Δευτέρα, 24 Ιανουαρίου 2011

ECRE - press release on M.S.S. vs Belgium and Greece ECtCR's judgement

The European Court of Human Rights condemns Belgium and Greece
A major blow to the Dublin System: Returning asylum seekers
to Greece violates the European Convention on Human Rights
Brussels, 21 January 2011.
Today the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human
Rights (ECtHR) ruled that returning asylum seekers to Greece violates the European
Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The case of M.S.S. v Belgium & Greece concerned an Afghan asylum seeker who fled Kabul
in 2008, entered the European Union through Greece and travelled on to Belgium where he
applied for asylum. According to the Dublin Regulation, the first Member State that an asylum
seeker enters should be the one to examine the asylum application. Therefore, Belgium
returned M.S.S to Greece in June 2009, where he was detained in degrading and
overcrowded conditions before living on the streets without any material support. The Court
has confirmed that MSS was exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment (in violation of
Article 3 of the ECHR), and that his right to an effective remedy (Article 13 of the ECHR) was
violated.
Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE Secretary General, stated: ““This judgment is a major blow to the
Dublin system. The assumption that all EU Member States respect fundamental rights
and that it is therefore safe to automatically transfer asylum seekers between EU
countries no longer stands. Europe must seriously rethink the Dublin system and
replace it with a regime that ensures the rights of asylum seekers are respected”.
This judgment will affect many asylum seekers in Europe. In 2010 alone, EU countries
requested Greece to examine the applications of almost 7,000 asylum seekers who had
entered the EU through Greece. Their situation will now need to be re-examined in light of
this ruling.
Bjarte Vandvik stated: “European countries must comply with the Court's ruling, stop
sending asylum seekers back to Greece, and examine asylum applications themselves
until a fair asylum system is in place in Greece”.
Pending this judgment and other court challenges, several European countries including the
UK, Sweden, Belgium, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands had suspended transfers of
asylum seekers to Greece. Germany took a similar step this week.
The Dublin system fails refugees and Member States and needs to be changed
This ruling reflects the serious shortcomings in the asylum procedure in Greece and in
Belgium and it also highlights the flaws in the Dublin system itself. ECRE has long stressed
that Dublin shifts responsibility for asylum seekers to states at Europe's frontiers. Also, it
allows refugees to be sent back to European countries where their fundamental rights are not
respected.
As a first step in the right direction, ECRE supports the Commission proposal to review the
Dublin Regulation, as it introduces significant humanitarian reforms and important procedural
safeguards. For example, the proposal makes it easier for asylum seekers to join family
members living in Europe, protects the rights of children who have arrived alone and ensures
the continuity of care for vulnerable persons.
However, these are only temporary measures that do not solve the sometimes devastating
impact of the Dublin system on asylum seeker’s human rights. Ultimately the Dublin
Regulation should be abolished and replaced by a more humane and equitable system that
considers the connections between individual asylum seekers and particular Member States.
Being an asylum seeker in Greece
Greece is undertaking important efforts to reform its asylum system. Legislation has recently
been adopted to establish new procedures to deal with new asylum applications and the
backlog of 54,000 asylum claims pending examination. However, the country has not had a
functioning asylum system for several years. Time, resources and EU solidarity will be
needed to support these efforts of reform. Currently, most people in need of protection do not
even have the opportunity to have their asylum claims heard and those few who manage to
apply for asylum in Greece have practically no chances of being recognised as a refugee.
Further information
– The European Court of Human Rights judgment is available on the ECHR website
– ECRE, Sharing Responsibility for Refugee Protection in Europe: Dublin
Reconsidered, available at http://www.ecre.org/resources/policy_papers/1058
– ECRE, Comments on the European Commission Proposal to recast the Dublin
Regulation, available at: http://www.ecre.org/resources/policy_papers/1342
– ECRE, Asylum lottery in four maps:
http://www.ecre.org/resources/ECRE_actions/1681
A person's chances of being granted asylum still vary hugely according to the country where
the asylum seeker has his or her asylum claim processed. For example, in 2009 around 80%
of Iraqis who fled their home country and applied for asylum in Germany and Austria were
recognised to be in need of international protection. However, only 21% of those who applied
for asylum in the UK were granted international protection.
– ECRE supports Greece’s recent efforts to reform their asylum system. For further
information on the Greek Action Plan on Asylum and Migration Management, see:
http://www.ydt.gr/index.php?
option=ozo_content&lang=EN&perform=view&id=3246&Itemid=443
– All EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland apply the Dublin system.
Contact
Ana Fontal
Senior Press and Public Information Officer
Tel: +32 2 212 08 12
Mobile: + 32 (0) 486 531 676
www.ecre.org
The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) is a network of 67 refugee-assisting
organisations in 30 European countries, working together to protect and respect refugees

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