LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE

by A.Ss.I.S.T
Play Video
LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE
LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE
LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE
LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE
LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE
LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE
LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE

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. 

July 

  • 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.

August 

  • 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. 

 

September

  • 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

 

OUR SERVICES 

Legal Aid

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. 

Information Services 

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.   

LOOKING FORWARD

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. 

In October:  

A.Ss.I.S.T.’s  Board will undertake a capacity review to finalize forward plans for a presence in Athens.

In November

A.Ss.I.S.T. will finalize arrangements with prospective partners in Athens

All Information sessions materials should be completed;

In December:

Plans to establish a presence in Athens are proceeding well. 

 

THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS REPORT - YOUR DONATION IS INVALUABLE. 


Attachments: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

CONTEXT : CURRENT SITUATION FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEES.

  1. Legal Update: Three amendments to Greek asylum law were implemented between April and June 2021 (cf: Attachment "Main events April to June 2020"). Constant legal and regulatory changes in an unstable and unpredictable environment significantly impact those applying for international protection, refugees and the organisations providing services to them.

  2. Changes in asylum seeker population on Chios island: 

    • The island is emptying, as the transfers off the island outweigh the arrivals 99 to 1 (cf: Attachments: "Changes in asylum seeker population on Chios"). NGOs delivering material aid estimate that there are 550 people in Vial RIC and 650 people residing in apartments in and around Chios town at the end of June. If these numbers are correct, there have been significant numbers of people leaving of their own accord. According to UNHCR, from April to June 2021, 859 asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection (BIPs) left Chios to the mainland. The number of spontaneous transfers is unknown. To our knowledge, there have been no arrests and no deportations to Turkey. There are currently no ferry services to Chios from Cesme.

    • Proposed new ‘closed’ Centre:
      The tender period for the new camp/RIC at Akra Pachy on Chios has been extended to 22 July 2021. It is reasonable to assume that the proposed new camp will not be completed before mid - to end - 2022.  As far as we know, there was a fencing contract for Vial but so far construction has not commenced.

      At a recent NGO Coordination Meeting, many representatives were expressing concern over the cessation of Cash Assistance to all self-accommodated asylum seekers and the cessation of the housing program in November 2021. No evictions from town accommodation have occurred as yet, although evictions have taken place on Samos. The most vulnerable tenants were transferred to the mainland, while the less vulnerable were forced to return to the camp. 

  3. COVID19 on Chios:
    • For the residents in Vial RIC, a vaccination program began in May 2021 and has since halted. It was anticipated that 70% of Chios' population would have had at least had their first vaccine by end-June. This has not been confirmed.

    • Most restrictions have been lifted:  there is no curfew, music is permitted in restaurants, masks are still required indoors, a maximum of 4 persons are permitted in a car and social distancing is encouraged but not observed. Movement  from the mainland to the Islands requires a PCR test or vaccination certificate. Negative self-tests are no longer accepted.

    • A.Ss.I.S.T.’s office remains semi-closed to the public. Team members continue to attend the office (a maximum of 8 people). Two team members must be present at the office at all times, as clients come to pick up and deliver documents from the lawyers. We can now invite clients in, however most prefer to do consultations via WhatsApp. Stringent COVID19 protocols remain in place. At the end of June, all A.Ss.I.S.T members were fully vaccinated including AGLs, with the exception of one volunteer interpreter.  

CURRENT SITUATION FOR A.Ss.I.S.T. OUR SERVICES AND OPERATIONS

  1. Board Updates:
    • At the Annual General Meeting was held on 5 June 2021, elections for the Board were held, the Financial Statement (unaudited) 2020 and the forward budget  July 2021- June 2022 were presented and approved (cf: Attachments: "Main events April to June 2020").

    • The newly elected Board met on 15 June 2021 (cf: Attachments: "Main events April to June 2020").  Ms Josephine Chan and Ms Sheila Cross were re-elected and welcomed a new Board member, Ms Zoe Anderson). It was agreed that the re-elected member would retain their positions as Treasurer and President respectively and Ms. Anderson replaces the previous Secretary, Ms. Mary Stratigou, who resigned due to ill health. Ms. Anderson is a long-term supporter of A.Ss.I.S.T., and was one of the two lawyers who implemented the pilot project in 2018, which was a precursor to the founding of A.Ss.I.S.T.  Her bio and photo will soon be uploaded to A.Ss.I.S.T.’s website. The Board agreed to the forward strategy as outlined in the documents presented to the meeting,  they requested more time to review all the policy related documents submitted before the meeting. 

  2. Networking and improving our administration processes:
    • Attended meetings with other stakeholders and networks (Legal network, Communicating with Communities, LGBTQIA+ Working Group, UNHCR Protection Working Group).
    • Made significant improvements to our client records: capturing more data and digitalising records. Since 15 June 2021, all clients are provided with a new feedback form post-consultation. FAQs are being collated as part of preparation for the script for future information sessions and information sheets.

    • Re-assessed the needs of asylum seekers and BIPs in Chios and undertook assessments of the situation in Athens.

