reunification. Under the Dublin Regulation, these claimants should be returned to Greece, could no longer be transferred after the MSS v Belgium & Greece ruling. Although in such cases the receiving Member State is not obliged to accept the transfer of family members from Greece, in practice it invokes the Regulation’s discretionary clauses6 and notifies Greece of its acceptance of the take charge request.
According to information provided by the Asylum Service in 2015, the most frequent trend currently is for families not to have already applied for asylum in Greece, but for one or more family members to travel onwards and lodge their first application in another EU Member State. On that basis, since Greece has not previously examined the application to apply the Regulation when the claim is lodged in another country, applicants may request their families to join them on the basis of Dublin’s family unity criteria,7 which are at the top of the hierarchy of responsibility criteria, rather than the discretionary clauses.8
However, serious problems arise in the cases of unaccompanied children whose family members are present in another Member State. The system of appointing a guardian for minors is dysfunctional, as little is done after the Asylum Service or Police or First Reception Centre (FRC) has informed the Juvenile Public Prosecutor who acts by law as temporary guardian for unaccompanied children; the Prosecutor merely assumes that capacity in theory. Unacceptable delays take place for the actual transfer of unaccompanied children below the age of 14 to another Member State where the family reunification request has been accepted, due to severe shortage of staff to escort the child and to the need for the Dublin Unit to request the Aliens Division to provide an escort for the transfer.
In order for a “take-charge” request to be addressed to the Member State where an asylum seeker, relative of the person applying for asylum in Greece, resides, the consent of the relative is required, as well as documents proving the legal status of the relative in the receiving country (e.g. residence permit, asylum seeker’s card or other documents certifying the submission of an asylum application) and documentation bringing evidence of the family link (e.g. certificate of marriage, civil status, passport, ID),
The dependent persons and discretionary clauses
Greece has been applying the discretionary clause in cases of families where is a Eurodac hit for one family member in another Member State, but in order not to separate the family, the asylum application is accepted to be examined in Greece. Another type of cases where this clause is implemented, is where there is evidence for serious health reasons hampering the transfer.9
In line with Article 21 of the Dublin III Regulation, where an asylum application has been lodged in Greece and the authorities consider that another Member State is responsible for examining the application, Greece must issue a request for that Member State to take charge of the applicant no later than 3 months after the lodging of the application.
Generally, outgoing requests by Greece receive a reply within 1 to 1½ month after the request is submitted, in line with the time-limits imposed by the Regulation.10 Most member States (e.g. Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, UK, Bulgaria) usually respect the 2 month deadline set in the Regulation, while certain ones tend to respond after 2 months have passed (e.g. France, Italy).
In the first 9 months of 2015, Greece has addressed 913 outgoing requests to other Member States under the Dublin Regulation. Within the same period, 507 requests were accepted and 289 were rejected.
According to the Asylum Service,11 the reception conditions in the receiving state are taken into account. Nevertheless, it has not been deemed necessary to ask for individual guarantees until now.
On the contrary, in family reunification cases through Dublin III, the reception conditions in the receiving state are not examined. It is sufficient that the applicant is willing to be transferred there and that he or she relinquishes his or her right to appeal against the decision rejecting the asylum application as inadmissible.
In 2014, the Greek Dublin Unit was reorganised and reinforced with several new members, although there is still room for more adjustments to be made in order for the Unit to meet the actual needs attached to the high number of Dublin procedures. As a result, so far Dublin procedures appear to run smoothly and within the requisite deadlines. Delays occur and the waiting time for transfers is still extremely high, reaching 5-6 months. However, deadlines for “take charge” requests as well as transfers are usually met without jeopardising the outcome of the reunification. According to the information provided by the Asylum Service,12 when an applicant is detained and another Member State accepts the “take charge” request of the Greek Dublin Unit on the basis of family reunification, the Asylum Service notifies the Hellenic Police authorities and issues a recommendation for the end of detention.13
Applicants who are to travel by plane to another Member State are picked up by the Hellenic Police from their house or from a location in proximity and are driven to the airport. The police officer escorts the applicants to the check-in counter. Once the boarding passes are issued, the escorting officer hands in the boarding passes, the laissez-passer and the applicant’s “asylum seeker’s card” to a police officer at the airport. The latter escorts the applicant into the aircraft, hands in the required documents to the captain of the aircraft and the applicant boards the aircraft.
