28 September 2010
EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has spent two days in Athens to discuss the Greek asylum system. This is how she sums up the situation: "I am cautiously optimistic, but the work is gigantic and will take time."
Greece has been having problems with their asylum system for a long time. With a long coast line that is also part of the EU border, Greece receives many refugees and asylum applicants, not least from Africa.
"The reception of asylum seekers does not work, people are being held under horrific conditions, and there are close to 50 000 people who have been waiting for years to get their asylum applications processed", says Cecilia Malmström and underlines that the European Commission has several ongoing so called infringement procedures against Greece as the country is violating EU law.
"The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has also been very critical towards the way people are being treated in Greece", she continues.
During her days in Greece, Cecilia Malmström visited a detention centre at Athens airport and met with Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou and several of his colleagues in the Greek government. She has also had conversations with representatives for non-governmental organisations, who in practice have taken over the work of the responsible authorities in giving support to asylum seekers.
According to Malmström, the Greek government seems determined to deal with the problem:
"The government has adopted a very ambitious action plan that the Commission fully supports. But now, it has to be implemented."
The European Commission and several Member States have offered to help Greece both financially and in the form of experts and other work force in order to contribute to building up the new asylum system from scratch.
Read the political declaration that was reached by the European Commission and Greece yesterday, about cooperating in reforming the Greek asylum system.