The international group Human Rights Watch on Tuesday sharply criticized the new asylum bill brought forward by Greece’s new conservative government as it restricts legal protection only to individuals who are fleeing wars.
“The bill is a naked attempt to block access to protection and increase deportations in the face of the recent increase in arrivals,” said Eva Cosse, the researcher for Greece at Human Rights Watch.
Greek authorities are struggling to cope with a sharp rise in the number of migrant landings over the summer months on its eastern islands, where EU-funded camps are suffering severe overcrowding and outbreaks of violence.
“My country has been receiving asymmetric flows of refugees and immigrants in recent months in relation to its size and population. Our remote islands are suffocating, and places on the mainland with host facilities face problems,” Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis noted on Tuesday.
The government says that the proposed legislation is intended to streamline what it sees as a lengthy asylum process and facilitate the deportation of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected.
Human Rights Watch said the bill, which is due to be discussed in Parliament this week, would make it easier to detain asylum seekers for longer periods and to scrap important protections for vulnerable people, including unaccompanied children.
It also includes numerous procedural changes which would impede access to a fair asylum process and compromise the right of appeal, according to the human rights organization.
“The bill also introduces stricter rules for receiving asylum seekers, delays access to the right to work, narrows the definition of family, and imposes more burdens on torture victims in being recognized as such,” Human Rights Watch said in its statement.