Nada Homsi wrote in the Middle East Eye that the closure of the Balkan route and the resettlement deal between Turkey and the EU have exacerbated an already dire situation, with the European Commission still trying to push through its scheme to distribute 66,400 qualified asylum seekers across Europe.
In theory, the scheme means relocation to one of the participating member states while in practice the system is working so slowly that over 57,000 refugees have been trapped in bureaucratic limbo in a struggling Greek state, Homsi says, adding that now they are stranded in this legal purgatory, unable to work and living in desperate conditions while they wait for their asylum claims to be processed.
Although the pre-registering process provides asylum seekers with a temporary residency card, which affords them limited legal status in Greece, it does not grant them the right to work. Moreover, there could be a delay of months between pre-registration and registration, during which time refugees must find a way to survive, Homsi goes on to say.
Homsi quotes Aikaterini Kitidi, a UNHCR spokesperson, as saying that it is not possible for new arrivals from the islands to be offered shelter in an official camp without a referral.
On any given night, it is common to find refugees sleeping in the main squares and side streets of Athens’ downtown districts. To them, the matter of finding shelter immediately is more vital than fixing the “lapse” in the bureaucratic mechanism that operates the asylum process, the writer says.
Homsi also quotes Nasim Lomani, an active member of the Solidarity Initiative for Political and Economic Refugees in Athens, as saying that “the policy of the EU is to reject refugees, close the borders and trap them. They cannot have a good life here in Greece, at the same time, they cannot move forward to other countries.”
It’s no secret that the process is sluggish, writes Homsi, adding that of the 66,400 eligible asylum seekers supposed to be relocated by September 2017, only 2,735 had been relocated by July 2016 – a mere four percent of the targeted outcome.