Moria Community Leaders Demand Respect for Refugee Rights in Lesvos

In the face of months of horrible conditions and delayed procedures in Moria Refugee Camp, refugee community leaders have come together to defend their rights and dignity, despite the many obstacles they face. Copied below is the letter with recommendations that was sent by representatives of refugee communities in Moria Camp to Maarten Verwey, Coordinator of the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement. Please share, and call on Mr. Verwey and your European Commission representatives to respond.

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8 January 2017

Dear European Commission Members and European Commission Coordinator on Implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement:

As asylum seekers living on the island of Lesvos, Greece, we write regarding the 8 December 2016 Joint Action Plan of the EU Coordinator on the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement. The current plan will aggravate the safety and security of asylum seekers and will lead to the continued violation of our rights, and we write with several recommendations to improve enforcement of EU law, and protection of all of us who are seeking refuge in the EU.

Since 20 March 2016, the date of entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement, the island of Lesvos has turned from a place of transit to a place of detention. Women, children, families, single men, victims of torture, war, and persecutions are prevented from leaving the island and are living in camps whose conditions are inhumane and degrading. We ask that the EU make the following changes to its published Joint Action Plan in order to protect our rights and ensure that the EU and Greece bring its policies in line with Greek, EU, and international law.

  1. Cease all deportation and return to Turkey, especially of vulnerable individuals and those who have the right to family reunification.

The Joint Action Plan proposal to increase returns to Turkey, including of vulnerable individuals and individuals who have a right to family reunification in Third EU Member states will violate these individuals’ right to protection, their right to family unity, and the Dublin Regulation.
According to Turkish practices, all non-Syrian asylum seekers returned from Greece to Turkey are detained in closed “Repatriation Centres” without access to medical care, education, or legal assistance. Turkey only grants refugee status to EU citizens, and all others non-Syrians can only receive a temporary protected status, while they await resettlement in third countries. The few individuals who receive this temporary protection are released from the Repatriation Centres, but are forced to live in satellite cities where their movement is restricted and there is limited opportunities to work and maintain a dignified life, awaiting settlement in third countries for years. Additionally, Syrians are only also only given temporary protective status, and also have restricted movements in Turkey and limited access to medical care, education, and adequate housing. Just last week a seven year old Syrian child was denied access to four hospitals his father attempted to bring him to, before dying in his home. Hundreds of individuals have already been returned from Turkey to Syria, and individuals are regularly persecuted in Turkey due to their political opinion, social group, etc.

The EU-Turkey statement and return of all asylum seekers, and in particular vulnerable individuals, to Turkey is contrary to ECHR Art. 3 and 1951 Refugee Convention Art. 33 prohibition of refoulement, as refugees and asylum seekers’ rights are not guaranteed in Turkey.

  1. Rather than increase Border Patrol presence in hotspots and between EU Member States, improve conditions and procedures in Greece, and in particular in hotspots.

The Joint Action Plan includes the increase of policing and Border Patrol to prevent the movement of people from hotspots to mainland Greece, and from Greece to other EU Member States. We asylum seekers have arrived in Greece seeking refuge from the persecution and wars we have fled. People will continue to seek safety outside of Greece so long as the conditions in Greece continue to be unsafe and inhumane. Instead of providing additional policing to control the inevitable movement of desperate people seeking safety for their themselves and their families, resources should be dedicated to improve conditions in Greece, and in Lesvos in particular. The following changes to policies in Lesvos will greatly improve conditions and procedures, and will more effectively lead to decrease in the irregular movement of people as individuals will no longer need to seek refuge outside of Lesvos and Greece:

