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Protecting Refugees & Asylum Seekers in the EU from Illegal Deportations to Greece

The infamous first entry principle is central to the Dublin system: Simply put, that principle provides that the EU member state in which a person first touched EU soil is responsible for assessing the asylum application of that person. EU member states thus attempt to return asylum seekers to Greece on that basis. What is more, EU member states also attempt to return persons who are recognized refugees in Greece. As a consequence, most member states deny asylum seekers access to their own protection system and try to implement a general return practice.

However, it is legally prohibited to return persons to a situation in which their human rights would be violated. And the situation for asylum seekers and refugees in Greece is devastating: Refugees are systemically deprived of their legally granted rights, often sleep on the streets, and do not even have access to basic healthcare.

In order to challenge a deportation to Greece, it must be proven in the individual case that a return would violate the human rights of the concerned persons. Therefore, a detailed documentation of the conditions for asylum seekers and refugees in Greece is crucial. Through our presence both in a deporting state, Germany, and in the state of destination, Greece, we are in the position to work from both ends: We both document the conditions in Greece and represent persons in Germany and other EU member states, thereby effectively challenging illegal intra-EU deportations.

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About this project

Camp Vial from outside Iskandar Nicola 2018
Camp Vial from outside Iskandar Nicola 2018. Our Visual Policy.

Deportations to Greece are, in many cases, illegal: However, national authorities and courts often fail to protect the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees and rubber stamp illegal deportation decisions. The reason for these wrong decisions often lies in lack of knowledge about the actual situation in Greece. In addition, informal deals among member states systemically deny access to legal protection, as becomes particularly obvious in the context of the so-called Seehofer Deal.

Our Greek offices thus document the conditions for asylum seekers and refugees in Greece and regularly publish detailed reports. Our Berlin and Athens offices provide for legal representation and challenge illegal deportation decisions before German and European courts. 

Prison of A Minor in Athens 2019 Anonymous
Prison of A Minor in Athens 2019 Anonymous. Our Visual Policy
Rubbish in The Camp Vial Jamie Kessler 2020
Rubbish in The Camp Vial Jamie Kessler 2020. Our Visual Policy

We have represented several individuals in court proceedings, including those who were or were to be deported under the Seehofer Deal. These persons were captured at the German-Austrian border, imprisoned, put on a plane and detained in Greece.

We won the first court case in Germany and ensured that an already deported person had to be brought back. Currently, we have cases pending before higher courts on the highly relevant question of whether a person who has already been recognised as a refugee in Greece can be deported. We have also published numerous papers and spoken at conferences.

If you do not tolerate the injustice that asylum seekers and refugees face at European borders, donate to our individual legal aid projects.

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