Finland holding back on returning asylum seekers to Greece
Concerns arise over due process
Finland has is taking a more cautious view on sending back asylum seekers who have arrived in Finland after being rejected by Greece.
Under European Union rules, an asylum seeker from outside the EU, whose application has been examined and rejected by one EU country, should be sent back to that country if he or she arrives in another part of the EU.
Concerns have arisen recently that Greek authorities have not lived up to their obligation to properly examine the validity of asylum applications by new arrivals.
Civic organisations have complained that Greece has been examining asylum applications in a cursory manner. Greece also suffers from a shortage of interpreters, for instance.
Finland has demanded that Greece give assurances that all asylum seekers sent back to Greece will be treated according to EU standards.
"The certification must guarantee that the person in question will be given access to the asylum process", said Astrid Thors (Swed. People's Party), the Minister of European and Migration Affairs, speaking in Luxembourg on Friday. Finland is especially concerned about families with children, asylum-seekers who are underage, and those who suffer health problems. The policy is basically not to send them back to Greece at all.
Each year between 10 and 20 families arrive in Finland whose asylum application should be handled in Greece, under EU rules.
Thors says that it has become increasingly difficult to get assurances from Greece that those who are being sent back to the country will be treated properly.
Norway is also examining cases involving Greece more closely, and Sweden has blocked the return to Greece of a disabled asylum seeker. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has also expressed concern about the situation in Greece.
The problems that Greece is having with the handling of its asylum applications were discussed at a meeting of the ministers of justice and internal affairs of the EU countries on Friday.
Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told journalists that everything will be done to improve the situation.
"However, Greece is no Scandinavian country", Pavlopoulos said, adding that geographical factors and a lack of funds makes the country's situation more difficult.
A representative of the European Commission says that Greece has been provided with EUR 5.5 million in recent years to modernise its asylum procedures.