  • Improve security and conditions in Moria Camp. Currently, individuals, including at least 600 vulnerable individuals and families with minor children, are living in freezing conditions in plastic tents that flood when it rains, and many individuals have acquired unsafe private heating stoves to heat their tents and cook food given the inadequate and sub-standard food being provided in the camp. Already one woman and a child were killed in Moria Camp when a stove like this exploded. Also, women do not use the bathrooms at night for fear of being sexually assaulted, no one has access to hot water, and unaccompanied minors are kept in prison conditions inside the camp where they receive no education or play areas. To improve these conditions, the EU must provide adequate security, in the form of properly trained security officers (not just increased number of police), proper lighting, hot water, and properly winterized housing that “ensure[s] an adequate standard of living and protect[s] the physical and mental health of asylum seekers,” as required by Article 17 of the Recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU. Improvement of living conditions will decrease the number of people seeking safety outside of Moria Camp and outside of Greece.
  • Ensure that all arrivals to Lesvos have their asylum application registered within 10 days of arrival as required by EU Directive 2013/32/EU, and permit asylum seekers to travel to the mainland. Already, all individuals that arrive in Lesvos are processed at the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria Refugee Camp within 2-3 days of arrival. All information necessary for registering an application for international protection is taken at the time of reception, yet the Greek Asylum Office, in coordination with EASO, is delaying the full registration of asylum applications for up to six months or more after arrival. There is no excuse for this delay. During this delay individuals are denied the rights guaranteed by the EU to asylum seekers, including the right to work, rent apartments, family reunification, and relocation in third Member States. This leaves us in a state of limbo, unable to move on in our lives, and often seeking alternate routes to leave Lesvos and Greece.
  • Bring asylum procedures in line with EU standards, as required by Common European Asylum System Directives. Of all EU Member States with at least as many asylum seekers as Greece, Greece has the lowest or second lowest approval rating for each of the last four recorded quarters1. In the last recorded quarter, Greece approval rating for all first time asylum seekers was only 18%, versus 63% for all of the EU. Given this discrepancy, it is inevitable that asylum seekers will move to other European States irregularly, when the alternative they face is being denied international protection in Greece, and being returned to persecution and war in their home countries. The EU must provide additional support to the Greek Asylum Service, through EASO, and ensure that EU CEAS directives are fairly implemented in Greece.
  • Provide asylum seekers with information on procedures and rights upon arrival, and legal assistance throughout the process. The Joint Action Plan recommends that the Greek authorities with EASO support should “continue to inform migrants about the rights, obligations and available options, channel them into the relevant procedure.” However, this is not currently happening in Moria Refugee Camp, and asylum seekers have no knowledge of the procedure they must go through to obtain international protection, or what their rights are as asylum seekers. For example, individuals are not informed about the eligibility requirements for family reunification, relocation, or when or how to apply for reunification or relocation. If adequate information is provided to asylum seekers when they arrive in Lesvos, and legal assistance is provided throughout the process, asylum seekers will be less likely to feel desperate and the need irregularly move outside Greece, for example to join family members that they have a right to reunite with through legal processes.
  • Notify asylum applicants in writing of registration and interview times, rather than by loudspeaker. The current practice of notifying individuals of their registration and interview dates by loudspeaker in the Moria Refugee Camp means that if someone misses hearing their name because they left the camp, their case will again be delayed. This in effect means that all asylum seekers are detained in Moria Camp if they wish to continue with their legal process, which is illegal under Greek, EU, and international law. This system must be replaced with notification given in writing and through publicly posted registration and interview times.
  • Allow waiver of court fees to appeal asylum denials. Currently, applicants must pay court fees if they wish to appeal a denial of international protection in Greek Administrative Court. These fees are often prohibitively expensive, meaning that many asylum seekers with legitimate claims are illegally deported and face persecution and death in their home countries. The absence of an ability to waive this fee for asylum seekers violates their right to access justice and be free from torture, inhuman, and degrading treatment under Articles 13 and 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Instead of focus on limiting abilities to appeal denial decisions as outlined in the Joint Action Plan, the EU must ensure that asylum seekers unable to pay court fees can still access these courts in order to appeal denials. This will lead to more effective implementation of Greek Asylum Law, and decrease the number of individuals seeking to leave Greece and seek asylum elsewhere in the EU.
  • Allow waiver of court fees to challenge detention decisions. Currently, applicants must pay court fees if they wish to challenge a decision to detain them. The Joint Action Plan proposes increased detention capacity on the Greek islands such as Lesvos. Already, individuals are being illegally detained in Moria Camp and the mainland. Currently, in Moria Camp, individuals from certain nationalities, in particular citizens of Algeria, Morocco, Tunis, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh, are being arbitrarily detained for the entire time their application for international protection is pending. This practice is contrary to EU and Greek law, which prohibits arbitrary detention without individual assessment, and the basic tenants of international law, which prohibits discrimination based on nationality. Other individuals are being taken from the open camp in Lesvos, and detained on mainland Greece, with no grounds for detention. Detention of asylum seekers is only allowed as provided by Greek Law 4375, Article 46(2), which requires that a certain condition be met and can only occur after individual assessment. The court fees needed to challenge a detention decision are often prohibitively expensive, meaning that many asylum seekers are illegally detained for months. Instead of focus on increasing detention capacity in the Greek islands the EU must ensure that asylum seekers are able to challenge unlawful detention, even if they are unable to pay these fees. This will decrease the number of individuals detained on the mainland and the islands, and additional detention facilities will not be necessary.
  1. Visit Moria Refugee Camp in order to learn first hand of horrible, inhumane conditions

