Disenchanted Refugees in Greece Want Asylum in Belgium, Elsewhere

ATHENS – While refugees and migrants in Greece are held in detention camps, some awaiting decisions on getting asylum hope to find it in Belgium, although European Union rules only let them apply in the first country in which they land.

The site Infomigrants said that it’s unlikely they would be accepted in Belgium and that those whose hopes of being given sanctuary in Greece and finding work have faded also can’t find shelter in Greece if they are let out of the camps while waiting.

One, named only as Edo, told the site he was given refugee status in 2021 but left by the end of the year for Belgium, coming from Congo to reach the European Union which closed its borders to refugees and migrants.

I wanted to believe in it, but there was nothing for me there,” he said. “You are given a status but it’s only a piece of paper, you have no chance of integrating and finding work. The Greeks want us to leave.”


“Did I have a choice? I knocked on many doors but I never found work. I looked for cleaning jobs, jobs as a garbage collector … I was rejected everywhere. I was told: ‘The work is for Greeks’. I experienced racism too. Some people made the sign of the cross when they would see me, as if I were the devil.’”

He filed an asylum claim in Belgium anyway. “I knew it would be complicated,” he admitted. Edo first made a request to theOffice of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRA), but it was dismissed.

He then filed an appeal to the Foreigners Litigation Council (CCE) and he is still waiting for the judge’s response. “I hope the Belgians will give me a new chance here,” he said.

“We have been seeing more and more cases from Greece and also Bulgaria,” Armelle Philippe, a Belgian lawyer and specialist in foreigners’ law told the site.

“ I received two new cases filed by refugees from Greece. Despite having valid papers, these are people who are homeless there, who were beaten by the Greek police, or were not treated despite serious pathologies,” he said.

“These are not simple cases to defend, we must be able to prove that the refugees are in a situation of extreme material deprivation,” said Phillipe. “It is extremely rare for Belgium to grant asylum to these people who already benefit from protection elsewhere.”

Edo argued that, “I am not protected by Greece since despite my refugee status, this country has not helped me find a roof over my head, find a job or even give me financial aid. Instead, they treat me like (I’m) nothing.”

Many refugees have for years been unable to build their lives due to a lack of integration policy in Greece. They receive practically no aid from the state. An exception is the Helios program, set up in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), but very few statutory refugees access it. Only people who were granted asylum after 2018 or living in state-provided housing are eligible, the site said.

Greece has a refugee housing program called ESTIA funded by the European Union, that had 20,000 places but ended in 2022 and wasn’t renewed, the New Democracy government trying to discourage refugees and migrants from coming.

France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland were also alarmed by the “considerable” number of refugees from Greece submitting new asylum requests, the report added, with no indication how many there were


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