A Syrian refugee mother holds her newborn baby after disembarking from the ferry "Paros Jet" upon their arrival from Samos Island at the port of Elefsina near Athens, Greece on October 22, 2019 | Photo: EPA/Kostas Tsironis
A Syrian refugee mother holds her newborn baby after disembarking from the ferry "Paros Jet" upon their arrival from Samos Island at the port of Elefsina near Athens, Greece on October 22, 2019 | Photo: EPA/Kostas Tsironis

NGOs, a Greek opposition party and media observers are criticizing Greece's proposed asylum law. Human Rights Watch (HRW) is demanding the removal of several articles of Greece's new draft law on asylum. The EU member state continues to struggle with the ongoing migrant influx from Turkey.

Greece's controversial new draft law on asylum, which is to stem the growing refugee influx and concentration on the Greek islands, has been met with widespread outrage from human rights groups. Human Rights Watch (HRW) was the latest to heavily criticize the legislation and demand that changes are made before Parliament approves the draft law.


"The bill is a naked attempt to block access to protection and increase deportations in the face of the recent increase in arrivals," said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch, in an online statement.

Cossé added: "The Greek government should instead prioritize resolving the humanitarian crisis that the deeply flawed deal with Turkey has caused for asylum seekers, and ensure a fair and efficient asylum procedure."

HRW claims the bill would make it easier to detain asylum seekers for longer periods. "It would scrap important protections for vulnerable people, including unaccompanied children, and it would introduce numerous procedural changes that impede access to a fair asylum process and compromise the right of appeal," said HRW.

Widespread condemnation

The controversial and complex 237-page bill titled "international protection and other provisions" is mainly focused on asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, said HRW.

It "paves the way for introducing stricter rules for receiving asylum seekers, delays access to the right to work, narrows the definition of family, and imposes more burdens on torture victims in being recognized as such," the international organization said further.

The legislation was announced on October 21, 2019 following only a six-day public consultation period. It has since attracted widespread condemnation, mainly from human rights organizations and NGOs, but also from opposition party Syriza as well as many media observers in Greece. Greece continues to struggle with the ongoing migrant crisis, which has begun to spiral out of control since the summer.

The island camps are severely overcrowded while the flow of people coming into the country continues unabated. According to the latest official data, a total of 10,882 migrants crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands from September 16 to October 16 alone.

Government tries to ease pressure on islands

This latest move from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative government is part of an effort to relieve the chronic overcrowding of Greece's island camps, where conditions are squalid and have led to frequent outbreaks of violence.

The idea behind the draft law on asylum is that it will empower Greece to process asylum claims quicker and send more people back to Turkey. But the bill is being seen as inhumane, especially by human rights groups.

Only last week, the UN refugee agency UNHCR expressed its concerns about the legislation, saying it could weaken the protection of refugees.
 

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