Finally, we cordially invite all EU Commissioners and the EU Coordinator and her team to Moria Refugee Camp so that you can see for yourself the inhumane conditions in which we are living, before you make further policies that impact our lives. You may contact us at the phone numbers below.

Sincerely,

  • Sohel Miha, Representative of Bangladeshi Refugees in Moria Camp, +30 6955423284
  • Salman Sadeshi, Representative of Irani Refugees in Moria Camp, +3o 6943773312
  • Biter Jonas, Representative of French speaking Africans in Moria Camp
  • Kiran Sharma, Representative Nepali refugee in Moria Camp, +30 6943705201
  • Ghere Tesfay, Representative of Eritrean refugees in Moria Camp, +30 6938793614
  • Mahmoud Madi, Representative of Palestinian refugees in Moria Camp, +30 6955981216
  • Mohammad Hisham, Representative of Syrian refugees in Moria Camp, +30 5940193513
  • Saif Qara, Representative of Iraqi refugees in Moria Camp
  • Doulat Khan, Representative of Afghan refugees in Moria Camp, +30 6955635700
  • Hussain Trasadaq, Representative Pakistani refugees in Moria Camp, +30 6955773042

1Eurostat, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/data/database

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*Photo by Sohel Miha, Representative of Bangladeshi Refugees in Moria Camp

Right to Life in danger for asylum seekers in Moria

Lesvos, 26 November 2016 – On Thursday 24 November, a 66-year old woman and a 6-year old child were killed when a tent caught fire in Reception and Identification Centre in Moria. Two other people, including a child, were seriously injured.

This is in addition to the 4,655 (https://missingmigrants.iom.int) recorded deaths of asylum seekers entering Europe since the beginning of 2016.

These most recent deaths were foreseeable and preventable and arise as a consequence of the EU and Greece’s refusal to fulfil its responsibilities under International and European law to protect the Human Rights of all those in Europe, including the Right to Life under Article 2 of the ECHR and the provision of reception conditions that ensure an adequate standard of living and protect the physical and mental health of asylum seekers (Article 17 of the Recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU).

Since 20 March 2016, date of entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement, Greece has turned from a place of transit to a place of detention. Women, children, families, single men, victims of torture, war, and persecutions are living in camps whose conditions are inhumane and degrading.

