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Brussels, 21 January 2011

Statement of Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, following the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on the transfer of asylum seekers under the EU Dublin Regulation

"Today's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) clearly shows the EU's need to urgently establish a Common European Asylum System and to support Member States in meeting their obligations to provide adequate international protection. The EU's commitment to continue its humanitarian tradition in providing shelter to those in need of international protection can only be fulfilled if all its Member States contribute and take their responsibilities. I invite Greece to continue working to enhance the humanitarian situation of migrants and asylum-seekers. The country has committed to carrying out an ambitious reform of its asylum system and the European Commission is closely involved in the implementation of this crucial reform. The European Commission is aware of the efforts already put in place by the Greek authorities and will continue to support Greece's actions to manage the unprecedented flows of migrants and asylum seekers. I invite the Member States and the European Parliament to work for a balanced compromise on the Commission's proposal to amend the current Dublin II Regulation. In this framework, an emergency mechanism for suspending transfers in cases of particular pressure on the asylum system would contribute to build more trust and genuine support between the Dublin partners."

Background information

Judgement by the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR

The Court delivered its Grand Chamber judgment in the case of M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece on Friday 21 January 2011. The case concerns the expulsion of asylum seekers in application of the EU Dublin Regulation The applicant, an Afghan national, left Kabul early in 2008 and, travelling via Iran and Turkey, entered the European Union through Greece. The application for asylum lodged by the applicant was not examined in Belgium and the applicant was transferred to Greece pursuant to the "Dublin" Regulation.

On financial assistance to Greece:

The Commission provides Greece with financial assistance through the European Refugee Fund, the External Borders Fund and the Return Fund. The newly created European Asylum Support Office in Malta will soon be in a position to assist Member States confronted with difficult situations, such as in case of significant inflows of asylum seekers. On December 15 additional funds for a total of 9,8 million euro have been allocated to Greece and experts have been deployed to help the country in implementing the Action plan to reform the asylum system (see IP/10/1719).

For more information on the 2008 proposal of the European Commission amending the current Dublin II Regulation (see IP/08/1875).

On the Rapid Border Intervention Teams in Greece:

Since the Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT) operation was launched at the beginning of November 2010, a gradual decrease in the flow of irregular entries has been witnessed at the relevant border sections between Greece and Turkey. In October, prior to the operation, there was a total of 7607 persons detected at the Greek-Turkish land border. In November, the operation reported a total of 4611 detected entries and for the month of December, these detections had fallen further to 3389. To put these figures in perspective, the total number of detected entries for the entire year of 2010, as reported by Greek authorities through the Frontex Risk Analysis Network, amounted to 47706 detections. However the humanitarian conditions for irregular migrants remain very difficult, with overcrowded reception and detention centres and a lack of basic amenities for migrants, among which potential asylum-seekers.

On the Greek action plan on asylum:

In August 2010, Greece submitted to the Commission a National Action Plan on Asylum Reform and Migration Management which provides the basis for the identification and adoption of immediate, short- and long-term measures.

Important steps have since been taken towards the implementation of this Action Plan.

In November 2010 Greece adopted the new Asylum Presidential Decree to cover the transitional period which will, inter alia, assist in addressing the current backlog of asylum cases. A new law has also been adopted in January 2011 on the establishment of a new Asylum service to operate under the Ministry of Citizens' protection, the setting up of screening centres and the transposition of the Return Directive. It is now important that the implementation of the Action Plan is pursued in a persistent and coordinated manner by Greece.

Moreover, under the coordination and financial support of the Commission, teams of Member States experts in the area of asylum visited Greece in December 2010 to provide expertise on the registration and screening of international protection needs, the management of backlog of asylum cases and the provision of training. Other Member States experts will soon visit Greece, in particular concerning the issue of quality management of asylum cases.

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will contribute further to the support of Greece for the implementation of its Action Plan. The issue will remain a priority over the next few years and will next be discussed at the upcoming EASO Management Board on 3-4 February 2011, with a view to triggering as soon as possible the assistance mechanism to the Member States in need which is provided for in the EASO legal basis.

On the European Refugee Fund:

The European Refugee Fund is a tool supporting the efforts of Member States to apply fair and effective asylum procedures and to protect the rights of persons requiring international protection.

The support from the ERF to Greece for the period 2008-2011 is close to € 14 million, i.e. 4.16% of the total allocated for Member States. The bulk of these funds have been used to finance the reception and integration of asylum seekers and refugees.

In addition to the normal funding, in 2008 and 2009 Greece received a further € 2,2 million and € 4.9 million respectively in emergency funding under the ERF, in order to reinforce its reception capacities. In December 2010, an additional € 9.8 million from the ERF emergency funding were granted to Greece. The measures cover immediate and urgent needs related to provision of services concerning health care, food and social care, improvements of accommodation centres and construction of new ones, addressing the backlog of asylum applications and facilitation of the access to asylum procedures.

Concerning the period 2007-2011, Greece received 119 million from the External Borders Fund (i.e. 13.7% of the total for the Member States) and € 52 million from the Return Fund (16.9% of the total).

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

Justice and Home Affairs Newsroom:

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