Athens,22 April 2020

PRESS RELEASE

Subject: «The observations of GTSA on the consulted of Draft Law for the” Improvement of Immigration Legislation, Amendment of Provisions of Law 4636/2019, 4375/2016, 4251/2014 and other provisions».

The Greek Transgender Support Association (GTSA), a voluntary non-governmental organization that promotes the rights and freedoms of trans, gender-diverse and and LGBTI persons, in general, with this press release,as well as sex workers, submits its proposals on the Draft Law on “Improvement of Immigration Legislation, Amendment of Provisions of Laws 4636/2019, 4375/2016, 4251/2014 and other provisions”, which was put to consultation in April 10, 2020. [1]

Specifically, our observations by article are as follows:

Article 1 | Amendment of Article 39 of Law 4636/2019.

Amendment of paragraph 3 of Article 39: This describes how to inform (language) third-country nationals or stateless persons. The language must be the language they speak (the phrase “reasonably considered to be understood” has been added to the amendment). Nothing can be considered or left as reasonable, certainty is required that foreign persons become recipients of the information. And this can only be done in the language they speak, as a serious issue arises as to whoand by what objective criteria will this be ascertained.

Amendment of paragraph 5(δ), of Article 39: Because this amendment concerns persons defined as vulnerable, we have the obligation to reiterate our position that there is a need to amend Article 20, paragraph 3 (definition of vulnerable persons) and consequently the relevant section of Article 39.
In particular, it should be noted that the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder in the group of vulnerabilities is vital to prioritize the procedures governing reception, identification, medical recording and psychosocial assessment and examination of applications for international protection.

In addition, according to the European Parliament’s Report on March 10, 2016, point 12 calls on Member States to establish special procedures for vulnerable persons, both in asylum and reception procedures, etc., including LGBTI persons. In fact, it mentions [2] : «12. Underlines that, even in countries deemed safe, women may suffer gender-based persecution, while LGBTI people may also be subjected to abuse, and thus have a legitimate request for protection; urges all Member States to combat harmful stereotypes about the behaviour and characteristics of LGBTI women and to fully apply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in respect of their asylum claims; stresses the need for LGBTI-sensitive reception facilities across all Member States; highlights that violence against LGBTI individuals is common in reception facilities».

With this in mind, we consider it appropriate to include in the criteria for vulnerability and persons for reasons of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics. Especially for refugees for reasons of gender identity, many violations of human rights have been recorded (conditions of detention / reception points and housing, etc., where incidents of extreme violence, even rape, have been recorded). Therefore, we consider it legitimate and necessary in all the Articles of Draft Law that refer to vulnerability to be included for the above reasons, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics. Note that the same applies to Articles 20 and 39, and Article 58 respectively.

Now for the amendment itself:
In paragraph 5(δ), of Article 39, the consequences of defining a person as vulnerable change: the persons defined in this case as vulnerable, it is pointed out that the only consequence is the immediate coverage of their special reception needs, and not the absolute priority of examining the application, as stated in the previous wording, while a slightly positive change is made as in the relatives of the deceased, as in addition to parents and siblings the children and spouses are added (although we should repeat that consistently as necessary, the amendment of Article 23 of Law 4636/2019, in order to be in accordance with paragraph 5 of the EU Directive incorporating -2011 / 95 / EU[3] – and refers to the application to other close relatives as part of the family).

Amendment of the last subparagraph 1(γ) of par. 6 of article 39: The time of referral and examination is reduced, which should now be completed in 15 days (out of 20) which we consider to be very small so that the request is examined well.
The point αα’ of subparagraph 2 (γ), paragraph 6 of Article 39 is deleted: This provision has classified persons who are in a state of restriction of liberty to vulnerable persons, in order to follow more fast procedures. Although we generally believe that such speedy procedures limit the adequacy of a good examination of the request, the removal of persons in detention from this regime, in essence, extends their detention time, which is in accordance with the guidelines of all international organizations should be avoided.

In addition, to all of the above, the other provisions of Article 39: it is necessary to determine the criteria on the basis of which it can be considered that “it is possible that the applicant has damaged or discarded a malicious identity document or travel document that would help determine their identity or nationality” (sub-indent ηη’), or “the applicant has submitted the application only to delay or prevent the execution of an earlier or impending decision to deport him or otherwise remove him” (sub-indent θθ’). These formalities allow for arbitrary judgments and must either remove or clarify the criteria. This is repeated in other articles.

Article 2 | Amendment of Article 46 of Law 4636/2019.

