Brussels, 27 September 2010
Joint statement by Mr Christos Papoutsis, Minister of Citizen Protection of Greece and Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner in charge of Home Affairs: Greece and the Commission agree to enhance cooperation on reforming the Greek asylum system
The Minister of Citizen Protection Mr Christos Papoutsis and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ms Cecilia Malmström met in Athens on 27 September to discuss ways to assist Greece in its efforts to reform the Greek asylum system.
They acknowledge the unprecedented pressure on the Greek asylum and migration management system, which is a result of large number of persons from third countries entering Greek territory both as irregular migrants and as asylum seekers, due to its geographical position at the EU external borders. Greece underlines the additional burden as a result of the implementation of the Dublin II Regulation. In the framework of a common European migration and asylum policy, the challenges faced by Greece have to be commonly addressed by the European Union as a whole.
The Greek Government has decided to reform the national asylum system, in order to better address, in an efficient and coherent way, the needs of asylum seekers arriving in Greece.
The European Commission greatly values the strong commitment of the Greek government to undertake all possible efforts and considers that it is paramount to make rapid progress in improving the situation.
Coordination is needed at European level to address pressures on the Greek national asylum and reception system. The Commission and the EU Member States have already expressed their readiness to assist Greece in the implementation of the ambitious plan of reforms. Once the European Asylum Support Office becomes fully operational, it will coordinate the provision of support to Greece.
Greece has adopted a National Action Plan on Asylum Reform and Migration Management which provides a good foundation for the identification and adoption of immediate, short- and long-term measures. These measures include:
The reinforcement of Greece's capacities for receiving asylum seekers and the improvement of the reception conditions of asylum seekers, with special attention to the most vulnerable, women and children;
Creating screening centres and adopting a modern procedure for screening, registering and managing migrants.
The swift adoption of the Presidential Decree on the procedure for granting refugee status or supplementary protection status;
Start addressing the backlog of asylum applications and appeals;
Establishment of a dedicated civilian Asylum Department to be operational in 2011;
Make available both national and European funds to ensure the launch and proper implementation of the reform process;
Establishment of a Project Management Team that will have the responsibility to steer the implementation of the Greek plan and coordinate assistance with EU partners. A first meeting should be called as soon as possible.
The Commission has offered a package of financial and practical assistance in support of the Greek efforts. In parallel and in close cooperation with the Greek authorities, the Commission intensively examines the possibility of providing Greece with effective EU support to address urgent needs and other activities planned during the transitional phase.
Several EU Member States have already declared their preparedness to assist Greece by providing assistance through, in particular, practical cooperation. Concrete actions must be launched in the coming weeks.
Both Greece and the Commission underline the important role of the UNHCR. The Greek authorities work already in close partnership with the UNHCR. A strong partnership with the UNHCR in this process is considered key in reforming the Greek asylum system.
Close cooperation between EU Member States, assisted by the Commission is a key to the establishment of the Common European Asylum System, by 2012. The Commission is committed to present appropriate initiatives and propose adequate measures at European level towards achieving this goal.