Asylum and Refugee Law
On Monday, 04/04/2022, the first section of the “Asylum and Refugee Law: Contemporary European Developments” seminar took place online, through the Webex electronic platform, which specifically dealt with issues of asylum law and international protection of refugees.
The coordinator of the first seminar was the Assistant Professor of the University of the Aegean and Scientific Director of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence, Ioannis Stribis. The speakers were Mr. Vassilis Christogiorgos, Special Associate in Protection Matters, UNHCR, Mrs. Mariana Gliati, Asst. Professor, Radboud University and Mrs. Eleni Spathana, lawyer and Special Expert on Asylum and Immigration.
Firstly, Mr. Valinakis, President of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of EKPA, conveyed greetings to the participants and emphasized the value of studying migration flows, especially during the ongoing Ukrainian crisis, which has so far involved more than 4,000,000 Ukrainian refugees and millions internally displaced. According to Mr. Valinakis, the EU’s attitude to the current crisis is significantly different compared to previous migration flows.
Then, Mr. Vassilis Christogiorgos, Special Associate on Protection, UNHCR introduced the fundamental concepts of refugee law, based on its fundamental texts, namely the Geneva Convention 1951 and the New York Protocol 1967 and presented the role of UNHCR in protection matters. In his presentation, he defined and described the categories of mobile populations, as well as the performance criteria for international protection (refugees and subsidiary protection) and highlighted the need to find a safe and long-term solution to the current refugee crises.
Then, Mrs. Mariana Gliati, Asst. Professor at Radboud University, took the floor and analyzed the pressing issue of pushbacks and the forms they can take (land, sea and hot returns). During her speech, she referred to the Libya-Italy-Malta triangle, the Greek case of the Evros in 2020 and other specialized cases. The speaker went on to outline the subsequent human rights’ risks and concluded with the presentation of legislative developments regarding refoulement practices.
Next, Mrs. Eleni Spathana, lawyer and Special Expert on Asylum and Migration, focused on the rights of recognized refugees once they abolish the representation of their country of nationality and seek international protection. The speaker underlined the international, supranational and national protection regime, the difficulties faced by refugees after their recognition and summarized with the need to share the responsibilities of managing refugee flows.
Finally, a discussion followed, during which the participants asked questions about the interviews of refugees upon their arrival, the cases of exclusion of refugees from international protection and the determination of a safe third country.
On Monday, 11/04/2022 the second section of the seminar “Asylum and Refugee Law: Contemporary European Issues” took place online, through the Webex platform, which dealt with special issues of asylum law and international protection of refugees, with title “Common European Asylum System (CEAS): Creation- Evolution- Applicable Law”.
The coordinator of this seminar was the Assistant Professor of the University of the Aegean and Scientific Director of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence, Ioannis Stribis. Mrs. Metaxia Kouskouna, Asst. Professor of the Faculty of Law of EKPA, Mrs. Evangelia Georgitsi, Head of Legal and Policy – Islands Coordinator at the Directorate General of Migration & Home Affairs of the European Commission and Mrs. Eleni Spathana, lawyer and Special Expert on Asylum and Immigration participated as speakers.
Mrs. Kouskouna, Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Law of the Greek University of Athens, took the floor first and referred to the evolution of the European framework for asylum and refugees, based on the relevant articles of the Treaties (TFEU and TEU). Then, the inclusion of asylum issues in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice with the Treaty of Amsterdam, the establishment of the Common European Asylum System during the Tampere Summit was described and the Dublin II and III Regulations were analyzed as well as the problems that arose during their implementation. Finally, reference was made to the 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Statement and the Greece-Germany Bilateral Agreement on readmissions.
Moreover, Mrs. Georgitsi, Head of Legal and Policy – Islands Coordinator at the Directorate-General for Migration & Home Affairs of the European Commission presented the new regulation establishing the European Union Agency for Asylum, which replaces EASO. The Organization in question is charged with new tasks and provides for the official and technical support of the MS in the management of asylum request flows. Special mention is made of the Organization’s external action through the Liaison Officers, which facilitate cooperation, information exchange and capacity-building in third countries (e.g. Moldova, Morocco, etc.)
The third speaker, Mrs. Spathana, a lawyer and Special Expert on Asylum and Migration, focused on the interpretation of the term “Safe third country” introduced in the 1990s. This approach is translated into the transfer of the EU’s responsibility to provide protection, an international legal obligation under of the Geneva Convention, in third countries. The goal is the protection to take place outside the EU. The EU-Turkey Joint Declaration of 2016 is characteristic, since in this document the neighboring country is identified as a safe third country. That means that refugees crossing the European/Greek border can be returned to Turkey, even though Turkey is not actually safe. So, the issue of readmission under the umbrella of safe third countries is raised.
