ATHENS – Refugees and migrants languishing in overcrowded detention centers and camps on Greek islands reportedly have little or no access to legal aid as they wait up to two years and more for asylum applications to be processed.
The international aid group Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees made the claim as it said the process of asylum is “extremely complicated” although the New Democracy government said it would be accelerated, along with deportations of those ineligible.
Greece is overwhelmed with more than 96,000 refugees and migrants, more than 45,000 on islands near Turkey which has let human traffickers keep sending more during an essentially suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.
They had gone to Turkey fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Afghanistan and Syria, as well as migrants who left sub-Saharan Africa in search of work and wouldn’t be eligible for sanctuary.
Only two in 100 asylum seekers end up getting access to a state lawyer, leaving it up non-governmental organizations to take up the slack of offering aid.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) pays 19 lawyers on the five islands that host reception centers but its capabilities but the numbers are far too few to deal with the number of applicants, said Kathimerini.
There is a greater need for asylum seekers to have access to legal aid without delay, the report noted, after two dozen rights and activist groups said conditions in the centers and camps was inhumane.
The number of asylum applications has increased in recent years. On Lesbos, where the Moria camp is holding more than 20,000 in a facility built for 2,000 the number of applications rose from 5,091 in 2016 to 17,269 in 2018.
The EU closed its borders to refugees and migrants and reneged on promises to distribute some of the overload to other countries, offering little aid although the current European Commissioner in charge of the problem, Margaritis Schinas, and his predecessor, Dimitris Avramopoulos, are both members of the ruling New Democracy.