We, Lesvos Legal Centre, reiterate the recommendations we made following the Moria fire in September of this year and additionally call for:

  1. An investigation into the causes of the fire be made and those within the Greek Authorities and the EU responsible for maintaining security in the camp be held accountable.
  2. The EU and Greek Authorities to ensure the safety and security of those seeking asylum in Greece generally, and those in the Moria camp specifically.
  3. That conditions in camps be raised to the standards required by international law.
  4. That applicants for international protection have their applications registered within a maximum of 10 days, as stated in the Procedures Directive, thereby allowing refugees in Greece to exercise their rights as asylum seekers and reducing the amount of people confined in inhuman and degrading conditions.

Photo credit: Lifeguard Hellas Save & Rescue Volunteer Team

ELDH report on the activities of the Lesvos Legal Centre

Last October, the Lesvos Legal Centre published a report on the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights (ELDH) website.

capture-decran-2016-11-04-a-20-35-10Full report available here

Since our opening last August, we have identified various serious breaches of human rights which are primarily the result of an unresponsive and intransigent EU asylum system that refuses to place the needs of refugees at the centre of its approach.

The breaches concern in particular:

Delay

The Greek Asylum Service is simply required to register the individuals ‘…as soon as is rendered possible’. (Article 36, Greek Law 4375). Thousands of people, men, women, children, disabled, mentally unwell amongst others, have been kept waiting over half a year awaiting to be registered because of the application of this provision.

Without lodging an application, an individual does not have the ability to be considered for family reunification either under Dublin III or the national schemes of other European Member States, cannot be considered for relocation under the two Council Decisions of September last year and of course cannot have their application for asylum determined by the Greek Asylum Service. Delay, without any foreseeable end, awaits those who arrive here.

Inhumane reception conditions

The situation in Moria detention centre is illustrative. The camp is surrounded by high fences and barbed wire. Inside, space is scarce, with crowded tents inhabited by whole families, including children. Unaccompanied minors are detained as a matter of course in a separate part of the camp, whose facilities are barely able to cope with the amount of children contained there. Despite being recognised by the Greek Asylum Service as vulnerable, individuals face huge obstacles accessing assistance for medical conditions. Victims of torture struggle to gain access to mental health services, heavily pregnant women are left to lie on the floor in tents for months awaiting receipt of adequate pre natal care, medical attention is severely restricted to a few who are able to exhibit severe symptoms, amongst other issues. Riots are therefore an unfortunately frequent phenomenon. 

Controversial Turkey-EU Agreement

Rather than attempt to distribute the responsibility of processing asylum claims to other Member States, the EU Commission has deemed it appropriate to designate Turkey a ‘safe third country’ to which Greece can return ‘irregular migrants’.

This is particularly worrying considering Turkey’s highly controversial hierarchy of protection, which allows Europeans to claim full protection as refugees, but only provides limited and temporary protection to Syrians claiming international protection. This alongside the well reported instances of push back (often violently) of refugees at the Syrian border, refoulement, detention in atrocious conditions and the state’s recent decision to suspend the application of the European Convention of Human Rights, leads many to conclude that the EU is simply attempting to outsource its responsibilities under the 1951 Convention and Protocol to a politically volatile country that is actively hostile to refugees.

Lack of legal aid and denial access to justice for asylum seekers

As it stands, legal aid is not provided at ‘first instance’, i.e. for the asylum interview stage. Until recently, no legal aid was available for ‘second instance’ appeals to the appeals committee for rejections of asylum. Legal aid is also absent for those who wish to dispute their designation as adults, a crucial decision which greatly impacts the options an asylum seeker has in the procedure. Appeals to the Administrative Court are also not funded, leaving asylum seekers with the burden of paying thousands of euros in court and lawyers’ fees if they wish to submit an application.

On 10, 11 and 12 November 2016, Carlos Orjuela (founder and coordinator of the Legal Centre) and Natasha Dailiani (greek lawyer) will attend the International Conference on the 50th Anniversary of the UN Covenants on Human Rights jointly convened by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and by the Portuguese Association of Democratic Jurists (PADJ).

On this occasion they will present the results of our first 3 months activity report. Stay tuned.

More than Six Months Stranded – What Now?