After completing the presentations, a Q&A followed during which questions were asked to the speakers, regarding asylum shopping, the external dimension of the supporting asylum procedures and the new position of the Person in charge of the protection of Fundamental Rights of the new Organization.
On Thursday 05/05/2022, the third section of the “Asylum and Refugee Law: Contemporary European Developments” seminar was held online, via the Webex electronic platform, with the title: “New Pact on Migration Armed conflict in Ukraine and developments in asylum law”.
The coordinator of the third seminar was the Assistant Professor of the University of the Aegean and Scientific Director of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence, Ioannis Stribis. Mrs. Maria Michelogiannaki, Legal Adviser, ENY, Department of EU Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Lila Siska, Policy Officer, European Commission, Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, Mrs. Kalliopi Stefanaki, Head of Protection Sector, UNHCR Greece Office and Mr. Achilleas Skordas, Professor of International Law, Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg, Germany.
The discussion began with Mrs. Michelogiannaki, Legal Adviser, EMS, Department of EU Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who decoded the current European asylum system, as well as the Commission’s proposals submitted in 2016 with the aim of reforming it. She, then went on to describe the New Pact on Migration and Asylum as proposed in September 2020, the adoption of which requires the prior adoption of seven regulations and two directives, confirming its binding nature. Of course, the immigration crisis on the border with Belarus, posing a significant challenge to the progress of the new Pact, was part of the presentation.
Then followed the opening statement of Mrs. Siska Policy Officer, European Commission, Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs. She presented the European Commission’s response to the migration wave to the EU and other third countries (such as Moldova), as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war this year. Notable is the unanimous decision of the Council to activate the Temporary Protection Directive, for the first time in the history of the EU, according to which Ukrainians can immediately obtain a residence permit and have access to social services. Finally, the Commission is working to provide correct information to refugees as well as European citizens and to combat misinformation.
The next speaker Mrs. Stefanaki, head of the Protection Sector, Greece Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, described the refugee crisis in Ukraine which so far counts 5.6 million refugees in thousands of displaced persons, in neighboring countries and internally. In particular, she referred to the actions undertaken by the High Commission for the management of the crisis and the provision of humanitarian aid. The contribution of the High Commission to the Ukrainian refugees arriving on Greek soil, the number of whom enter Greece through its land borders, was also analyzed. Finally, there was mention of the Temporary Protection Directive and the risks of trafficking and gender-based violence arising from the current crisis, stressing that it is an excellent opportunity for building European Solidarity.
The last speaker was Mr. Skordas, Professor of International Law, Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany, who focused on cases of immigration, instrumentalized as a tool to exert pressure on the EU, which is also taking place in the current Ukrainian crisis. The International Court of Justice in The Hague condemned and issued an order to stop the Russian attack, which is part of the innovative response to this crisis. Furthermore, the speaker explained the path towards the Directive on Temporary Protection, during the implementation of which difficulties arise due to its complex regime. In the case of Ukraine it is clearly implemented while some of these difficulties are removed.
The meeting ended with a discussion where questions were raised about the pre-screening process at non-certain Schengen entry points and the EU supervision of the integration of new European jurisprudence at national level. In addition, clarifications were given on the Temporary Protection regime, the new Pact proposed by the Commission in 2020 and the Minsk Treaties.
On Thursday 05/09/2022, the fourth section of the “Asylum and Refugee Law: Contemporary European Developments” seminar took place online, via the Webex electronic platform, on the topic “Asylum and Refugee Law: Application to Special Groups”
The coordinator of the first seminar was Mrs. Chrysafo Tsouka, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, EKPA. Mrs. Theodora Gazi, D.N. Lawyer, Mrs. Sotiria Kasnakoudi, YMEPO, Mrs. Katerina Komita, Lawyer and Mrs. Sofia Zisakou, Lawyer were the guest speakers.
Initially, Mrs. Komita, Lawyer, analyzed the crucial issue of “credibility” during the investigation of the requests for international protection. Thus, the stages followed and elements taken into account for the evaluation of these requests were defined. Of course, during its examination, obstacles arise that are detrimental to the credibility, while a special case are the victims of torture, who avoid to discuss their experience due to the bad memories they have. Finally, the speaker listed the usual reasons for the rejection of asylum applications, which must be escorted by the appropriate evidence by the applicants and thoroughly examined by the operators.