Amendment of the second subparagraph of paragraph 4 of Article 46: In this amendment, the phrase has been completely removed: “In any case, the detention order shall be taken by the persons referred to in subparagraph (α’) of this paragraph after an individual assessment and shall contain a complete thorough reasoning “. We consider it necessary to keep this provision, which imposes an individual assessment and a thorough reasoning.

Amendment of paragraph 9 of Article 46: Here, the decision of the appeal is further reduced, from 20 days to 10, in accordance with Article 92 of this law (Appeals Authority) for detainees. We consider that the 10 days for the issuance of a decision, although for the persons who are in custody (which should be the exception according to the instructions of all international organizations) this time should not be extended, the 10 days are too long little time and possibly not enough to secure the process.

In addition, we should point out the other provisions of Article 46 which are not amended to: The provisions of this paragraph are cumulatively extremely problematic as they do not correspond so well to the letter and the substance of community and international law and jurisprudence which clearly state that the detention measure must be of the shortest possible duration. On the contrary, there is a provision not to take into account during the detention the other periods of detention that have been imposed in the context of other procedures (Law 3386/2005 and Law 3907/2011), is extremely problematic, as it will lead to a significant increase in duration of detention for more than 18 months, up to 36 months (cumulatively 18 as an applicant and 18 for removal). In addition, different regulations are involved that are contrary to the jurisprudence of the WEU and violate Articles 26 and 31 of the 1951Geneva Convention in conjunction with Articles 9 and 12 of the International Covention on Civil and Political Rights.

Article 5 | Amendment of Article 63 of Law 4636/2019.

Amendment of Article 63(η’): This provision changes the possibility of filing a subsequent request after a decision of the Appeals Committee (final decision), at the end of the legal aid (Article 108 of the law). That is, the process of a later request is difficult and this is clearly negative, as the importance of the subsequent requests is particularly important when new data emerge that were not submitted in the previous stages.

Article 8 | Amendment of Article 70 of Law 4636/2019

It should be noted here that provisions are being amended to make the process more difficult, while it should be amended, as we have pointed out earlier in paragraph 2 of this Article, which refers to specific countries of origin that reduce the duration of the asylum card and especially the point it states: “Taking into account the expected duration of the issuance of a decision in the first instance and if the official statistics of the European Union show that the rate of granting international protection to applicants from that country, in the previous two quarters, it is lower than thirty-five (35%) “. This is in direct conflict with EU law. This is completely arbitrary to talk about specific countries and percentages.

Article 9 | Amendment of Article 71 of Law 4636/2019

Amendment of paragraph 3 of Article 71: In this provision, a very important amendment is made, which clearly violates the rule of law. Specifically: In the case of requests against the Appeals Authorities, in any case (under the status of the older law 4375/2016, of course) the right of legal assistance to the requested person was granted. This is changed at the request of the foreign person within two days, which is examined by the President of the Committee (or the Judge’s Rapporteur) and is accepted only if the positive outcome of the case is probable.(How? by what objective criteria? and how can this be “probable” in any way before the lawyer presents arguments?). This amendment is a violation of the rule of law, and is far from the provisions of the Geneva Convention. It essentially abolishes the right to free legal aid. It must be clearly withdrawn.

Article 11 | Amendment of Article 77 of Law 4636/2019.

An amendment to this paragraph added to paragraph 7 of Article 77, giving the possibility of omission if the applicant does not wish to conduct the interview in the language of the country of origin (or to choose one of the languages when the country of origin has more than one language ). We reiterate that the interview should always be conducted in the language spoken by the applicant, while we consider it unacceptable to omit the procedure when this is not done.
Furthermore, however, it should be noted that it is necessary to amend paragraph 1, which allows for personal interviews by personnel of either the Greek Police or personnel of the Armed Forces.

Article 13 | Amendment of Article 79 of Law 4636/2019.

To this amendment, a paragraph is added that states that exceptional changes may be made even after the final decision, however, we consider particularly important, as we have pointed out before, the amendment of paragraph 4 of this Article which will give the possibility of changing the gender and name registration data, following the relevant case law of the Thessaloniki Magistrates’ Court[4] , which was recently confirmed by Mytilene[5] regarding the change of data on transgender refugee. On the other hand, Council of Europe Resolution 2048/2015 clearly states that gender changes procedures must be carried out in a speedy manner. That is why we consider it necessary to add to this point the amendment of data on gender as well.

Article 16 | Amendment of paragraph 7 of Article 83:

With this amendment, the examination time is reduced even more in already rapid examinations, from 20 days to 15 and we consider this to become even more problematic.

Article 17 | Amendment of Article 86 of Law 4643/2019.

