ΑΤΗΕΝS – As Greece continues to carry out deportations of illegal immigrants pouring into the country by land and sea, a court has temporarily ordered authorities not to expel a Kenyan woman because it deemed that she was in danger of suffering female genital mutilation if she returned to her homeland.
In a first for the Greek justice system, according to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the court recognized her application for international protection under the Geneva Convention even though the asylum service had earlier rejected her request.
Only about one in 10,000 applicants receive asylum in Greece from a board that includes police charged with arresting them in the first place, which has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups.
The woman, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, first arrived in Greece with her three children in 2002. The Administrative Appeals Court found that her children are also in danger of suffering abuse if they return to Kenya, ANA reported.
It is the first time a Greek court used the Geneva Convention of 1951 rules to grant protection on an FGM threat. In a 2009 note by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, FGM was included as a legitimate factor for granting asylum to a woman and any of her children under such a threat.
The Kenyan woman said she came to Greece to get financial help for a foot operation on one of her children. She applied for international protection under the Convention at the regional asylum office for Attica for herself and her children, aged 13, 5 and 3 years old. (The youngest is a legitimate child of an American citizen.)
In her application, she said she did not want to return to her country because she belongs to the Kikuyu tribe, which practices FGM on all females, and she could also be subjected to the same under the organization Mungiki, which is active in many Kenyan areas.
The regional asylum office rejected her application on the grounds that she and her children did not meet the Geneva Convention’s classification conditions for refugee status.
The woman then appealed to a Justice ministry committee to ask for a review of her case in order to be issued international protection.
The committee again rejected her application on the grounds that she did not submit “incontrovertible evidence proving that her fear due to the threat of being subjected to FGM by the Mungiki organization can be seen as justifiable and substantiated on objective facts, in order to conclude that there is immediate and unavoidable threat to her life or physical safety if she returns to her country of origin.”
The ministry’s committee also concluded that despite the tribe’s practices the woman was not in danger. “There is no provable danger that upon her return to her country she would undergo severe harm consisting of a death sentence or torture, as in Kenya and especially Nairobi (her last recorded residence), there are no conditions of international or domestic armed conflict that would lead to the conjecture of serious injury due to indiscriminately practiced violence,” it said.
It concluded that the woman and her children did not meet conditions related to refugee or additional protection status according to standing laws, but it said all four fulfilled conditions that allowed residence permits to be issued for humanitarian reasons and referred the case to the administrative court.
The woman took recourse to Greek courts on the grounds that if she and her children returned to Kenya they would be tortured or treated inhumanely and that her children would be either conscripted into criminal organisations, abducted by them or be persecuted – in the youngest’s case – for being a legitimate child of an American citizen.
ANA said the court accepted her plea on a temporary basis and said their return to Kenya by Greek authorities could harm them irreparably, exposing them to physical abuse.
It suspended the Justice ministry committee’s decision until the court could give a final ruling and ordered state authorities to abstain from any act that would result in the forced exit and repatriation to Kenya of the woman and her children.
The court also ordered that if the special document certifying she had applied for asylum has been removed by authorities, it must be restored and extended in date if expired.