Oxfam Slams Greece over 'Inhumane' Asylum System
International NGO Oxfam attacked Greece's new asylum law on Thursday, saying it caused "exploitation of people" and constitutes "a blatant attack" on Europe's humanitarian commitment to protect refugees.
Conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis came to power a year ago with the objective of reducing the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Greece, the main gateway for asylum seekers into Europe in 2019.
The government tightened its policy by speeding up asylum procedures and reducing migrants' access to health services or legal aid.
"The new Greek asylum system is designed to deport people rather than offer them safety and protection," warned Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) in a joint report published on Thursday.
"This means that people who have fled violence and persecution have little chance of a fair asylum procedure, and even families with children are regularly detained in inhumane conditions."
In the report, the two NGOs explain how the reformed asylum law in Greece, in effect since January 1 and amended in May, "exposes people to abuse and exploitation".
"This situation is further aggravated by the inhumane living conditions in Greece’s refugee camps where people are now at risk of a devastating health crisis should COVID-19 reach the camps."
Evelien van Roemburg, director of Oxfam's migration campaign in Europe, also accused the European Union for being "complicit" in the new policy.
“Greece’s new law is a blatant attack on Europe’s humanitarian commitment to protect people fleeing conflict and persecution," AFP quoted her as saying.
"The European Union is complicit in this abuse, because for years it has been using Greece as a test ground for new migration policies.
"We are extremely worried that the EU will now use Greece’s asylum system as a blueprint for Europe’s upcoming asylum reform.”
More than 33,000 asylum seekers live in squalid camps on five islands in the Aegean Sea, which were built to house a total of only 5,400 people.
A further 70,000 migrants are crowded into other facilities on the Greek mainland.