12 national and international organizations operating in Greece just released a joint Policy Brief on the Situation for Displaced Persons in Greece since the closure of the northern border and introduction of the European Union (EU) – Turkey deal. These events changed Greece from a transit country to a country hosting tens of thousands of displaced persons for a still undefined, yet long-term, period.

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Regarding access to international protection on the Greek Islands, the Brief states that « the need for legal information, counselling and assistance for the other steps of the asylum procedures are not fully covered » in particular « first instance preparation; individual counselling in preparation for admissibility as well as asylum interviews; legal information to ensure that rumors and misconceptions are avoided allowing people to make informed decisions; counselling and representation in the court; appeals against age assessment; appeals against prolonged detention exceeding 25 days; and civil documentation procedures including death and birth certificates ».

Furthermore, one of the biggest concerns raised in the Brief is the discrimination by nationality in registration processing times rather than arrival date and vulnerability:

« In practice, this has led to individuals— e.g., from Afghanistan—who may be on an island for six months and still not have been processed, now witnessing newly arrived Syrians being processed within a week or two of arrival. This creates tensions and a sense of discrimination which has led to demonstrations and impacts security. »

These concerns have already been raised in our previous statement and confirms our experiences in Lesvos. Lesvos Legal Centre first report following three months of being here will be published very soon. Watch this space.

EU and Greece: Stop fanning the flames in Lesbos

We, the Lesvos Legal Centre, publish this statement to call on Greek and EU authorities to protect the rights of all individuals seeking protection in Europe who have been subjected to detention at the Moria camp, where a fire spread on Monday 19 September, destroying a large section of the camp.

We are an independent group of lawyers and legally trained volunteers working with refugees and migrants on the Island of Lesbos, Greece. The individuals we assist have arrived to Greece after being forced to flee their home countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They all risk their lives, arriving by boat across the Mediterranean, and seek protection for themselves and their families. The reception they have received by the EU and Greece is unacceptable. The conditions and procedures imposed at Moria are a violation of human decency, the basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Refugee Convention and standards required by the Common European Asylum System framework.

In light of the widespread unrest and fire at Moria on 19 September, we are particularly concerned that this event will aggravate the existing precarious situation for all those seeking protection in Lesbos, and we call for immediate action to redress the following violations and prevent their reoccurrence:

  • The deplorable inhuman conditions on Moria and throughout Greece, and lack of security in particular for individuals with special needs, women and minors, violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as confirmed by the European Court on Human Rights.
  • The EU-Turkey deal is contrary to ECHR Art. 3 and 1951 Refugee Convention Art. 33 prohibition of refoulement, as refugees and asylum seekers’ rights are not guaranteed in Turkey, where hundreds of individuals have already been returned from Turkey to Syria, and individuals are regularly persecuted in Turkey due to their political opinion, social group, etc.
  • Unacceptable delays of several months for registration of claims for international protection violate EU Directive 2013/32/EU. During this delay, individuals are not benefiting from the rights guaranteed by the EU to asylum seekers, including the right to work, family reunification, and relocation in third Member States. This leaves them in a state of limbo, unable to move on their lives, and often relying on aid to survive.
  • Discrimination by nationality in registration processing times, in which certain nationalities are prioritized, clearly violates basic human rights principals.
  • The lack of human resources dedicated by the Greek government to inform applicants of their rights, and receive and process applications for international protection is in violation of applicants’ right to information guaranteed in EU CEAS Directives. The Greek Asylum Service in Lesvos is currently inaccessible by email or phone, which means that requests or submissions can only be made in person from inside Moria camp, where there often is lack of adequate interpreters.
  • Currently, no free legal aid is provided to assist individuals submitting applications and attending interviews for international protection, nor in their second appeal, nor for minors appealing their designation as adults following an age assessment. This is in violation of Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which provides a right to legal aid to those who lack sufficient resources when necessary to ensure effective access to justice.