Amendment of paragraph 2 of Article 86: To this amendment, although it is added at the end of this paragraph (the self-evident) that: “In the latter case (where the country of origin is included in the list of safe countries) the applicant for international protection may oppose the application of the concept of safe third country, citing the fact that the third country is not safe under the specific conditions in which he/she finds himself/herself “, however, we reiterate the great danger of arbitrarily designating countries as safe, as there are countries that may generally be considered safe, but according to Amnesty International, have been 72 United Nations countries (and other four tested) that the first or second way criminalize sexual orientation or gender identity. There is a high risk of arbitrary crises here. For us, these reports are very problematic and given the fact that these two articles refer to other articles on speedy procedures, we will have a big, maximum problem, as we pointed out in our previous press release[6]. Our observation also concerns, for the same reasons, Article 87 of the same law.

Article 18 | Amendment of Article 88 of Law 4636/2019.

Addition of a third paragraph to Article 88: A paragraph is added here which defines as unfounded the request for international protection “in case (s.s. the person requesting it) wants to avoid a general state of emergency”. It is not clear at all what exactly the legislator means – clarity is required so that there are objective criteria.

Article 19 | Amendment of Article 89 of Law 4636/2019.

This amendment applies to subsequent applications, where it is removed – among other things – that “no extradition decision is enforced, provided that the applicant invokes a fear of prosecution in the requested State”. We believe that it should remain, although it is stated that: “until the completion of the administrative procedure for the examination of the subsequent application during the preliminary stage, the execution of any measure of deportation, return or in any way of removal shall be suspended”.

Article 25 | Amendment of Article 98 of Law 4636/2019.

Addition of a third paragraph to Article 98: Here the addition made to Article 9 (Article 71 of Law 4636/2019) on the “probability of a successful outcome of the exit” is repeated. Nothing can be speculated and nothing can be left to discretion. This is bad legislation.

Article 26 | Amendment of Article 99 of Law 4643/2019.

Here we do not understand why in the way of submitting a memorandum, the phrase was removed: “With the same memorandum he can make both vague and obscure allegations.” In our opinion, it should remain, as the requests to the Appeals Committees are based on this fact.

Article 27 | Amendment of Article 101 of Law 4636/2019.

Here, in par. 1, the time for the issuance of the decision is reduced again from 40 days, to 20. We must reiterate once again that time must in any case be sufficient and practically applicable to the issuance of decisions.

Article 29 | Amendment of Article 105 of Law 4636/2019.

Here the repeal of the first degree retrieval is repeated. We reiterate our position that this process was exceptional in cases where there were very blatant errors in the decision, and it is necessary.

In addition to all of the above, we should point out once again that it is necessary to amend:

a) Article 10, par. 1, point δ: Initially, we consider positive that the provision of the EU directive concerning particular social groups is incorporated, and there are included in ii) sexual orientation and gender identity in the reasons for persecution, as well as it also happened in previous EU directives. However, sex characteristics (intersex individuals) must also be added, for legal reasons, as sex characteristics are included in all relevant Greek rights protection laws[7]. Therefore, for reasons of good legislation, for technical reasons, it is necessary for us to have compatible laws, to be added after gender identity and sex characteristics.

In addition, for legal reasons, in addition to sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics, the granted characteristics must be added in relation to par. 2στ) of Law 4443/2016 (discrimination for reasons of granted characteristics), and in particular its of Piraeus Administrative Court of Appeals (401/2019) which in this case annulled the decision of the Independent Appeals Committee not to grant asylum to a citizen of Ghana, as according to the decision of the PACA, the Commission did not legally examine the allegation of applicant, according to him, although heterosexual, the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin, due to his granted sexual orientation.

Finally, we consider it appropriate to add a provision of compliance with the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) of 2 December 2014 (StaatssecretretarisvanVeiligheidenJustitie – joined cases C ‑ 148/13 to C- 150/13), where the Grant Chamber of the CJEU states[8] : “69. However, having regard to the sensitive nature of questions relating to a person’s personal identity and, in particular, his sexuality, it cannot be concluded that the declared sexuality lacks credibility simply because, due to his reticence in revealing intimate aspects of his life, that person did not declare his homosexuality at the outset”.To this end, we propose the addition of a provision as follows: “Persecution may also constitute involuntary or voluntary coercion of denial or concealment of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics in the country of origin.”

