Question: Rejection of asylum applications of Syrian nationals in Greece

Greece rejects asylum applications from Syrian refugees on the grounds that they can go back to Turkey because Turkey is a safe third country. In reality, however, Turkey has not accepted any repatriations for some time now, so the people concerned are stuck and can neither go back nor forward. Notwithstanding this, Greece now wants to extend this practice to other countries of origin. Together with MEPs from several political groups, we have asked the EU Commission how it intends to ensure that those affected can once again submit an application that takes the real situation into account in the assessment. In its response, the Commission now refuses to take concrete steps to do so. In fact, it does not even know whether and how many rejected applicant:s will be able to reapply. The Commission responds that it believes that Syrian applicants whose applications have been declared inadmissible and not deported to Turkey should be able to reapply. However, the Commission also does not seem to want to draw any consequences if Greece does not do so. Moreover, the Commission emphasizes that it would like to see a resumption of returns to Turkey.

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Our request

Subject: Inadmissibility of asylum applications of Syrian nationals in Greece

In its letter of July 26, 2021, the Commission stated that Syrian nationals whose asylum claims had been declared inadmissible on the grounds that Turkey was considered a safe third country, but who were not allowed to re-enter Turkey, should be able to reapply for asylum in Greece.

In March 2020, Turkey suspended all readmissions from Greece. Notwithstanding this, since then asylum applications from Syrian nationals continue to be definitively rejected on the grounds that Turkey is considered a safe third country.

  • Have all Syrian nationals on the Greek islands whose applications were declared inadmissible been given the opportunity to reapply for asylum? If not, what action will the Commission take to ensure that they are given this opportunity?
  • On June 7, 2021, the Greek government proposed declaring Turkey a safe third country for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Somalia, which would mean that their applications would also be considered inadmissible.
  • How will the Commission ensure that asylum applications from these nationals are not declared inadmissible on the false assumption that the applicants can be taken back by Turkey? What steps will the Commission take to ensure that the Greek Government complies with the Asylum Procedures Directive in this regard?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 21.12.2021

In its reply to Written Question P-000604/2021, the Commission stressed that, in accordance with Article 38(4) of the Asylum Procedures Directive, the Greek authorities should ensure that Syrian applicants whose applications have been declared inadmissible and not deported to Turkey can reapply. The Commission services have requested the relevant data on asylum applications of Syrian nationals from the Greek authorities, which will be sent to the Honourable Members as soon as possible.

Following the adoption of the Joint Ministerial Decision of 7 June 2021, Greece considers Turkey as a safe third country for applicants for international protection originating from Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Somalia. To the extent that inadmissible applicants are not allowed to enter Turkey, the Commission considers that Article 38(4) of the Directive should also be applied to these applications and access to the asylum procedure should be granted on the basis of their merits.

The EU remains committed to the full implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement, which is the main framework for cooperation between the EU and Turkey on migration issues. This partnership is based on mutual trust and action, which requires commitment and continuous efforts from all sides. The Commission has repeatedly called for the resumption of returns from Greece to Turkey.