    • Workshopped the logframe and other matrixes for the forward organisational plan for July 2021 - June 2022 and drafted several grant applications.

    • Updated website content; social media outlets were more active and on Refugee Day, launched our A.Ss.I.S.T. Instagram account.

  3. Support to our clients:
    • Number of appeals submitted decreased, while interventions with different authorities increased both in number and time, as we sought to resolve a diverse range of client problems (cf: Attachments: "Statistics - 2nd Quarter").

    • Number of clients significantly increased: eight out of the ten arrivals in mid-May sought our services. 

    • Support to BIPs, including providing information on the renewals of IDs and HELIOS program. 

    • Planned renewal of support to deportees: The Legal Representative will visit Istanbul in early July 2021 to reconnect with NGOs and others who may be willing to recommence services to deportees from Greece or may be interested in cooperating with A.Ss.I.S.T. to support them.

  4. The ASsIST Team: 
    • Our interpreter team on Chios is reduced to two (Farsi and Arabic), but previous volunteer team members continue to work remotely from the mainland (Somali and French/Lingala) and the volunteer Office/Client Services Manager (OCSM) and Legal Representative are available for French-English interpretqtion. One Somali, one Arabic and one Farsi applicant have sat the language assessment test and their results are pending.

    • Throughout  April to June 2021, 2 Volunteer Legal Advisors (VLAs); one based in Chios, the other continuing to work with the Team from her home in Marseilles worked together with our two Associate Greek Lawyer (AGLs) who are currently contracted to end-July 2021.

    • An additional VLA will join the Team from 1 July to replace the long-term Chios-based VLA who will take leave from 23 July to 9 August 2021. A volunteer OCSM arrives on 12 July 2021 to replace the long-term OCSM who will take leave from 20 July to mid-September 2021.

    • A workshop is proposed in August to update the team on the recent Ministerial Decision declaring that Turkey is a safe country for 5 nationalities (Afghan, Somali, Syrian, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and on the draft new law proposed to amend Law 4636/2019, which was published for public comment in mid-June 2021.

Your donations have been instrumental to the provision of all the above services to asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Greece: one of the most vulnerable populations in Europe.

Thank you for taking the time to read this Report.

Yours sincerely,

The Asylum Seekers Information Services Team.

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Cross

Legal Representative 

Links:


Attachments: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
In A.Ss.I.S.T's office
In A.Ss.I.S.T's office

In the current unpredictable and ever-changing environment for people seeking international protection on Chios Island, Greece, it is quite simply necessary to continue providing services, endeavour to be well-informed and to be prepared for change in laws, regulations and procedures as well as adapt to the COVID-19 restrictions of movement.

The Team, whose work you are supporting, consists of 2 Volunteer Legal Advisors (VLAs - qualified EU lawyers), one of whom left Chios to work remotely from Paris; two Associate Greek Lawyer (AGLs) under contract from 03 January to 30 June 2021, seven volunteer interpreters (five of whom are asylum seekers or refugees who previously used A.Ss.I.S.T’s services), a volunteer client services/office manager and the resident volunteer Legal Representative. Each team member’s contribution is essential to the provision of our services, and all work together with shared commitment and in solidarity.

Our AGLs focus on appeals that only they can do, as these must be written in Greek and submitted by Greek registered lawyers. Our VLAs focus on interview preparations. The ‘real’ interview with the Asylum Services is the most critical and decisive step in the application procedure and together the lawyers share appointments for legal questions and refer clients to relevant services for accommodation, psycho-social support and other services available through government and NGOs. Without our seven volunteer interpreters, none of our services would be possible. Current volunteers provide interpreting services in Arabic, Farsi, French, Lingala and Somali. The A.Ss.I.S.T. office continues to respond to enquiries via voice and text messages on a daily basis, schedule appointments and receive from and distribute documents to asylum seekers. Working closely with our client service/office manager, our volunteer interpreters translate all messages to and from clients in the above languages. Several new information sheets were written, translated and broadcast via WhatsApp to all our registered clients.   In February 2021, our office phone responded to 987 messages in six languages responding to an average of 25 people per day.

 

Some good news!

On 01 February 2021, we learned that two of our interpreters received international protection; this makes a total of six team members receiving refugee status since September 2020. In the last three months, our AGLs have won 5 appeals.

Below is a message from a client who received international protection in March 2021. 

“I send my sincere thanks and appreciation for the great humanitarian aid you have so far rendered to me throughout my time here on Chios, I would like to thank my lawyer for standing by me at the worst period and for bringing me back to live a better life. I would not be a happy person if it hadn't been your support and guidance leading me to receive a positive decision. May God bless and reward you all.

Once more thanks to the entire A.Ss.I.S.T. humanitarian legal aid service.”


Attachments: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

A.Ss.I.S.T

Location: Chios - Greece
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
josephine chan
Chios, Greece
$19,442 raised of $25,000 goal
 
223 donations
$5,558 to go
Donate Now
lock
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate

A.Ss.I.S.T has earned this recognition on GlobalGiving:

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.