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NGOs urge UN High Commissioner for Refugees to act on refugee rights during Greece visit

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Yesterday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited the Reception and Identification Centre in Moria – Lesvos to witness first-hand the human cost of flawed migration policies which have stranded over 39,000 people in overcrowded, dangerous refugee camps.

Reacting to the High Commissioner’s visit Marion Bouchetel, Advocacy Officer for Oxfam in Greece, said:

“The deteriorating situation faced by people seeking asylum in Greece is jeopardizing their rights and threatening their health, safety and dignity. Right now, most people are not even receiving basic healthcare, while unaccompanied children are left on their own. Meanwhile Greece’s new asylum law is expected to put people in need of international protection at risk of return. It is therefore critical that the High Commissioner raises these issues to the Greek authorities and the EU during and after his visit.”

Notes to editors

Ahead of Grandi’s visit, 17 NGOs* working in Greece delivered a written statement urging the High Commissioner to address with Greek authorities significant concerns regarding access to asylum procedures, provision of basic services and inadequate protection of children. The signatories also flagged the need for the Greek authorities to implement integration measures and urged the High Commissioner to join Greece’s efforts and actively engage EU Member States in the need for better mechanisms to share responsibility for refugees arriving in Europe.

The organisations are highlighting the dire and unacceptable reception conditions in the ‘hotspots’. Since July 2019, thousands of newly arrived asylum seekers don’t have access to the public healthcare system, a gap which puts peoples’ lives at risk. At the same time, the postponement of the implementation of the law on guardianship (4554/2018) violates children’s rights, as they are left without a guardian to support and protect them at every stage of the reception and legal procedure. Pending the implementation of the government’s new action plan for the protection of unaccompanied children, and with the number of unaccompanied children in the country at its highest, protection standards are worsening with thousands of children sleeping among adults, without appropriate shelter or protection, and without access to basic services or resources. Furthermore, Greece’s new law on international protection, inter alia, abolishes basic guarantees of the asylum procedure at first instance and introduces procedural and substantial obstacles that endanger the right to an effective remedy at second instance, raising concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the asylum system, as a whole.

In 2016, Grandi also visited Moria, the reception centre that is now synonymous with hardship for thousands of people who fled their homes only to end up living there in unsafe conditions.

*ActionAid, Arsis, Danish Refugee Council, Defence for Children International, Diotima, Elix, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Refugees, Help Refugees, International Rescue

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