While long term solutions are needed to address economic, political, social, and environmental migration, in order to respond to the immediate situation we call upon the Greek State and the Members and Institutions of the European Union forthwith to:

  1. Immediately release all those who have been systematically and unjustifiably detained in Moria camp without individual assessment for longer than is necessary for their identification.
  2. Ensure that all those who have stated their desire to apply for protection in the EU are provided with the right to work, free movement at least within Greece and appropriate accommodation that respects their dignity and family life.
  3. End deportation of asylum seekers to Turkey, and implement processing of applications for protection without delay and discrimination.
  4. Provide all asylum seekers access to free legal assistance if they are unable to cover this cost on their own, to ensure effective access to justice.
  5. Publish accounting of EU and Greek public funds dedicated to responding to the “refugee crisis,” in order to increase accountability and transparency.

The fire and destruction in Moria camp on 19 September is indicative of an already volatile situation, and unless concrete action is taken, we are concerned that refugees and migrants will continue to face violations of their rights. We urge immediate action to protect the rights of refugees and migrants, and process their applications for protection in Europe in accordance with European and international law.


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Photo credit: Sham, Pakistani refugee

À Lesbos, une dizaine d’acteurs juridiques confrontés à une pratique aléatoire de la procédure d’asile

Si, dans les mois qui ont suivi la conclusion de l’accord entre l’UE et la Turquie, un réel manque de représentation juridique était à déplorer dans les hotspots grecs, il semble que, depuis le premier séjour de Carlos Orjuela qui s’était rendu sur Lesbos en mai dernier, de nombreux acteurs se soient finalement impliqués dans la défense des droits des réfugiés de Lesbos.

On compte sur place une dizaine d’organisations impliquées dans l’aide juridique aux réfugiés : UNHCR, MSF, Zaynabiyya., HIAS, Metadrasi, ReedSmith, Advocates Abroad, European Lawyers for Lesbos, Danish Refugee Council, Greek Refugee Council, Praksis, Mercy Corps, Lesvos Bar Association, Mitilini Bar Associatio et d’autres sans doute qu’il nous faudra encore rencontrer dans les prochaines semaines… qui se réunissent toutes les deux semaines pour assurer la coordination de leur travail.

Travail qui s’organise, non sans peine, tant les zones d’ombres juridiques s’accumulent depuis l’entrée en vigueur de la nouvelle loi Asile grecque du 3 avril 2016, dont l’application pratique demeure floue et aléatoire. Détentions non justifiées ou dépassant la durée légale maximale, ou encore décisions automatiques de renvoi vers la Turquie sans entretien d’inadmissibilité illustrent le chaos juridique dans lequel sont plongés, tant les nouveaux arrivants, que les acteurs juridiques tentant de leur apporter aide et information.

Au-delà du manque de visibilité des délais et des procédures applicables dans le hotspot de Lesbos, c’est davantage un manque de formation des intervenants qui semble prédominer. Les avocats spécialisés en droit des réfugiés sont, pour l’ensemble, déjà submergés de cas à traiter, tandis que les avocats internationaux – dont la présence s’accroit chaque semaine – sont rapidement confrontés à la barrière de la langue, et au manque de connaissance concrète de la pratique – qui, rappelons-le, est parfois bien éloignée de ce que la loi semblait énoncer.

Enfin, et c’est ici le cœur de ce qui constituera probablement notre mission sur place, le droit à la réunification familiale des réfugiés de Lesbos avec des membres de leur famille résidant légalement en Europe semble avoir été entièrement absorbé et laissé pour compte dans ce chaos procédural. Certaines associations intervenant au sein des camps de l’île nous ont ainsi rapporté avoir identifié plusieurs centaines de cas de réunifications familiales, concernant notamment de jeunes mineurs, sans qu’aucun d’entre eux n’ait été effectivement pris en charge.

Nous envisageons donc de poursuivre sur Lesbos le travail que nous avions entamé sur Calais, et qui permis à une quinzaine de mineurs non accompagnés de retrouver leurs familles en Angleterre. Le principal défi reste, pour l’heure, de nous familiariser avec les procédures grecques, et l’arrivée prochaine d’une avocate grecque au sein de notre équipe sera, sur ce point, salutaire.

