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.

Comment on a ‘policy paper’

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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:

2014: 9,432

2015: 13,195

2016: 51,091

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.

 

In response to a survey

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In response to the survey called ‘Refugee Aid and Local Economy in Greece’ (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeEjX4SSL7E31z34RCAjeiul2kObWMlIEJiEO-iUjEMyrYjLw/viewform?c=0&w=1) launched by needslist.co, I sent the following:

Let me start by saying that I agree it is important to quantify the assistance that foreign volunteers have provided to refugees in Greece. But I want to register the following disagreements:

  1. The premise of your endeavor is to show the benefits the Greek economy has reaped from the assistance given to refugees. This shows your ignorance of the situation on the ground.
  2. Your questionnaire takes away the agency from the refugee and the host community. The ‘good volunteer’ that is neither Greek nor refugee, speaks on behalf of the refugee who helps the Greek economy. This is unethical.
  3. If you knew a little bit about the international volunteer assistance as it took place in Greece, you would know that a small percentage was actually purchased in-country. We had truckloads of cloths, food, NFIs, come all the way from the UK, Sweden, Spain, often with the wrong assistance. Are you quantifying the cost of sending a container 3,000km to Greece???
  4. You would also know that most foreign volunteers looked for the cheapest to buy in-country, which was often Chinese shops that are frequently in violation of labour law in Greece.
  5. All the above apply for independent volunteers and groups of unregistered volunteers. The situation is different for small NGOs that have cropped up in this response and rely on volunteers (international and local).
  6. In a nutshell, the international volunteer looks very much like a neo-colonial enterprise, with waste of resources, similar to those of the official humanitarian system.

I am happy to elaborate.