Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) rapporteur Tineke Strik (SOC, the Netherlands) today responded to the European Commission’s recommendation that in three months from now, European countries should resume transferring asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin regulation.
“The Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly stated that transfers of asylum seekers back to Greece should not resume until the Council of Europe has confirmed that Greece is able to ensure protection of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights”, said Ms Strik, referring to Parliamentary Assembly Resolutions 2109 (2016) on ‘the situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016’ and 2118 (2016) on ‘refugees in Greece: challenges and risks – a European responsibility’. “The Committee of Ministers is still examining the situation, and so it is premature even to make qualified, conditional plans for a resumption of Dublin transfers.”
“Only this week, the Assembly’s migration committee heard from Médecins sans Frontières and the European Stability Initiative about the very poor and often unsafe conditions many asylum seekers still face on the Greek islands and mainland and the increasing backlog of cases in the Greek asylum system. It is clear that EU assistance remains inadequate on the ground and that most countries are still failing to meet their commitments to relocate refugees from Greece, and as a result Greece continues to struggle with its disproportionate and ever-growing responsibilities”, continued Ms Strik. “In these circumstances, I find it astonishing that the European Commission is recommending something that would only add to the burden on Greece and may prove damagingly counter-productive on many fronts.”
Under article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe supervises execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights by states parties to the Convention. The Court’s 2011 judgment in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece found that asylum seekers in Greece were at risk of violations of their rights due to the living and detention conditions they would face and failures in the Greek asylum system, and furthermore that on account of the potential severity of these violations, a country returning asylum seekers to Greece was in breach of its obligations under the Convention.