NGO Condemns Greek High Court Ruling over Asylum Seekers Deportation

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international NGO that conducts research and advocacy on human rights, has condemned a Greek Council of State (CoS) ruling against two Syrian asylum seekers who were asking not to be deported back to Turkey.

“Greece’s Council of State has failed to protect the rights of asylum seekers,” Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch said of the September 22 CoS decision.

“Despite the fact that Turkey does not provide non-Europeans fleeing persecution full rights as refugees, and despite the obstacles Syrians and other asylum seekers in Turkey face in getting education and other basic services, the court has given a green light to returning the two Syrian men there without first hearing their refugee claims.”

The Council of State grand chamber heard an appeal by the two men, ages 22 and 29, of decisions by lower administrative tribunals that they could be returned to Turkey to have their refugee claims heard there because it can be considered a safe third country for the men, HRW notes.

Other lower tribunals are likely to abide by the ruling, paving the way for the return of other Syrian asylum seekers from the Greek islands to Turkey, its statement adds.

HRW says that Syrian refugees living under temporary protection in Turkey officially have access to free health care and education for their children. But many of the over 2 million Syrian refugees who live outside the refugee camps in Turkey, struggle to get housing, and large numbers live in abject poverty.

More than 300,000 Syrian children are out of school, according to the latest available data, because they are working to provide for their families; they cannot afford transportation or school supplies; or other reasons such as bullying in some schools.

Non-Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey including Afghans and Iraqis are ineligible for temporary protection or basic state services.

“By the EU’s own standards, Turkey cannot be considered ‘a safe third country’ for Syrians or others seeking refuge,” Cossé said. “It’s deeply disappointing that the Greek courts have embraced the flawed logic of the EU-Turkey deal.”