To the University of Baltimore, Centre for International and Comparative Law
I refer to your policy paper entitled ‘DISCRIMINATION BASED UPON RACE, RELIGION AND ETHNICITY WHEN FILING FOR ASYLUM IN THE EUROPEAN UNION’ (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2917290) and would like to make some comments in what refers to Greece and the humanitarian system. I expect your response and corrections.
Page 7: The information on asylum applications in Greece is wrong and the reference to a media article from July 2016 irrelevant. The correct information is that asylum applications in Greece had the following increase:
The statistical data is available from the Greek Asylum Service on this link: http://asylo.gov.gr/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Greek_Asylum_Service_Statistical_Data_EN.pdf
Your paper says it was last updated on 15 January 2017, so it is incomprehensible why the authors did not access the official data, available online in English at that time and the University, for academic rigour, didn’t cross reference the information contained. Furthermore, even if your article depended on a media article of May 2016, one couldn’t conclude then on what would be the total of asylum applications in 2016.
Page 8: Regarding the staffing of the asylum service in Greece, the article focuses on the unfulfilled pledges of EU member states, ignoring the enormous efforts and increase in the staffing and sites the Greek Asylum Service operates. According to the GAS (http://asylo.gov.gr/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Press-Release-17.1.2017.pdf), the staffing has increased from 290 in nine sites in the end of 2015 to 650 in 17 sites in January 2017. Ignoring this expansion of the service, with corresponding increase in the handling of asylum cases, removes agency from the Greek state.
Page 8: The report of Greece to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, referenced in footnotes 18-20 of your article, doesn’t mention anywhere that ‘Crimes committed against refugee and their camps have been on the rise and there has been a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment.’ In fact, in the concluding remarks, it was mentioned that ‘The support for far-right groups did not increase as a result of the refugee and migrant crisis, but their popularity did not diminish either’. (http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20341&LangID=E)
Pages 28-29: Policy recommendation A on the cash based assistance is simplistic at the very least, but also ignores a few basic points. In the case of Greece the economic situation, outside and above the refugee situation, is objectively dire. I will not burden you with details but there is plenty of documentation available, including by UNICEF, ILO and the above-mentioned OHCHR-linked report. Secondly, cash-based humanitarian assistance is not that new. It is implemented in humanitarian crises from the Philippines to Kenya (see for example documentation from the Overseas Development Institute, http://www.odi.org). It is also implemented in Greece for refugees, who receive, through NGOs, a standard amount every month (currently increasing from 90 to 150 euros a month as food is being replaced with cash). Cash assistance however is not meant to replace social welfare –where it exists, and in Greece there is nothing more than free primary medical care for uninsured/unemployed citizens and refugees- but to gradually replace in-kind humanitarian assistance provided by NGOs. It is naïve to think that humanitarian-based cash assistance can relieve the burden on the state.
Page 32: Policy recommendation E is meant to remove agency from member states of first arrival (Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta) under the guise of objectivity. While indeed the EU’s external borders are also national borders and burden sharing should exist, there is no evidence to support a proposal that member states would act differently if they were more removed from the ‘first line’, except the old European stereotypes about southerners being ‘inefficient’. This is what this recommendation reinforces.