GLOBAL GIVING REPORT DUE 26 NOVEMBER 2021.
A CONTINUOUSLY EVOLVING CONTEXT
A.Ss.I.S.T. continues to adapt to the rapidly evolving situation for asylum seekers (AS) and beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs) on Chios and more widely across Greece. By expanding and customizing our services, we will be able to provide legal assistance to those on Chios and to as many AS and BIPs residing on the mainland as our capacity and resources permit.
The situation in Chios continues to evolve as reported in the last quarter, only more rapidly. Authorities have transferred many people from Chios to the mainland. Two transfers of applicants took place in August, with 220 persons moved to the mainland by the authorities. Others have left of their own accord. The number of people currently staying in Vial has also decreased significantly.
With the transfer of many from the Islands, the number of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection has increased considerably on the mainland placing additional pressures on already overwhelmed services including legal aid.
A.Ss.I.S.T.’s strategy is to act as ‘safety net’ for applicants that other legal aid organisations are unable to accept. All of our legal services can be delivered remotely from Chios and, A.Ss.I.S.T. will establish a presence in Athens by the end of 2022. In this way, A.Ss.I.S.T. services remain available to those on Chios, those who arrive on Chios (over 100 asylum seekers from July to September) and to provide services to those residing elsewhere in Greece.
Given the Government’s announcement in June 2021 declaring Turkey is a safe country for the return of five nationalities (Afghan, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Somali and Syrian), applicants of these nationalities must first pass an ‘admissibility’ interview to seek international protection in Greece. Failure to pass this interview will result in their eventual forced return to Turkey. As the Turkish maritime borders remain closed, to our knowledge, there have been no forced returns to date from the Islands.
On 4 September 2021, the new Law No. 4825 «Reform of deportation and return procedures for 3rd- country nationals, residence permit issues and procedures for granting international protection and other provisions under the responsibility of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum and the Ministry of Citizen Protection» was promulgated. This law makes it more difficult for asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected to challenge a deportation order by applying a stricter definition of the term "humanitarian grounds". It also reduces the period in which they can take legal action once a negative decision has been issued.
The closure of the the government-funded housing program on 31 October 2021 was confirmed and there is mounting evidence that many beneficiaries of this Program have already left Chios.
- An A.Ss.I.S.T. volunteer Greek lawyer undertook research of anomalies found in recent decisions made by the Greek Asylum Services.
- An internal workshop was held within the Team to discuss the implications for our clients on the recent Ministerial Decision declaring that Turkey is a safe country for 5 nationalities and guidelines developed for the revised interview process for these nationalities.
- Most Covid19 restrictions were lifted
- 9th to 12th August: Several prospective partners and organisations having expressed interested in referring clients to A.Ss.I.S.T. in Athens
- 17th August: A.Ss.I.S.T. held three Q&A sessions for Vial RIC residents at the AFE Mastic Campus A total of 31 asylum seekers participated in these sessions.
- 20th August: A.Ss.I.S.T. was notified that a subsequent application was successful. The client, also a team member, now has refugee status.
- 1st September: A new Volunteer Legal Advisor joined the Team.
UNHCR launched a HelpLine for applicants and refugees to get COVID19 vaccination.
- 02 September A.Ss.I.S.T. attended the national Communications with Communities (CwC) meeting
- 3rd September A.Ss.I.S.T. held a Q&A session for Vial RIC residents, this time at the AFE Hub in Chios time: 9 asylum seekers participated.
- 6th & 7th September: A.Ss.I.S.T. Board met to review program developments
- 15th September: A.Ss.I.S.T. met with proposed partner organization in Athens
- 18th September: a volunteer Information Manager and a new Arabic/Kurdish interpreter joined the Team
- 23rd September 2021: A.Ss.I.S.T. attended the meeting of the Legal Aid Network
In this Quarter, the demand for A.Ss.I.S.T. services became increasingly irregular. The caseload over September for interview preparations was very uneven with a sudden surge of appointments when new arrivals are released from quarantine, registered in Vial RIC and interviews scheduled by the Asylum Services. The average number of arrivals per boat has been between 8 and 30 people. Two weeks after arrival, as soon as they are released from quarantine, they are registered and then the following week, scheduled for interview. In one week, A.Ss.I.S.T. may receive requests for 10 IPs on Chios and the next none. For this reason, we endeavour to follow the arrivals and forecast their release from quarantine so that, in our forward schedule, we can assure availability of our VLAs or AGLs to serve all our clients. Both interview preparations and appeals have strict deadlines and this requires careful scheduling of other clients and referrals from the mainland while remaining aware of the potential need for new arrivals.
The Team has reviewed and improved various administrative systems – both internal and external. A client feedback form was developed and is now provided to all clients after their consultations. Client feedback has been positive to date, and A.Ss.I.S.T. is aware that this may be attributed to cultural norms of appreciation and/or a lack of alternative services with which to compare those of A.Ss.I.S.T. Nonetheless, it provides clients with an opportunity to comment on the services received and may give us some insights for service improvements and/or to revisit any problems identified.
Examples of comments translated from client feedback forms:
“I need to thank you for all your efforts for asylum seekers, it is something really, really nice from you to us.”
“Very satisfied by you, I thank you deeply.”
“I don’t have any comments. All I can say is the way that you are helping me and all the people thanks for everything and all the hard work.”
A volunteer Greek lawyer, with extensive experience in Migration Law and who previously volunteered with A.Ss.I.S.T. in 2019/20, undertook research into anomalies found by A.Ss.I.S.T.’s AGLs in recent decisions made by the Greek Asylum Services. Based on the findings of this research, A.Ss.I.S.T. has decided to expand the research sample to include more decisions reached during the same period as those already examined.
A.Ss.I.S.T Information Manager revised and finalized a referral form to facilitate coordination and cooperation with interested Organisations on the mainland. Feedback on the referral form and the proposed referral system from the interested organisations has been very positive.
On Tuesday, 17 August 2021, A.Ss.I.S.T. held three Q&A sessions for Vial RIC residents at the AFE Mastic Campus: one in English, one interpreted to Farsi and one to Arabic. A.Ss.I.S.T. A total of 23 asylum seekers participated in these sessions. Feedback from AFE and participants was very positive. On Tuesday, 3 September 2021, another session for Farsi speakers was held at the AFE Hub in Chios town attended by 9 participants.
Social media (website, Facebook and Instagram) also being reviewed and a forward strategy developed. A.Ss.I.S.T. resources collection is also being reviewed and developed. All information materials for both internal and external use are being updated, scrutinized by our lawyers for accuracy and the design of presentations for both Information Sessions and Information Sheets for A.Ss.I.S.T. broadcast lists is a work in progress.
A.Ss.I.S.T will continue to strengthen our procedures and improve our services in order to efficiently reach out to the largest number of applicants while continuing to provide high-quality legal services.
Throughout the next Quarter we will continue to serve clients on Chios and those requesting assistance or referred to us from Athens and elsewhere in Greece.
A.Ss.I.S.T.’s Board will undertake a capacity review to finalize forward plans for a presence in Athens.
A.Ss.I.S.T. will finalize arrangements with prospective partners in Athens
All Information sessions materials should be completed;
Plans to establish a presence in Athens are proceeding well.
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