After Turkey opened its doors for migrants to travel to the EU, Greece faced a rapid influx of asylum seekers and refugees. Asylum applications were abruptly stopped in March 2020, when Prime minister Mitsotakis announced the suspension in asylum applications, eventually raising serious concerns for migrant rights.
While the suspension ended in May 2020, asylum seekers and refugees seeking to cross the Greek-Turkish border oftentimes face illegal, inhumane conditions and can be subject to mass detainment and deportation.
As members of the European Union, states should uphold the values of respect for human dignity, democracy, equality, and the rule of law. The EU Charter guarantees these rights and the fundamental principle to seek asylum.
Bill Frelick, refugee and migrants rights director at Human Rights Watch stated: “The refusal to allow people in its custody to seek asylum and the open threat to send them back to their persecutors flies in the face of the legal obligations Greece has agreed to and the values and principles it claims to represent.”
In 2020, Giulio Carini, a Senior Campaigner at WeMove contacted The Good Lobby for assistance in filing a complaint before the European Commission to hold Greece accountable for its breaches of EU law. WeMove’s motivation to foster citizen participation to transform Europe is one close to The Good Lobby’s heart, so we were undoubtedly happy to support their campaign by connecting them with one of our most active members to provide legal assistance, law firm De Brauw.
De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek assisted WeMove Europe and Oxfam International in filing a complaint calling upon the Commission to start an infringement proceeding against Greece for its violations of EU law, including the fundamental rights of asylum applicants. The team consisted of Maikel van Wissen, Maurits ter Haar, Christelle Arnaud, Tiana Danielle Xavier, Elena Vilarin-Seivane, Iulia-Georgiana Croitoru, Johan den Breems and Mehmet Eren.
Specifically, the aim of the complaint was to open and engage in a constructive dialogue with the Commission to address the humanitarian crisis ongoing at the EU border. Owing to the assistance provided, WeMove and Oxfam were able to file a complaint to the European Commission and raise awareness of the human right violations at EU level.
The humanitarian crisis at the EU Border is still ongoing and the Commission has not decided yet whether or not to file the infringement proceedings against Greece.
Nevertheless, WeMove and Oxfam in their campaign are able to engage with the European Commission to investigate the situation in Greece. The dialogue helps to raise awareness and strives to ensure that the situation is monitored carefully. Such ongoing dialogue is essential to ensure that all relevant and necessary steps are taken so that EU asylum law is applied in full compliance by Greece, and that the fundamental rights of asylum seekers are respected.
If you are a civil society organisation fighting for political rights of marginalized groups across Europe and looking for legal, strategic, advocacy or communications assistance, reach out to us via email or fill in the form on our website with your specific request!