On March 16, 2022, Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, claimed on Twitter that people who enter Greece illegally are no longer seen as refugees. He claimed that 70% of the people who asked for asylum where rejected by authority. So he concluded that these rejected illegals where passing the borders illegally since the government had not granted them asylum, therefor they are not refugees’. In general the claim from the minister means he considers illegal Greek migrants are no longer seen as refugees. This claim is Mostly False.
To check this we first looked for the definition of exactly when you are considered a refugee. This definition is defined in the United Nations Refugee Convention. “A refugee is someone who has ‘a well-founded fear’ in their home country of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular ethnic or social group, and who has no protection in their own country.” We then investigated the source of the numbers which Notis Mitarachi is talking about. Then we looked at how many asylum applications Greece receives per month.
The number of asylum applications in Greece for the year 2021 are stated on the website of the Social and Economic Council (SER). Greece received 40,560 asylum applications in 2021. On these numbers, the Minister of Migration and Asylum say that 70% were rejected by the competent authorities. This would involve 28,392 rejected asylum applications. Whether or not 70% of the applications were actually rejected is nowhere to be found. It is therefore difficult to rely on these figures. Nevertheless, Notis Mitarachi is the Minister of Migration and Asylum, so he could defend his statement with figures on the number of rejected asylum applications, but he has not done so. Since there is no data to claim, it is uncheckable.
The 1951 Refugee Convention, a European Convention of the UN Refugee Agency, makes it mandatory to protect human rights. The treaty states that member states must guarantee the right to apply for asylum and protection and must protect people against refoulement, even if they enter a country irregularly (deviating from the rule). Refoulement is the return of refugees to their country of origin if they fear persecution. Notis Mitarachi’s ruling is contrary to the treaty, because he has handled the applications but he has seen the ‘illegal’ migrants as refugees and not as people. Therefor False.
Amnesty International has investigated: “Pushback practices and their impact on the human rights of migrants’ and ‘Refugees and migrants still lack security and asylum at Europe’s borders’. Amnesty International describes the situation as follows: “Years after Amnesty International first reported pushbacks of refugees and migrants from Greece in 2013, Greece continues to violently and illegally return people to Turkey, in violation of their human rights obligations under EU and international law. Amnesty International documented 21 new incidents of summary, illegal return from Greece to Turkey, often involving arbitrary detention and violence, in some cases amounting to torture. The EU has also repeatedly failed to hold Greece accountable for these grave violations, ultimately reinforcing the practice and tacitly authorizing it to continue inaction.”
This investigation therefore shows that Greece is illegally transferring refugees as well as migrants to Turkey, which is in violation of international law. Notis Mitarachi invokes international law, but according to Amnesty International he violates this law. It is difficult to find numbers of these, because not all migrants or refugees are registered in Greece. On the one hand that is logical because Greece is doing this in an illegal way. On the other hand, this also proves that Greece cannot speak of 7 out of 10 of the illegal migrants who are not refugees, because some migrants are missing. Here the Minister makes the third mistake in his statement.
We rate the statement as mostly false. Firstly, the ruling is based on figures for which no concrete data is available. Concrete figures about the number of asylum applications, but not about the number of rejected asylum applications, which is what the Minister of Migration and Asylum refers to in his statement. Second, Notis Mitarachi considers all illegal migrants to be refugees and not human beings. The Refugee Convention has therefore not been taken into account, because it states that people must be protected against refoulement, even if they enter a country irregularly. In addition, Greece illegally transfers migrants to Turkey in violation of their human rights obligations under EU and international law. That means Notis Mitarachi’s statement about the illegal migrants and the association with ‘no refugees’ is incorrect, because he invokes international law and Greece violates it, according to the Amnesty International report.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE: Britt Vaanholt, Julia van der Werff
Leave our comments, thoughts and suggestions in the box below. Take note: your respons is moderated.