On the 18th of May, Greece approved a new law to speed up the asylum procedure for migrants, including travel restrictions imposed on asylum-seekers and increase the number of deportations back to Turkey. “When people enter to the Greek territory they are not automatically recognised as refugees until their documents are checked” Mary Stratigou -lawyer and national coordinator of World for refugees- explains, “if they don’t have the documentation needed, it is even harder to give them the asylum, this whole process is generally quite slow, it takes months or even a year and makes this people live in inhuman conditions” she adds.
The 15th of May, a few days before the approval of the law, the Parliament was taking into consideration the approval or not. That day a demonstration took place in front of the building in order to show their dissatisfaction with this law. “In my opinion, today is being voted a racist law that supports sending these people back, they are also human and would be treated in that way” explains Manos Nikolau, participant of the demonstration.
“Letting the people go to the mainland was their opportunity to improve their living conditions and have the basic needs of clean water, for them it was their opportunity to leave that nightmare” explains Mary Stratigou, “that’s why the people showed their opposition to this law”.
When people arrive to the Greek territory in an irregular way they are not considered refugees, they have to apply for asylum and then they turn into asylum-seekers, a refugee is an asylum-seeker that has been recognized the legal status of refugee. “Nowadays only Syrian people are considered automatically refugees because the ongoing situation there, but people from other countries as Afghanistan, Iraq or Morocco need to fulfill a process and if their documents are not enough they are considered migrants” explains Mary.
“If an asylum-seeker doesn’t have the needed documentation then the procedure becomes harder. The Greek government has a huge workload to be done: identify the person, check if the document is original, cooperate with the country of origin in case of lack of documentation… it’s a vicious circle and takes a lot of time” Mary explains.
While the asylum-seekers wait for their status to be recognised or refused, they may stay in reception centres. The Greek law provides basic guidelines of how the centres should be and the fundamental rights that should be guaranteed but as Mary adds “the law exists but is not always followed, the situation on the mainland is much better than in the islands because they are the first places that the refugees reach.”
Silvia Giulini -Advocacy Officer of Generation 2.0 for Rights Equality and Diversity-, explains that “it all depends on the interest. In they island they want them to go back. So if you make the conditions worse and worse the news will spread and maybe you can avoid people coming, but the reality is that they keep coming”.