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Intervention by Greece to the Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants–Monday 27th of May 15.00-18.00, PdN Room XX

Monday, 27 May 2013

Thank you Mr. President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants Mr  Francois Crepeau for his Report and the addendum on his visit to Greece at the end of 2012.

The Report focuses on a series of key issues concerning the rights of migrants which remain at the center of our attention. Undoubtedly, respect of human dignity and fundamental human rights are at the very centre of our policies. The Greek authorities had the opportunity to respond in detail to the remarks contained in the report so that at least some factual observations may be recorded with the utmost accuracy. Moreover, as the concern of the Greek Government  about the protection of human rights of migrants is a constant one, allow me to elaborate on the main features of the revised “Greek Action Plan on the Reform of the Asylum System and Migration Management”, launched in January this year and the progress made thereafter. In particular the Action Plan provides for the following :

  • An effective First Reception Service
  • A new independent Asylum Service
  • An overall management of the pending asylum cases, by forming a special task force and processing all the remaining appeal case files within 2013.
  • An improved and effective Returns policy, based on IOM Voluntary Repatriation Programmes with Reintegration Measures and on mandatory returns in implementation of Readmission Agreements with third countries.
  • An effective Integrated Border Management, according to other European models and in the framework of the Schengen Acquis.
  • Furthermore, the revised Action Plan aims at improving the reception conditions, capacity building measures, provision of health and legal services, protection of unaccompanied minors, which is also a major concern of the Special Rapporteur, and many others. Additionally, Greece has assigned the Prosecutor’s Office as the guardian for unaccompanied children. I also wish to underline that all children, regardless of their legal residence status, have access to education and health care system without any restrictions.

So far, the following targets of the Action Plan have been met:

  • The First Reception Service is in place and has launched the Fylakio Reception centre in mid March which is expected to operate in its full capacity next month.
  • The screening centres in the islands of Chios and Samos are already operational.
  • The two First Reception Service Mobile Units will be fully operational next month.
  • The new Asylum Service is already in place in its new premises. It will receive the first asylum request in mid June 2013.
  • Ten additional Appeal Committees have been created and are now working on the examination of all the old valid cases.
  • The recognition rate for international protection is 25,28%. The whole procedure is expected to be finalized within 2014.
  • Two premises in the region of Athens have been selected to be used by September this year as open accommodation facilities for vulnerable groups.
  • Five pre-removal detention centres are operational in Amygdaleza, Corinth, Paranesti, Xanthi and Komotini with a total capacity of 5.000 places. The planning is to increase the capacity to 10.000 places by opening 4 additional centers by the end of 2014.
  • By contrast, the old detention centers in Venna, Hellinikon and Aspropyrgos have already been closed down and within the next 40 days the last one at Tychero will follow suite.  

In the meantime, Greece reviews the Action Plan on a regular basis. The EU, the member States and the competent international organizations, among which the Office of the UNHCR in Athens, do recognize the progress that has been made.  We believe that the effective implementation of this Plan will answer most of the concerns expressed in the Report of the Special Rapporteur. 

Mr President,    

Despite the above mentioned developments, we have always to bear in mind that Greece, which in many cases is not the final destination but rather a transit country for migrants, faces and will continue to face an extremely strong migratory pressure. This is due to its geographic position at the external border of the EU, its extensive land and sea borders and its proximity with main countries of origin and transit of migrants and asylum seekers. There is no doubt that this situation imposes an immense financial and administrative burden on my country and challenges the national social cohesion. International and regional cooperation, solidarity and burden sharing remains the only way to tackle effectively all consequences caused by increased migration and refugee movements.

Thank you Mr President

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