Comment on a ‘policy paper’ -2

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To the University of Baltimore, Centre for International and Comparative Law

I refer to your policy paper entitled ‘The Use of Detention for Asylum Seekers and Migrants in Europe and Greece’ (https://fotinirantsiou.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/b1c76-detentionpoliciesineuropefinal.pdf) and would like to make some comments in what refers to Greece. I expect your response and corrections on the paper. I am sure you will agree that mistakes in specific areas of the paper put the credibility of the whole paper in question. Furthermore, it calls on question the professionalism of the NGO behind this paper, which is purported to provide legal assistance to asylum seekers in Greece.

Page 7: The departure point is EU-Turkey deal (link doesn’t exist, but the title of the referred document suggests). In fact the centres mentioned (Amygdaleza, Paranesti) were beyond capacity with detainees up to early 2015 when policy changed for first time. The paper ignores fact that those detained in these centres are not eligible for relocation (page 8).

Page 34: The fence mentioned was built along the Greece-Turkey border at Evros and completed before the current migrant flows and certainly before the move of the flows from the land border to the islands (2012) and the EU-Turkey deal (2016), which is the focus of this paper. Mentioning it here only serves to present a false impression about what the ‘rhetoric’ and political action in Greece is at the moment.

Page 34: Returns to Greece under Dublin II have been suspended since 2011, as a result of a well-know decision of the European Court of Justice on the inadequate conditions of reception in Greece.

Pages 38-39: The ECRE document referred to is from April 2016 (footnote 133), immediately after the EU-Turkey deal, when indeed asylum seekers were detained. Since then, the situation has changed and varies from island to island. Secondly, saying that ‘The EU must intervene in ensuring Greece does not violate the Directive and that it does not arbitrarily relocate applicants to Turkey…’ indicates that Turkey accepts anyone Greece may want to deport. In fact Turkey does its own vetting, through officials deployed on the Greek islands, and has in the past refused returns.

Thank you for your attention.

3 thoughts on “Comment on a ‘policy paper’ -2

  1. You can find an updated version of the paper here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2911417

    Edits were made to correct the minor details that you took issue with. Supplemental information was added from NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, all of which have published accounts that match what Advocates Abroad has seen on the ground.

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    • Thank you for revising. Despite your cosmetic edits and adding references to Amnesty International, HRW and ECRE, the fact remains that your paper starts by referring to conditions in detention centres in 2010, then refer to an April 2016 Amnesty International report which refers to the detention of all asylum seekers on the islands immediately after the EU-Turkey deal. As you know from being in the islands, later in 2016, asylum seekers were free to move around the islands after the 25-day initial limitation within the hotspots. Even this has been done away by now. You make no reference to any of this, or the asylum seekers card with geographic limitation which allows asylum seekers to move around the island of first arrival.

      The ‘background information’ is based on a mish mash of existing reports from different periods creating an impression to the casual less informed reader that all asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors, are detained as a matter of course. The sentence ‘Advocates Abroad researchers noted on a March 2017 visit, one year after the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and almost one year after the ECRE report, that reception centers still appear like prisons, with individuals being detained in less than ideal conditions’ actually tells us that the reception centres ‘look like’ not that they ‘are’ detention centres. This is based on external appearance (razor blade wiring, walls), because Advocates Abroad don’t have access inside. In fact they have themselves said publicly (http://www.ibanet.org/Article/NewDetail.aspx?ArticleUid=e0d497d2-95b5-4a51-92b5-6216486a49a7) that they do not have access to the reception centres: ‘It doesn’t matter who we send to these camps, they will be denied access. It has been a frustrating experience.’

      Indeed there are small detention centres inside the reception centres and other detention facilities in the mainland, where asylum seekers are kept if they are caught committing crimes or before deportation (after they withdraw their applications and bearing in mind that nobody has been returned based on the EU-Turkey deal and Turkey considered safe third country). Regarding unaccompanied minors they are only in detention centres for lack of appropriate guesthouses. They are allowed to go outside accompanied by qualified people and as soon as guesthouse space is found they are moved. Perhaps a reference to the well-oiled NGO machinery in Greece would be appropriate here. They have not been able to respond at scale to the challenge either.

      I am not saying conditions are ideal but the situation is not what this paper tries to describe. And when the problem is not correctly identified, then the recommendations cannot be correct. Perhaps if it was peer reviewed it would be more accurate. I look forward to your corrections in your other policy paper and the new paper announced.

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