LEGAL AID FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN GREECE

by A.Ss.I.S.T
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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
Statistics - Enquiries
Statistics - Enquiries

 

A.Ss.I.S.T. 's decision to remain on Chios and to continue to work remotely together with the initiative to establish a presence in Athens appears to be a good strategy, at least insofar as indicated in  the final quarter of 2021 with increased demand for our services in both locations. 

Every month, the number of people arriving on Chios by boat from Turkey seeking international protection increased.  (Insert numbers graph:  Oct:  54   Nov:    91 December:  225 Total:  370 persons.   Marked by the tragic loss of life close to the shores of Chios and, sadly, by the loss of life amongst those seeking safety in Europe and who are opting for more dangerous routes bypassing the Aegean Islands towards Italy.  Media reports of the Greek authorities pushing boats back to Turkey, even after the boats have landed on Greek shores, continue and there is growing evidence that thousands of people have been pushed back to Turkey.  No doubt that this is why the authorities could affirm in the media last Quarter that they have effectively reduced the flows of migration by 95% on the islands.

The sea and land borders with Turkey remain officially closed which means that many of those whose applications for international protection have failed and their legal options are exhausted are either in detention or in limbo without papers and without any form of social support. 

OVERVIEW

The number of consultations this quarter increased significantly from 114 to 158, referrals from Athens more than tripled, while consultations with Chios based clients increased by 30% and there was a slight increase also in the number of referrals from elsewhere in Greece.  Interview preparations doubled, appeals and subsequent applications increased by 50%.  AGLs interventions with the authorities is commensurate with the increased caseload.  As previously stated, the increased caseload reflects the increase in the number of arrivals seeking international protection on Chios.  Increased referrals from Athens and mainland, we hope, is symptomatic of successful networking and partnering with other NGOs.

INFORMATION SERVICES

A.Ss.I.S.T. 's office help line continues to respond to enquiries on a daily basis (Monday to Friday), in the six main languages: Amharic, Arabic, English, Farsi, French, Lingala and Somali. Both text and voice messages are received, and responses given in the language of the messages received. Legal questions are referred to our AGLs and VLAs. Some questions require consultations with the lawyers.  Other enquiries receive responses in accordance to guidance given by the Legal Representative or by standard accepted responses. The Office and Client Services Manager, focal point for all client enquiries, has developed a spreadsheet documenting frequently asked questions, a useful tool for responding quickly and for training in-coming volunteers. Appointments to consult with our VLAs and AGLs are also made via the office WhatsApp.  The number of enquiries received are now captured in the Contact Log together with the number of approaches made by our AGLS  to the authorities on behalf of A.Ss.I.S.T. clients. 

Information Sessions - development of presentations

On 15 October, the AGLs led an in-house workshop to review the draft documents to be used as reference materials for the development of scripts for the Information Sessions that A.Ss.I.S.T. anticipates delivering in 2022.  In early November, two foundation documents were completed.  The first outlining the full application procedure applicable on the Islands and the second document with the requisite variations as applied to those arriving on the mainland.   These documents serve as the legal reference documents for  the script for information sessions to be delivered by video presentation.  In November-December, the VLAs and Information Manager worked together on the content and design of the new, updated materials to cover the four main stages of the asylum application procedure.

On 13 & 14 December 2022,  in-house workshops on the draft scripts for the Information Session presentations were held.  All Team members were present to provide feedback on   draft scripts for four presentations and two draft audio-visual presentations. All four presentations will be duly translated into the languages relevant to the applicants for, and beneficiaries of, international protection. Although included briefly in the above presentations, two more presentations on Subsequent Applications and Family reunification are proposed.   

The development of these materials has been much slower than anticipated due to the fact that priority must be given to serving the clients in immediate need.   Many of the legal aid services involve deadlines for clients (interviews and appeals) and there has been a steady increase in the demand for A.Ss.I.S.T. 's legal services, interview preparations and appeals.

 Independent expertise will be available to A.Ss.I.S.T. in February 2022 to finalise English presentations before initiating the Language Team project.  The services of a Consultant with the requisite legal expertise will ensure the timely completion of the scripts.  The Language Team project will draw on the expertise and experience of all previous and current A.Ss.I.S.T. interpreters/translators. Teams of 2 to 4 people will be formed for each language group to work together on translation and quality assurance of the content in each language to be submitted for review by an independent language expert.   A project proposal incorporating the independent legal expertise and the translations of the materials into 6 languages with an estimated budget of  Euros 6,500 has been drafted ready for fundraising initiatives.

 LEGAL AID

As our statistics (attached to this Report)  illustrate over this reporting period, the number of legal consultations has increased over time, reflecting both the increase in the number of new arrivals requiring legal assistance and the growing number of referrals from elsewhere in Greece. 

In October 2021, UNHCR requested that A.Ss.I.S.T. and other legal actors to appeal on behalf of new arrivals against COVID19 fines of Euros 5000 being imposed for entering Greece without an authorised vaccination certificate.  Based on the prior experience of our Greek lawyers to fight COVID19 fines in 2020, A.Ss.I.S.T. declined to provide this service.  By December it was clear that A.Ss.I.S.T.’s decision was well founded.  All appeals by other legal actors failed and will now be taken forward to the court at the cost of Euros 260.00 for court fees. A.Ss.I.S.T. cannot justify using donor funds on this procedure. 

