Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece

by European Lawyers in Lesvos
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Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Help Defend Legal Rights for Refugees in Greece
Lesvos New Camp
Lesvos New Camp

Although arrivals have dropped since the start of the year, tens of thousands of asylum seekers remain stranded on the Greek islands.

In September, a series of devastating fires destroyed Moria camp on Lesvos (including ELIL’s field offices), displacing its over 12,000 residents. They have since been moved into a new camp near Kara Tepe, where poor living conditions have been compounded by flooding following the first autumn rains. There have also been relatively regular transfers of people from Lesvos to the mainland in recent weeks.

For legal organisations on Lesvos, access to the new camp remains a grave concern. There are currently no spaces available for legal consultations/protection activities that comply with confidentiality requirements and Covid-19 precautionary measures. NGOs have published a joint statement calling for a suspension of asylum procedures on the island until applicants are able to exercise their rights under a fair and effective asylum procedure.

Vathy camp in Samos has remained under lockdown since the first Covid-19 cases were detected on 15 September. On 12 October, the lockdown was extended with limited concessions. The asylum procedure and all asylum interviews are also suspended. As no asylum seekers are allowed to leave Vathy camp, we have been unable to provide any in-person consultations for over a month. On 30 October, a strong earthquake shook the island, damaging many buildings including ELIL’s offices and killing two school children.

Over the past six months, ELIL has provided legal assistance to over 600 people, working on 350 cases. We helped over 200 people be reunited with family members elsewhere in Europe, enabling them to travel on from the Aegean islands, and supported in 33 age assessment cases.

Along with in-person assistance, our volunteer lawyers from across Europe have also begun to provide consultations remotely from home, ensuring that we are able to support as many people as possible despite lockdown restrictions and challenges to legal access.

In October, the Greece Pro Bono Collaborative, a joint effort between ELIL and six law firms, was selected as the recipient of three separate awards in recognition o its work to provide legal assistance in Greece. ELIL was also honoured to receive the 2020 UIA/LexisNexis Rule of Law Award. 

This year has so far brought many challenges that have eroded legal access for asylum seekers in Greece, from the fire in Moria to the Covid-19 outbreaks on both Samos and Lesvos and the increasingly strict asylum framework in Greece. In this context, guaranteeing meaningful access to legal support is more important than ever. We take this opportunity to thank you again for your support. 

Moria Fire, Photo by: Yousif Al Shewaili
Moria Fire, Photo by: Yousif Al Shewaili
ELIL legal assistance
ELIL legal assistance

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"I am very much looking forward to launching the Samos project. Over the past two months on Lesvos, I have had the opportunity to work closely with the team, building trust and learning from their excellent work. It has been fascinating to observe how much ELIL has developed since I was first in Greece, growing and expanding to meet the need for legal assistance. I hope to work with many friends old and new on Samos soon."

Anna Graff - Samos Project Manager

There are over 7,000 asylum seekers on Samos, most of whom have fled Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq in search of safety from war and persecution. Almost all of them live in Vathy camp, which has an official capacity of just 700. There is no state-provided legal aid available before the critical interview that determines whether or not they will be granted asylum. The only way an asylum seeker can receive legal assistance is therefore through one of the very few NGOs on the island.

The need for legal assistance on Samos is greater than ever, as currently there are only 5 lawyers working to support this vulnerable population, and the camp itself is more than 10 times over capacity. In particular, there is an urgent need to provide legal assistance to the estimated 400 unaccompanied/separated minors on the island, many seeking reunification with family. In addition, many unaccompanied minors are incorrectly registered as adults. Based on our experience in Lesvos, we estimate that we will be able to provide legal assistance to approximately 3,000 asylum seekers per year on Samos, through one-on-one legal consultations and/or group legal information sessions.

Over the past months we have been working hard to build a team (project officer, Greek lawyer, interpreters and communications officer) and ensure the sustainability of the expansion. The launch was delayed by lockdown measures imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19. However, with the project officer and Greek lawyer now in place on the island, consultations are set to start in the coming weeks. 

We take this opportunity to thank you for helping us uphold the rule of law and protect the human rights of thousands of vulnerable people on Samos. 

We would also like to remind you that July 15 is GlobalGiving Bonus Day: donations made to ELIL on this day will be matched up to 50%. If you are planning to renew your support, we would ask you to consider this date to do so. 

Samos Port
Samos Port
ELIL at work
ELIL at work
Aegean landing
Aegean landing
Vathy camp
Vathy camp

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Organization Information

European Lawyers in Lesvos

Location: Berlin - Germany
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ELIL_Greece
European Lawyers in Lesvos
Clara Marshall
Project Leader:
Clara Marshall
Berlin, Germany

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