U.S COMMITTEE FOR REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS
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Seeking Safety in Greece: Recounting The Asylum Seeker’s Odyssey

By USCRI December 8, 2023

In June 2023, 600 people drowned in Greek waters after the fishing boat Adriana sank. Those 600 people had been fleeing their home countries in search of safety in Europe, but the Greek and Italian authorities aware of the sinking ship did not respond to the calls and pleas for help. The account of the capsized Adriana and the deaths of those asylum seekers echo the Lampedusa shipwreck in 2013, during which 360 people seeking asylum from Eritrea, Somalia, and Ghana perished in the Mediterranean Sea.

These are only two stories among many recounting the deaths of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Sea in the last ten years. So far in 2023, nearly 200,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean seeking asylum in Europe, and according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 2,500 individuals have died in transit, with four in every 100 deaths being children.

This report draws attention to the ongoing challenges that cause some refugees and asylum seekers to undertake a second, and sometimes third, more dangerous journey in search of safety and is an attempt to explain the complicated dynamics surrounding access to humanitarian protection in Greece and, by extension, the European Union. It retells the real stories of people seeking refuge – the treatment they receive, their struggles to have their legal rights recognized, and their personal triumphs. It provides an inside look at how organizations in Greece are responding to asylum-seeker needs and the barriers that they encounter. The end of the report provides recommendations to better address the crisis, including:

1) In accordance with internationally established norms on refugee protection, governments should
accept responsibility for deciding asylum claims.

2) Governments should concentrate on creating efficient asylum procedures that do
not compromise fairness or quality, instead of erecting barriers to refugees and migrants.

3) The high seas should be recognized as a humanitarian space and nongovernmental organizations that
play a vital role in rescue operations in the Mediterranean should be legitimized and not criminalized.

4) The European Union should establish safe and legal routes for migrants fleeing persecution to mitigate
the asylum seeker’s need to cross dangerous sea routes through smugglers.

5) Additional safeguards should be established to ensure that survivors of human trafficking have
adequate protections and services once in Greek camps.

6) Greek authorities should streamline the process for NGOs to operate and provide necessary services
in Greek refugee camps to improve asylum-seeker and refugee protection and integration.

 

Click here to read the full Policy & Advocacy Report by USCRI.
For questions, please email [email protected].


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