The European asylum support office EASO expressed concern over the slow registration of asylum seekers in Greece, which is a necessary precondition for the refugees relocation to other member states.
Currently, the number of migrants stranded in Greece is estimated at 57,000 and the vast majority of them are not registered as asylum seekers.
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Speaking to journalists on 8 July, on the occasion of the publication of its 2015 annual report, EASO officials conveyed the message that Greece should assist other countries in helping alleviate its refugee burden.
Following the two Council decisions in September 2015, 106,000 asylum applicants are due to be relocated from Italy and Greece by September 2017. But so far only 2,033 migrants have been relocated from Greece, and 793 from Italy. The EU has committed to relocating 63,302 migrants from Greece and 34,952 people are to be relocated from Italy.
“What we are concerned (about) in Greece is the registration,” said Jean-Pierre Schembri, EASO spokesperson.
Applicants don’t have the right to choose the country where they are going to be relocated. The persons selected for relocation are from nationalities which have a very high degree of recognition of their asylum claims in the respective country (over 75%). At the moment, the key nationalities are Syria, Eritrea, and Iraq, and the eligibility list comes from the European Commission, based on data from Eurostat. In the coming weeks, the list is expected to be updated.
Pre-registration and registration
The Greek authorities have introduced the pre-registration procedure as a first step, which needs to be followed by registration, which is tantamount of applying for asylum.
Schembri explained that there was a process of pre-registration going on, but these people needed to be registered. The two procedures basically differ in the sense that in pre-registration, the EASO and the UN refugee agency UNHCR is involved, while the Greek asylum authorities completely own the registration process.
For a refugee to be relocated, registration is needed, not just pre-registration. Registration basically means applying for asylum in Italy or in Greece, a procedure which includes fingerprinting.
Pre-registration allows informing the individuals about the process of applying for asylum and being relocated to another EU country, or to seeking family reunification if members of the family already have received protection in an EU country. Pre-registration also allows scheduling proper registration, which takes place with the Greek authorities, and a more detailed interview is conducted to determine the exact situation of each individual.
To date, 20,000 people have already been pre-registered in Greece.
The EASO have prepared resources, should the Greek authorities invite the agency to assist them with the registration, Schembri said. He added that the EASO could deploy 50 experts to help with registration, on very short notice.
Pre-registration at least gives those people, some of whom have resided in Greece for a long time, a paper which says they can reside legally until they are registered. EASO gives them SIM cards, so that they can be contacted for registration. But the appointment needs to be made by the Greek asylum services.
The Greek government created a communications system based on Skype, but it turned to be problematic. and EASO expressed their concerns about it several times. Refugees have been complaining about the Skype-based system “on a daily basis”, Schembri said.
Asked by EURACTIV.com if Greece should be blamed for being so slow, Schembri said that in fact, the country’s authorities were under a lot of pressure.
“When you have to register 50,000 people this is not a joke,” he said.
Regarding Italy, the situation appears to be completely different, in the sense that refugees there are not stranded as they are in Greece, and can make their way to other destinations by their own means.
“People in Greece want to be relocated. It’s their only way forward. In Italy it’s different,” Schembri said.
The EASO official also appealed to EU countries to provide more areas for relocation.
Asked by EURACTIV to comment on the critical views that the Commission’s relocation plan doesn’t work, May Ann Ramsay, representing the executive, asked a rhetorical question.
“Did anyone come with a better solution?”