Then, Mrs. Kasnakoudi, YMEPO, described the administrative practices which are taken into account for stateless refugees and refugees who are unable to obtain a passport from their country of origin, categories that were separated. Usually, they are administratively invisible and do not have access to fundamental rights that characterize a citizen. Thus, the causes of statelessness, the current legal framework and the relevant procedures surrounding the granting of a residence permit to stateless persons in Greece were explained. In fact, the case of imaginary passports, passports that are not recognized by the rest of the EU and the issue of adopting an integrated approach from the Greek side to deal with the problem were raised.
Afterwards, Mrs. Gazi, D.N. Lawyer, referred to the issue of vulnerability in the case of the ECHR and the Common European Asylum System. First, the factors that define a person as vulnerable were delineated. The jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights which perceives each group as vulnerable on a case-by-case basis with the basic principle that the people who make it up are at risk of being discriminated against or harmed. The ECHR therefore offers a broad interpretation of vulnerability. Regarding the Guidelines of the Common European Asylum System, vulnerable groups are explicitly mentioned and distinguished from applicants who need special procedural guarantees. However, vulnerable groups of asylum seekers may be subjected to the fast-track/border screening procedure.
Finally, Ms. Zisakou, Lawyer, raised the issue of assessment of sexual orientation and gender identity in relation to the asylum procedure. Nevertheless, these are distinct matters of private nature, based on subjective judgement. The only mean of substantiating an applicant’s claims are his statements. Nevertheless, based on the UNCRC and the CJEU these statements for the person’s self-identification statement is only an indication. Special mention was made in the category of LGBTI rights and the reproduction of stereotypes during the gender identity judgment of applicants.
Then, a Q&A followed around the issues of the unaccompanied assessment process, dealing with objective difficulties when interviewing asylum seekers and ensuring credibility.
On Monday 16/05/2022, the webinar “Asylum and Refugee Law: Contemporary European Developments” was completed, which addressed issues of asylum law and international protection of refugees. The fifth and last section was about the “Control of the implementation of the Asylum and Refugee Law”
The coordinator of the first seminar was Mrs. Metaxia Kouskouna, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, EKPA. The speakers were Mrs. Katerina Kotsopoulou, First Judge of Administrative Courts, Mrs. Gianna Chatzihanna, Senior Attorney for the Attorney General of the Republic of Cyprus, Mrs. Eleni Micha, D.N., EDIP, School of Law, EKPA and Mrs. Maria Kontou, t Legal Adviser, European Commission.
The first speaker, Mrs. Hadjihanna, Senior Lawyer for the Attorney General of the Republic of Cyprus, referred to the way of applying international protection law in the Republic of Cyprus. The country receives the most asylum applications in the EU and in terms of the profile of the applicants, most are economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and recently there has been an increase in the arrival of these through the occupied territories and the green line. Also, specific examples of cases of asylum applications and their cancellation were given, and the handling of each case by the competent authorities and courts was explained.
Then, Mrs. Kotsopoulou, First Judge of the Administrative Courts, analyzed the amendments to the Greek legislation regarding asylum. More specifically, he pointed out the issue of the Safe Third Country and the relevant 2021 CPA which recognizes Turkey as a safe third country for a number of nationalities. Based on the above, Turkey’s general practice is not harmonized with the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration. Nevertheless, there are doubts as to whether Turkey is really a safe third country. Finally, the reasons for granting subsidiary protection were listed.
Afterwards, Mrs. Micha analyzed thoroughly the asylum regime as defined in the ECHR. This Agreement is primarily responsible for protection issues and has relevant tools to control its implementation. In fact, special mention was made of the negative obligations of the contracting parties such as the prohibition of refoulement, arbitrary detention, discrimination, and mass deportations. On the other hand, their positive obligations to provide substantive and procedural guarantees were also presented.
The last speaker Mrs. Kontou went on with describing the jurisprudence of the CJEU regarding asylum issues. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, a single regime of international protection is established in the Union, which consolidates the “principle of solidarity” and the “principle of fair distribution” between The European Asylum Policy refers to both the granting of asylum and subsidiary protection and is fully harmonized with the Geneva Convention and the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.
The seminar ended with a Q&A about the management of people who do not need asylum or subsidiary protection due to a crime. However, in any case the receiving state respects the obligation of non-refoulement and must keep him on its territory, where he will be guaranteed basic living conditions. Clarifications were also given on the asylum procedures in Cyprus.