Shocking fact, a humanitarian crisis is looming on European soil.
In Greece, thousands of asylum seekers are homeless, living on the streets, waiting at the end of an interminable line for their asylum claim to be heard. Their chances of success are small. At first instance, only 0.3% of asylum seekers received refugee status or some form of protection in 2009. That’s just 48 people. By contrast in Germany, UK, France and Sweden, 31% of asylum applications were successful.
In 2009 alone, 16,000 people applied for asylum in Greece. Most will not be successful, so will have to wait in limbo for the Greek government to overhaul its asylum system, so they can at least appeal the decision. Today UNHCR insisted on the urgency of Greece accelerating the implementation of its planned asylum reform (see http://www.unhcr.org/4c98c20b6.html).
The conditions for asylum-seekers in Greece, which is among the principal entry points to the EU, are notoriously difficult. The photograph above shows the conditions that migrants and asylum-seekers face when they first arrive in Greece. After they have registered their request for asylum, most asylum-seekers receive no assistance.
A huge worry is the number of unaccompanied children who come to Greece for all sorts of reasons, including fleeing persecution. There is a woeful lack of child appropriate facilities for them. Many find themselves clinging to the bottom of a truck to smuggle their way out of Greece to another European country.
An EU regulation, known as Dublin II, states that the country that is responsible for determining the asylum claim is, in most cases, the country where the person first arrived. This regulation puts an undue level of pressure on Greece. For those asylum seekers that first arrived in Greece and then moved to other European countries, UNHCR’s advice is simple (and obvious) – please don’t send them back to Greece!