In an open letter, the NGOs told Greece’s parliament that any amendment to the law, based on the European Commission’s Joint Action Plan on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, would further aggravate the situation for people arriving on the Greek islands.
“The protections enshrined in Greece’s asylum legislation, as you voted for in April 2016, are vital in ensuring that the rights of people entering Greece are protected, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention.” the NGOs’ letter noted.
The Greek law currently ensures that vulnerable groups and those eligible for family reunification are generally exempt from being returned to Turkey.
The removal of this safety net would mean more people could be forced to stay in crowded island facilities, the construction of more detention centres, fast-track processing of asylum procedures and limiting the number of appeals, the NGOs said.
Human Rights Watch said that the Greek parliament is expected to vote on the changes within the coming days.
If the changes are adopted, vulnerable groups and those eligible for family reunification would go through the admissibility procedure on the islands and potentially be returned to Turkey, as reflected in a new Greek Asylum Service flowchart illustrating current island procedures.