ATHENS – The European Commission is reportedly mulling whether to bring legal action against Greece for using European Union funds to build refugee and migrant detention centers that could be violations of asylum seekers rights.
Media reports in Greece said the details weren’t known yet but that complaints also involve limiting access to social benefits for those who are recognized as refugees, facing long waits for asylum decisions.
The Commission wouldn’t reveal anything, said EUObserver which noted the cases are around five centers on Greek islands near the coast of Turkey, which allows human traffickers to keep sending refugees and migrants in violation of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU.
It also reportedly involves three others on the mainland, including one near the treacherous Evros River where many have died trying to cross from Turkey and where a border wall is being extended along its length.
“The island facilities are funded by the EU and Greece also receives funding for the rest of it indeed,” Minos Mouzourakis, legal officer at the Greek-based NGO, Refugee Support Aegean told the news site.
EU law says detention should only be used as a last resort but the concern here reportedly is whether Greece is detaining asylum seekers at what were supposed to be open camps while carrying out medical checks and fingerprints.
Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam EU head of office, told the news site that conditions are like prison for those being held there as the New Democracy government is trying to keep more from coming.
“There’s so many ways in which those centers are really a problem. And that’s an understatement,” she said, referring to barbed wire fences, surveillance cameras and scanning fingerprints at gate entrances.
The EU put up 276 million euros ($298.85 million) for centers on the islands of Leros, Lesbos, Kos, Chios and on Samos, closest to Turkey’s coast, and which was the first opened and proclaimed to meet standards.
Margaritis Schinas, the European Commissioner in charge of Promoting Our European Way of Life – and a member of Greece’s ruling party – said the Kos facility opening in 2021 was an historic achievement.
But van Roemburg told the site that, “What’s really adding insult to injury is that these are all funded by EU funds. So in that sense, the commission is also complicit in this, which makes all of this quite difficult, right?”
Greece’s government has denied claims from activists and human rights groups of allegedly pushing back refugees and migrants but said it will try to keep out any more of them from getting into the country.