During 2017, the Greek Asylum Service registered 58,661 asylum applications: 26,668 were submitted on the five eastern Aegean islands where Reception and Identification Centers (“hotspots”) are located. In total, 40,127 applications were submitted by men, 18,535 applications were submitted by women, and 2,275 were submitted by unaccompanied minors. The main countries of origin of asylum seekers were Syria (16,396 applications), Pakistan (8,923), Iraq (7,924) and Afghanistan (7,567).
In total 10,364 applicants were awarded international protection status (asylum or subsidiary protection), while 34,646 applications were rejected either as ineligible (12,149) or as inadmissible (22,497). In 6,989 cases, the asylum procedure was discontinued, primarily owing to thetacit withdrawal of the asylum claim by the applicant. Consequently, the overall recognition rate for the whole year stands at 46% percent.
With reference to the cases that under the EU-Turkey Common Statement have a geographical restriction, i.e. the applications submitted at the Aegean islands, the procedure was completed in 25,814 cases. Of these cases, 5,437 resulted in a rejection of the asylum claim, and 20,377 resulted in the lifting of the geographical restriction and in the transfer of the applicants to the mainland.
As far as the Relocation Program -which mostly covered Syrian nationals and ended in 2017- is concerned, in total 21,726 asylum seekers (6,982 men, 4,925 women and 9,819 children) were relocated to other EU Member-States in a safe and organized fashion.
In 2017, 9,784 take-charge applications were sent to other EU Member-States so that they could assume the responsibility of examining the relevant asylum claims, while 7,225 of these applications were accepted by the Member-States. The main reason for these applications was family reunification (4,334). At the same time, Greece was asked to assume the responsibility of examining the asylum claims submitted in other EU Member-States in approximately 2,000 cases. Greece accepted 68 such incoming requests, while one individual was eventually transferred to Greece.
Concerning the duration of the asylum procedure at the first instance, it is an average of two months for applicants who are in custody and for applicants for whom there is a geographical restriction (islands of the eastern Aegean). For all other cases, the average duration is six months.
Offices and Staff
At the end of 2016, the Asylum Service operated from 17 locations throughout the country (from five in 2013), while at the end of 2017 it operated from 22 locations. The opening of an asylum office in the city of Ioannina is expected in the coming weeks. At the end of 2017, the Asylum Service had 650 employees, of whom more than a hundred are deployed on the eastern Aegean islands. There, they are assisted by 176 staff deployed by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), 20 police officers and 20 staff deployed by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). Moreover, the Asylum Service is assisted in its work by hundreds of interpreters of the NGO METAdrasi (with which the Asylum Service has signed a service contract) as well as tens of interpreters employed by EASO.
As far as European funding is concerned, the Asylum Service has implemented various programs, mostly funded from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) of the European Commission, but also from the European Economic Area Grants. The Asylum Service has received and used funds to the value of € 27,928,917.02. It has also committed through contracts 84.72 % of the funds it received (€ 35,840,837.35) by the end of 2017. This figure does not include the Relocation Program since Greece is funded € 500 for every individual successfully relocated to another Member-State. In 2018, the Asylum Service is planning to implement additional programs to the value of € 11,250,527.92.
Comparison to EU rates of asylum application
We must recall that, in 2017, a rough total of 700,000 asylum applications were submitted throughout the EU, which is approximately half the number of 2016. In contrast, in Greece, the number of asylum applications rose by 15%. This means that almost 8,5% of asylum applications in the EU were submitted in Greece which means, in turn, that Greece was called upon to shoulder a burden five times larger than the one that theoretically corresponds to the country.
In any case, since the end of last year, Greece is in first place among the EU Member-States when it comes to the proportion of asylum seekers to the inhabitants of the country. This disproportionate burden results in the unavoidable delays which can be observed in all stages of the asylum procedure. To cope with this burden, the Asylum Service has grown rapidly in size since starting its operations in 2013 with fewer than 200 employees, and will continue to grow in 2018 with the appointment of 218 civil servants.
Informational Material & Legal Aid
In 2017, the Asylum Service, in cooperation with Harokopio University in Athens, designed a free of charge mobile phone application, the Asylum Service App, funded by the National Program of AMIF 2014-2020. The app aims to provide reliable, authoritative and timely information for all those who intend to apply for asylum in Greece as well as for those who have already done so. The application is available in Greek, English, French, Arabic, Farsi/Dari, Urdu, Amharic and Tigrinya.
Furthermore, in an event that took place on 26 January in the office of the European Parliament in Athens, the Asylum Service presented a new 32-pages illustrated booklet titled "I am under 18 and I seek asylum in Greece” for use by unaccompanied minors seeking international protection in Greece. The booklet is available in six languages: English, French, Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Urdu and Bangla.
The Asylum Service also offers free legal aid to asylum applicants for the second instance of their application. This service started for the first time in Greece on September 21st 2017. Twenty one lawyers have been registered so far all over Greece: ten lawyers for cases in Attica, Corinth and Patras, took on a total of 589 cases, three lawyers in Thessaloniki (73 cases) and four in Xanthi, Alexandroupolis and Orestiada (112 cases in total). One lawyer was registered in Lesvos (44 cases), one in Rhodes (50 cases), one in Chios (40 cases) and one in Kos (33 cases). Forty lawyers are expected to participate in the registry in the near future. The Asylum Service aims to start offering legal aid also for the first instance of the application, during the first six months of 2018.
For 2018, the challenges facing the Asylum Service could be described as follows: Processing the still disproportionately high number of asylum applications; maintaining the quality of the asylum procedure at the first instance without long appeal procedures (both administrative and judicial): this means not allowing further burdening of the case workers. Finally, the continuing rapid growth of the Asylum Service calls for a restructuring of the Service so that it can continue to function effectively.
- The full press release from the Asylum Service can be found here.
- Statistical Data of the Greek Asylum Service (from 7.6.2013 to 31.12.2017) can be found here.
- You can find the illustrated booklet "I am under 18 and I am seeking asylum in Greece" in all six languages here.
Via Greek News Agenda: Refugees in Greece - Integration efforts, remaining challenges
Video: Greek Asylum Service Presentation: Busting Some Myths (some parts in Greek)