Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Afghan and Nigerian community: about the problems of both new and old asylum system

In the conference "The asylum today-the Voice of Communities" that the Greek Forum of Refugees in cooperation with the Greek Council for Refugees organized last week, both Afghan and Nigerian community spoke about the problems of the new asylum service, and also the old system running by police and the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

According to them, thousands of people are waiting for years for the process of examining their asylum applications, and facing the "inhuman behavior" of guards at the entrance gate of the old asylum office in Petrouralia. They find themselves in a state of waiting the renewing of asylum application for 5 or 10 days. During this time they have not recognized any right, under constant threat of possible arrest by Xenios Zeus police operation, and even losing their jobs or their house contract. The same situation is for those who after a long time achieved humanitarian or subsidiary status. If their permit is not renewed, they are again undocumented. One example of this situation is that, although according to the law they have the right to travel, from the airport they are not allowed to depart. Many people have bought tickets, but in the airport they have been stopped without reason.

Afghan and Nigerian community also spoke about the new asylum system. It would seem that for those who manage to be registered is good and functional, because there is a increase of percentage of recognition of asylum seekers. But the reality is that this office in Athens (Katehaki street) is the only one for all Greece, so the access to this office for asylum seekers is very difficult, not to say almost impossible. There are some persons that for months are visiting the office almost every day but they can't be registered. Every day there is a large line of asylum seekers in front of the office, and many cases of persons that have been arrested on the way to the asylum office. The communities are afraid that the same problem they had in Petrouralia will repeat again in the new office.

Those who could manage to be registered in the office and have been recognized are waiting more than seven months for their residence permit. They don't have access to labor market, renting houses or travelling in this period of time.

The dramatic consequence is that thousands of people are in detention centers because of the Xenios Zeus police operation since August 2012. Most of them are asylum seekers from countries like Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Afghanistan... They aren´t criminals, they need protection, they need asylum. But unfortunately these non functional asylum services are not working at all.

Afghan and Nigerian communities also made references to the lack of access to housing for recognized refugees or asylum seekers, the difficult access to health care or education or the inexistent integration program in Greece for refugees and migrants. Many families, with elders and minors are living in ruined and abandoned buildings and apartments where they are directly exposed to serious dangers.

At the end of the panel discussion, Ms. Xenia Passa from UNHCR spoke about the constant violation of Greek, European and international guidelines by the Greek state and its services.

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