Le parcours du combattant des nouveaux arrivants sur l’île de Lesbos

Alors que nous nous entamons nos premières consultations juridiques, voici un état des lieux de la situation sur place, telle qu’elle résulte de nos lectures et de nos échanges avec divers acteurs de l’île.

Sur place, le Haut Commissariat des Nations-Unies pour les Réfugiés (UNHCR), évalue à plus de 9.000 le nombre de réfugiés actuellement retenus sur l’île de Lesbos, dont 3.761 résidant dans le camp de Moria (données du 9 août 2016), les principales nationalités représentées étant les Afghans, Pakistanais, Syriens, Iraniens et Irakiens.

Depuis le 20 mars 2016, date d’entrée en vigueur de l’accord de réadmission des ressortissants étrangers entre l’Union Européenne et la Turquie, le parcours des nouveaux arrivants sur l’île, bien qu’il soit difficile d’en tracer des contours nets, peut se résumer comme suit.

Dès leur arrivée par bateau sur les côtes grecques, les réfugiés sont recueillis par les garde-côtes et le personnel de l’agence européenne Frontex, puis immédiatement transférés au sein du Centre de Reception et d’Identification de Moria (qu’on appellera « camp de Moria », ou plus simplement « Moria », et dont on a d’ailleurs récemment découvert qu’il était repertorié sur Google Maps).

Une fois sur place, les autorités grecques et européennes procèdent à l’enregistrement de leurs informations personnelles (nom, prénom, âge, nationalité, photographie) et de leurs empreintes digitales. L’ensemble de ces informations sont intégrées à un fichier appelé « Eurodac » auquel, l’ensemble des États de l’Union Européenne peuvent avoir accès sur demande pour identifier les ressortissants étrangers se trouvant sur leur territoire.

C’est une fois cette première étape d’identification terminée que la procédure se complique et qu’il devient difficile, même pour les plus aguerris acteurs du terrain, d’identifier dans quel ordre et sous quels délais s’effectueront les prochaines étapes, tant la pratique fluctue d’un jour et d’une nationalité à l’autre.

En fonction de leur date d’arrivée en Grèce d’abord, les nouveaux arrivants se répartissent en deux catégories : ceux arrivés avant et ceux arrivés après le 20 mars 2016, date d’entrée en vigueur de l’accord UE-Turquie.

Les premiers sont en théorie – et nous insistons sur ce point, il s’agit essentiellement de « théorie » – admissibles à demeurer en Grèce pour l’examen de leur demande d’asile, sans crainte d’être renvoyés en Turquie.

Les seconds en revanche se trouvent dans une situation juridique plus incertaine, puisque le reste de leur procédure est subordonnée à la question de savoir s’ils doivent ou non être renvoyés en Turquie, pays en provenance duquel ils sont arrivés en Grèce.

En pratique pourtant, plusieurs personnes nous ont confié être arrivées avant le 20 mars 2016 et avoir été considérées par les autorités comme arrivées à une date ultérieure. Alors qu’elles devraient – en théorie – être admissibles à demeurer en Grèce pour leur demande d’asile, plusieurs ont du passer par l’entretien « d’admissibilité » décidant de leur renvoi ou non vers la Turquie.

Dans l’attente de cet entretien « d’admissibilité » intervient alors quasi-systématiquement une période de rétention au sein du camp de Moria. Il est à ce stade interdit à l’ensemble des retenu, de quitter le camp, pour une durée variant de quelques jours à plusieurs semaines, voire – dans les cas les plus exceptionnels – plusieurs mois. Si la loi grecques prévoit une période de détention pouvant être prolongée jusqu’à 3 mois, les documents officiels reçus par les nouveaux arrivants mentionnent pour la plupart une durée de détention allant de 15 à 25 jours, au delà de laquelle ils sont alors autorisés à circuler librement sur l’île, sans possibilité de se rendre sur le continent.