During 2014, although applicants had to cover their own travel expenses due to budgetary constraints of the Asylum Service, the latter informed GCR that a sum of €60,000 has been approved for travel costs for Dublin transfers, and that an open call for tenders from travel agencies has been advertised. In fact, as of the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, travel expenses of ‘Dubliners’ have been financed by the Asylum Service, covering booking and issuance of the relevant tickets, as well as other relevant expenses to be met. In February 2015, the relevant financial aid provided was suspended temporarily, pending renewal of the Asylum Service’s agreement with the relevant contracting party in order to resume.14 To the knowledge of GCR, applicants are currently paying for their own expenses. According to the Asylum Service, taking into account the degrading financial situation of the state, where possible, the cost is covered by the Asylum Service, all rights reserved. AMIF is expected to respond to these needs, once the relevant funding becomes available.15
In practice, detailed personal interviews do not usually take place as per the merits, when outgoing requests are pending for the transfer of asylum seekers under the family reunification procedure, although questions mostly relating to the Dublin procedure are almost always addressed to the applicant, in an interview framework.
However, a succinct personal interview takes place in the non-family reunification cases, where the asylum seeker after being fingerprinted appears to have applied for asylum in another EU Member State before arriving in Greece. Such cases are not particularly common and usually concern people who enter Greece after having first crossed the Turkish-Bulgarian borders.
Applications for international protection are declared inadmissible where the Dublin Regulation applies.17 An applicant may lodge an appeal against a first instance decision rejecting an application as inadmissible due to the application of the Dublin Regulation within 15 days.18 Such appeal is also directed against the transfer decision, which is incorporated in the inadmissibility decision.19
According to Asylum Service statistics, as of 28 February 2015, there have been 130 cases in which applications for international protection, declared inadmissible due to the acceptance of responsibility by Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation, were successfully appealed before the Appeals Committee. In these cases, the asylum applications had been referred by the Committees back to the first instance in order for the examination of the claim to take place. Nevertheless, these Committees’ decisions do not seem to have created any kind of legal precedent, in order for the relevant practice of the Asylum Service regarding returns to Bulgaria to change. A number of second instance decisions have upheld transfers to Bulgaria, even where the persons concerned were found to be victims of torture. As regards applicants whose appeals against their transfer were rejected, only 1 transfer to Bulgaria has taken place. The remainder have either absconded from Greece or are awaiting transfer.20
Access to free legal assistance and representation in the context of a Dublin procedure is available under the conditions described in the regular procedure (see section on Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance). The same problems and obstacles described in the regular procedure exist in the context of Dublin procedures, with NGOs trying in practice to cover this field as well.
Limited access to legal assistance creates difficulties for applicants in navigating through the complexities of the Dublin procedure. The case files of the applicants are communicated by the police or RAO competent for the registration of asylum applications to the Dublin Unit. Moreover, the Dublin Unit does not consider itself responsible for preparing Dublin-related case files, as the applicants bear the responsibility of submitting to the Asylum Service all documents required in order for the Dublin Unit to establish a “take charge” request, such as proof of family links. The Asylum Service claims that its registration staff has been instructed to inform applicants who express the wish to be reunited with a family member in another Member State of the need for timely submission of the relevant documents.
To GCR’s knowledge, there has been a number of 4 decisions of the Appeals Committees holding that an asylum seeker may not be transferred to Bulgaria due to the existence of a real risk of serious violations of Article 3 ECHR.21 All cases had received free legal assistance by NGOs: the first 3 by the Ecumenical Refugee Programme and the fourth by GCR.
- 1. Greek Dublin Unit, Information provided to GCR, October 2015.
- 2. ECtHR, MSS v Belgium & Greece, Application No. 30696/09, Judgment of 21 January 2011.
- 3. See also Swiss State Secretariat for Migration, Asylum Statistics September 2015, available at: http://bit.ly/1NuZwHR, 82.
- 4. Greek Dublin Unit, Information provided to GCR October 2015.
- 5. Greek Dublin Unit, Information provided to GCR October 2015.
- 6. Article 17 Dublin III Regulation.
- 7. Asylum Service, Information provided to GCR, March 2015.
- 8. Articles 8-11 Dublin III Regulation, more particularly Article 10.
- 9. Asylum Service, Information Provided to GCR, September 2015.
- 10. Article 22(1) Dublin III Regulation.
- 11. Asylum Service, Information Provided to GCR September 2015.
- 12. Asylum Service, Information provided to GCR, March 2015.
- 13. Articles 8-11 Dublin III Regulation, more particularly Article 10.
- 14. Asylum Service, Information provided to GCR, March 2015.
- 15. Asylum Service, Information Provided to GCR September 2015.
- 16. Article 5 Dublin III Regulation.
- 17. Article 18(b) PD 113/2013.
- 18. Article 25(1)(b) PD 113/2013.
- 19. Ibid.
- 20. Asylum Service, Information provided to GCR, March 2015.
- 21. 17th AAC, Decision n. 95/000190454, 21 March 2014; 11th AAC, Decision n. 95/000188424, 11 February 2014; 2nd AAC, Decision n. 95/000186004, 29 November 2013.