In total, we propose the rewriting of point δii of par. 1 of Article 10 as follows:

 

 

 


«ii) the group has a special identity in the familiar country, because it is perceived as a different group from the surrounding social space. Depending on the circumstances prevailing in the country of origin, a particular social group may include a group based on the common characteristics of gender, age, disability or health status or sexual orientation. When determining participation in a particular social group or identifying a group’s characteristics, gender-related aspects are taken into account, including gender identity or sex characteristics. The dimensions of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics include the reasons for persecution for reasons of granted characteristics. Prosecution may also be involuntary or voluntary coercion to deny or conceal sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics in the country of origin.

 

 

b) Article 111 as the time limits for issuing decisions becomes suffocating and this is certain that will create practical problems.

c) Article 116, par. 7(α,β,γ) , as in accordance with these provisions, the composition of the Independent Committees will be exclusively judicial officers. Specifically, the provision of par. 3 amends the composition and provides that they consist of three judicial officers. This is clearly unconstitutional, as it makes a purely judicial administrative body, and violates Article 8 of the Constitution (prohibition of judicial committees) in conjunction with Article 26, paragraph 3 (judicial function is exercised by the courts). Furthermore, with regard to the envisaged single-member composition of the Independent Appeals Committees, the Council of State has already ruled that this is not constitutionally permissible[9] . On the contrary, the participation of a representative of the UNHCR, whose members are selected after examinations, has all the guarantees of sufficient knowledge of refugee law and independence that ensures the process.

Finally, in addition to the Draft Law under consultation, the Joint Ministerial Decision of JMD 3063/2020 “Determining the operation of the Register of Greek and Foreign NGOs and the Register of NGO Members[10] , should be noted:

(a) In Article 11: “Conditions and Documents for Registration in the Register of NGO Members”, par. a (α) it is stipulated that for the registration of members of NGOs, “they must not have been convicted of any criminal offense (except those of the Road Traffic Code)”. This, in addition to not being in line with the necessary social integration policies of convicted persons, excludes persons convicted of sex work.

(b) In Article 12: (Procedure for registration in the Register of NGO Members), par. 3, it is stipulated that: “3. In addition to the above conditions and the required supporting documents, the Special Secretary for the Coordination of Bodies shall in any case reserve the right to verify the information submitted with all the competent state authorities and the right to do so in combination with all the above, concerning the personality and the action of the applicants until then the registration of natural persons and at his/her discretion , to reject the application for registration of the natural person ». It should be noted here that this is an unacceptable arrangement, as it is at the discretion of a person to decide on arbitrary criteria concerning the “personality” of a person and is not in any sense consistent with the rule of law.

The Greek Transgender Support Association, submits the above proposals, and calls on the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum to review the growing policy of restricting the rights of applicants for international protection, some of which are within the limits of constitutionality (if they do not exceed them) as well as within the limits of international asylum guarantees, while these amendments further minimize adequate guarantees for asylum procedures, such as the abolition of the provision of free legal aid and with the abolition of interviews in case of the examinee does not speak the official language of the country of origin, as well as the reduction of restrictive measures of freedom or detention, as an exception (as required by international law), as a rule.

 

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
GREEK TRANSGENDER SUPPORT ASSOCIATION
SYNGROU 79, 3rd FLOOR, ATHENS, 11745
Tel. 210.9210697

Office hours: Monday to Friday

http://www.tgender.gr http://www.transgender-association.gr/

contact@tgender.gr transgender.support.association@gmail.com

 

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[1]http://www.opengov.gr/immigration/?p=1423

[2] Report on the situation of women refugees and asylum seekers in the EU.

[3]https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EL/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32011L0095

[4]Extremely important case law: Changing gender marker registration for transgender refugees.

[5]Change of name, gender registration and progressive interpretation of the adaptation of the surname of a refugee trans woman 

[6]See relevant GTSA Press Release: “The GTSA expresses its deep concern about the Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) that arbitrarily defines safe countries of origin of asylum seekers.

[7]For example: a) Article 82A of the Penal Code – a crime with racist characteristics, b) Law 4443/2016 – legislation for equal treatment, c) Law 927/1979, Article 1, par. 1, as amended by Article 7, par. 2 of Law 4491/2017.

[8]Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) 2 December 2014 (StaatssecretarisvanVeiligheidenJustitie – Joined Cases C‑148/13 έως C‑150/13)

[9]According to a decision of the Council of State: “the assignment to a judicial officer of administrative duties of a single-member body is not allowed, regardless of whether or not this body has a disciplinary, control or judicial character. This is because in the case of a single-member body, liability is personified to the fullest extent, resulting in a risk of questioning the validity of the judicial officer’s decision to challenge his/her decisions as a single-member administrative body. 

[10]JMD 3063/2020