The United Nations refugee agency today called on Greece to urgently reform its asylum system, stressing that this will go a long way in improving what it described as a “humanitarian crisis” for those seeking protection in the country.
Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva that the “continued absence in Greece of a functioning asylum system” has important implications for the wider European Union (EU).
“The conditions for asylum-seekers in Greece, which is among the principal entry points to the EU, are notoriously difficult. Most asylum-seekers receive no assistance. Many live on the streets, including women and children,” he said.
“The refugee status determination system does not operate properly and as a result, persons needing international protection are not identified as such. This is a humanitarian crisis situation which should not exist in the European Union.”
Until the asylum reforms are carried out, UNCHR said it will continue to recommend that other European States not send asylum-seekers back to Greece – as the first point of entry into Europe – under EU or other regulations.
Yesterday, the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch called on UNHCR to intervene and take on responsibility for refugee status determination in Greece in light of these shortcomings.
“UNHCR notes this recommendation, but emphasizes that responsibility for asylum rests with the State, and as an EU member, Greece is bound by European Union legislation to have laws and procedures for dealing with people seeking asylum,” said Mr. Edwards.
The agency appealed to the EU to boost its assistance to help Greece to create a modern and effective migration and asylum system that fully respects human rights.