UNHCR also informed other legal actors that charges for illegal entry are being made against new arrivals and mobile phones confiscated.  Until international protection is claimed formally and new arrivals are so registered they remain ‘illegal immigrants’.  The charges for illegal entry are based on Art. 82 of Law No, 3386/2005 and authorities can retain mobile phones legally on the basis that the ‘illegal immigrant’ or applicant for international protection remains under investigation.  

If mobile phones have not been returned to them, then, if international protection is granted, A.Ss.I.S.T. lawyers can approach the police to have them returned.  

According to our contacts on Lesvos, Samos and the mainland, these fines are not issued and criminal charges are not laid.  Apparently, and to our knowledge,  these practices are on Chios only.

Afghanistan related developments

In late October, the International Bar Association (IBA)  based in London approached A.Ss.I.S.T. and three of our partner legal aid organisations to provide legal aid to the 106  women judges, lawyers and journalists and their families who had arrived recently in Athens on 60 day visas issued at the behest of the President of Greece.   The cases of these evacuees are not as straightforward as those of Afghan new arrivals on Chios as many of these clients had initiated procedures for asylum in diverse EU countries, Australia and the US before the fall of Kabul and their evacuation.  

By end-November 2021, IBA had referred 4 Afghan women judges and their families to A.Ss.I.S.T. for legal consultations.

A.Ss.I.S.T. operates on a first come, first served basis with appointments postponed only when the specific client’s case has no firm deadline. A.Ss.I.S.T. does not discriminate by nationality or ‘high profile’ requests received.  All cases are accepted based on our capacity to provide legal aid; the availability of our lawyers is monitored via calendar appointments.  Some forms of legal assistance have firm deadlines and priority must be given to clients’ immediate needs: interview preparations and appeal submissions have clear deadlines, while, for example, subsequent applications have no specific deadlines until accepted by the Asylum Services.

Following the developments in Afghanistan,  our associate Greek lawyers are also reviewing all  case records for Afghan clients as there may now be sound arguments for Afghans to counter some negative decisions and for some clients to receive international protection by subsequent applications. AGLs  will now make their recommendations as to which cases may  proceed with subsequent applications.

Subsequent applications

With yet another change in Asylum Services procedures, A.Ss.I.S.T. AGLs can no longer book appointments for applicants being supported for Subsequent Applicationsin Athens.  Appointments now must be made by the applicant only and this via Skype.  Skype services with the Asylum Services have been notoriously inaccessible.

The AGLs briefed some interested parties via video link responding to queries related to Subsequent Applications and  clarifying the requirements for their submission.  It was agreed that A.Ss.I.S.T.  AGLs would examine cases and provide a legal opinion as to whether requirements to proceed with a subsequent application are met.  This is, however, time consuming for each case, as the lawyer needs to have full access to the file and review all documents pertaining to the case.  Aware that few legal aid actors are doing subsequent applications, A.Ss.I.S.T. will accept cases in accordance with our capacity: interview preparations and appeals have precise and short deadlines and therefore will continue to have priority, subsequent applications have no time limits.

Guardianship and Custody

In November, there were several cases of single parents seeking legal advice and aid to receive legal custody or guardianship of their children.  This is a procedure required in order to receive Greek resident IDs and travel documents.  The cost involved ranges from Euros 250 to just under Euros 1,000. There are legislated costs involved in such cases:  under government regulations, our AGLs are required to charge fees separate to their contracts and other costs are those of the notary and the court.

COVID19 continues..

In November 2021, the Greek government introduced new COVID19 restrictions. These new restrictions require all persons entering all public services to show an authorised vaccination certificate or a PCR negative test from an authorised provider.   Most of our clients have not had access to a vaccination program and PCR tests are not free, on Chios, they cost Euros 8/test and on the mainland Euros 10/test.

A.Ss.I.S.T. decided that it was necessary to pay for authorised COVID19 tests @ Euros 8/test as, without a certificate to this effect, our clients cannot enter the Citizen Services Bureau to have Powers of Attorney authorised, or the police station to progress their IDs and other applications, or even the Asylum Services in order to sign an Act of Appeal.  The tests are valid for 48 hours so, on some occasions, A.Ss.I.S.T. has had to pay for two tests for one client:  Power of Attorney followed several days later with lodging an Act of Appeal.  No other solution has been found to resolve this problem and allow legal requirements to go forward.  

Appeals

Since January 2021, our AGLs have submitted 86 appeals: of which 16 failed and 20 succeeded. The remainder of appeals are pending recording or decisions.  Our Associate Greek lawyers have done an amazing job.   

In the first Quarter of 2022,  we are looking forward to the

  • Opening of our office in Athens;
  • Completion of audio-visual materials for presentation at Information Sessions;
  • Recruitment of at least 2 paid positions supported by several volunteers; and 
  • Growth and expansion of our services  in Chios and in Athens. 
  • Publication of our End of Year Report 2021. 

Our renewed thanks to our Board and members, to our loyal donors and partners and last, but by no means least, to our Team members all!  

Thank you for taking the time to read this Report. 






Statistics  Legal Aid
Statistics Legal Aid
Legal Aid - languages and nationalities
Legal Aid - languages and nationalities
Statistics - Family and Gender
Statistics - Family and Gender
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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. 


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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:


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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.”


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Organization Information

A.Ss.I.S.T

Location: Chios, Northern Aegean - Greece
Website:
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Project Leader:
josephine chan
Chios, Greece
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