Lorsqu’arrive le jour de l’entretien d’admissibilité, cinq motifs peuvent justifier d’une décision de renvoi vers la Turquie. Deux d’entre eux méritent ici une particulière attention.

Tout d’abord, une personne peut être inadmissible à séjourner en Grèce dès lors que la Turquie apparaît être, au vu de sa situation individuelle, un « pays tiers sûr » où elle pourrait résider. En d’autres termes :

  • Lorsque la vie et la liberté du nouvel arrivant ne sont pas menacées, pour des raisons liées à sa race, sa religion, sa nationalité, son appartenance à un groupe social ou ses opinions politiques,
  • dès lors que la Turquie peut lui offrir la possibilité de bénéficier du statut de réfugié et de recevoir une protection adéquate,
  • et lorsque le nouvel arrivant a des liens particuliers avec ce pays (comprendre ici : s’il elle/il y a séjourné, ou est passé par ce pays avant d’entrer en Grèce).

Un second motif ensuite est celui du « pays d’origine sûr », à savoir, le fait d’être originaire d’un pays considéré comme sûr par les États membres de l’Union Européenne (le Pakistan et l’Afghanistan étant couramment reconnus comme tel dans de nombreuses situations individuelles).

Pour l’heure, il semble que seuls les Syriens aient fait l’objet de cette procédure « d’admissibilité ». Seuls très peu d’entre eux ayant demandé l’asile en Grèce ont toutefois effectivement été transférés en Turquie, le reste des décisions d’inadmissibilité ayant été annulées par les commissions d’appel grecques.

Depuis le coup d’État avorté de juillet 2016 en Turquie – qui a mené au départ des officiers de liaisons turcs de Grèce le 20 juillet dernier – l’ensemble du processus d’admissibilité et de renvoi est désormais en suspens, sans qu’aucun des acteurs rencontrés ne semble savoir s’il sera repris, ni à quelle date. Plusieurs réfugiés vivant dans les camps de Lesbos nous ont quant à eux indiqué que les Pakistanais étaient actuellement en cours de procédure, et que la grande majorité si ce n’est la totalité d’entre eux, étaient déclarés « inadmissibles » à séjourner en Grèce.

Ce n’est qu’une fois déclaré « admissible » à demeurer en Grèce qu’un nouvel arrivant peut voir sa procédure de demande d’asile effectivement démarrer.

Pour l’heure, seuls les syriens et les populations les plus vulnérables (mineurs, femmes enceintes ou jeunes mamans, victimes de violences, tortures, viol…) ont vu leur procédure d’asile effectivement commencer, le reste des arrivants étant pour la majorité d’entre eux non renseignés sur l’avancement de leur situation administrative. Il semble en pratique que plusieurs mois s’écoulent entre la date d’arrivée sur l’île et la délivrance effective d’une carte de demandeur d’asile, les délais pouvant varier du simple au double d’une personne à l’autre.

Au cours de ces mois d’attentes les demandeurs d’asile logent alors dans les différents camps répartis sur l’ensemble de l’île (4 camps de transit, plus des camps informels). Les plus chanceux sont hébergés dans des logements mis à disposition par les associations locales, voire financent eux-mêmes leurs propres appartements ou chambres d’hôtel quand ils en ont les moyens, tandis que la grande majorité reste vouée à résider dans les camps, où les conditions d’accueil sont, rappelons-le, très sommaires.

Tout au long de cette procédure, interdiction leur est faite de quitter l’île, à moins de justifier d’un rendez-vous médical, administratif ou d’un impératif particulier sur le continent.

Ce n’est enfin, qu’après entretien avec les services d’asile grecs qu’une décision sera finalement prise concernant leur demande d’asile, qui, si elle est positive, leur permettra de s’établir pour plusieurs années en Grèce, voire d’avoir la possibilité de voyager dans les autres pays Européens pour une durée maximale de trois mois.