P.R. “International Protection of Refugees”
Online Seminar “Asylum and Refugee Law: Recent EU Developments in the EU”
1st Meeting: “International Protection of Refugees”
On Thursday 27 April 2023, from 16.00 to 19.00h, the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens held via the Webex platform the first meeting of the online seminar “Asylum and Refugee Law: Recent European Developments”. The specific theme treated in this meeting was the “International Protection of Refugees”.
The meeting was coordinated by Mr. Ioannis Stribis, Assistant Professor at the University of the Aegean, and Scientific Director at the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens. Prof.. Stribis first welcomed the speakers and attendees to the meeting, and then gave an overview of the Jean Monnet Center’s more-than-twenty-year history.
The first speaker, Mr. Vassilis Avdis, Legal Adviser to the UNHCR Office in Greece, delved into the subject of refugee status determination, with reference to the legal framework as well as to the clauses pertaining to granting, cessation and exclusion from the refugee status by virtue of the 1951 Geneva Convention. He first made a presentation of the UNHCR and its Mandate, i.e., its competency as a subsidiary UN Organ, which includes the protection of asylum seekers, refugees, stateless and internally displaced persons, and returnees. In outlining the 1951 Convention, the speaker made special mention of the therein optional geographic “within Europe” and time-based “before 1 January 1951” limitations, which were removed by the 1967 New York Protocol. The Convention defines the term “refugee”, their rights, applicable law and state obligations, and in particular the fundamental obligation of non-refoulement. However, the Convention does not set concrete rules on the procedure of examination of asylum demands and recognition of refugees, whose determination lies with the state. Mr. Avdis explained the criteria for a person to be recognized as a refugee, as well as the circumstances that, if present, exclude a person from international protection, either because the person is not in need of it, or because is not worthy of it. He furthermore analyzed the conditions to be met in order for a person to qualify for subsidiary protection, in case that requirements for refugee status are not satisfied. In the EU, in particular, such cases are covered by Directive 2011/1995 art. 2(f). Last, Mr. Avdis succinctly presented the Greek legislative framework as regards international protection, and the main stages of the asylum procedure in the Greek legal order.
The second speaker, Ms. Lydia-Maria Bolani, Senior Protection Associate at the UNHCR Office in Greece, examined the subject of rights of recognized refugees. She began with an overall presentation of the international, EU and Greek legislation that set out the rights of beneficiaries of international protection -namely, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. More particularly, she presented the procedure of issuing a residence permit, and the frequently arising practical problems. She also elaborated on the right to family unity, from which emanates the derivative status of the family members of the recognized refugee, who are not eligible for the refugee status themselves. In order to preserve family unity, family members are provided with permits valid for the same period of time as the asylum card. The speaker also touched on the rights to work, access to accommodation, social welfare, health, education, administrative assistance and family reunification -with the latter applying in Greece only to refugees and not to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. Ms. Bolani presented the relevant legal texts, and gave concrete examples of the practical difficulties beneficiaries of international protection are faced with when trying to exercise the above rights. Furthermore, the speaker explained how these rights, seen from both a legal and practical perspective, are directly related with the heated debate over secondary movements from Greece towards other EU Member States. To close with, the speaker briefly presented the status of temporary protection granted to refugees from Ukraine by virtue of Directive 2001/55, that was first implemented in 2022.
The discussion that followed was coordinated by Professor Stribis.