Renewal of residence permits in Greece – Trapped in the oblivion of the law

Greece: The Ministry of Migration and Asylum in Greece is facing complaints regarding its handling of the renewal of residence permits for beneficiaries of international and subsidiary protection.

The website of the Ministry for the renewal of residence permits has not been updated since October 6, 2020, leaving many refugees in a state of uncertainty.

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A large number of beneficiaries of international or subsidiary protection have not been able to renew their residence permits and only receive a certificate valid for six months confirming that the renewal is pending.

This can cause serious problems in many areas of refugees’ lives, including employment and insurance. Despite carrying these certificates, many refugees have reported being taken to police stations and detained for hours, with officers claiming to check the validity of the temporary certificates.

The procedures require submitting a completed renewal application and a digital photograph to the Asylum Service via email, and a fine of €100 is imposed if the application is not submitted at least 30 days before the expiry of the existing permit.

However, the posting of the application to the Asylum Service database can take months due to the backlog of pending applications for the renewal of the ADET (Uniform Residence Permit), while the service also checks applications under the filter of “reasons of public order or security” “, the which may prevent the renewal of the residence permit. In practice, this review can take several months.

I met Mansour at the end of December 2021. He waited 11 months to receive his ID/residence permit card, which would be valid for one year. This means that once he has received the identity card, he should immediately send a request to extend his stay, as it will expire soon. “I only received one email reply confirming that my request had been received and that too after a long time .” What does this mean; He told me: “I have subsidiary protection status, and I have to renew my residence permit every year, but I haven’t received the identity card for a long time. In the end, neither my lawyer nor I were able to do anything about it .’

Mansour told me that the lawyers he met were asking between 200 and 300 euros to pursue his residence card, but they did not follow up on his case. “This asylum system creates mental illness in healthy people!” he told me.

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The Department of Immigration and Asylum said in a statement on December 30 2020, that limited renewals of residence permits were made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, two years have passed since then, and nothing has changed. Lawyers have also reported that the Ministry claims it is experiencing technical difficulties, but this excuse is considered by many to be false, as the same problems do not exist for Ukrainian refugees. Who does not face such delays?

Margarita Drakou, a lawyer specializing in asylum cases, disagrees with this view. He believes that the Department of Immigration and Asylum is understaffed, with few employees who are already burdened with other responsibilities.

According to Ms Drakou, the application process is also very slow. “When a refugee applies for the extension of residence documents, it can take several months for the application to be processed to be registered in the system,” he says.

He goes on to say that the process of finding out if the refugee has applied for asylum in another country, as well as checking for any criminal record, also takes a lot of time. “I have clients who are experiencing complications with their cases because they were out of the country when their residency expired,” he says.

The Mobile Info Team organization, in a report it published, had mentioned long delays in the renewal of residence permits for people who have received asylum status in Greece.

According to the relevant information provided by the organization, a request to renew a residence permit is usually only answered when the residence permit has already expired for months. This means that people will usually be without a valid residence permit for 8-12 months, even if they submit their renewal request in time.

In the last two years in Greece, since the start of the pandemic, there have been more delays and irregularities in the residence permit process than ever before. Based on the decision of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, immigration and asylum services were closed during the first lockdown and remained closed until the summer of 2020. Since then, they have only accepted third-country nationals by appointment and for specific reasons.

In this particularly difficult situation, there have been two recent developments for which the only ones who bear no responsibility are the citizens of third countries. These developments will lead to the revocation of the legal residence permit of many immigrants:

Greece ruling party has already been heavily criticized for using the refugee crisis to distract from the country’s political and social crisis. Many notes that the government is imposing severe restrictions while simultaneously attacking the basic rights of refugees and immigrants. Police have also been accused of targeting refugees in public, with reports of increased harassment and arrests in recent months.

The procedure for renewing the ADT of beneficiaries of international protection is a fundamental deficiency of the Greek asylum system, which is denounced by the Ombudsman, the National Commission for Human Rights, the European Commission and the Asylum Organization of the European Union (EUAA), among others.

The Greek authorities have not taken into account the recommendations made by the organization RSA (Refugee Support in the Aegean) earlier this year in a public consultation on the strategic integration plan, with the aim of streamlining the process.

Lawyer Mrs Drakou emphasizes that the worst problem for refugees is the challenges related to social rights. Without a residence permit, they risk losing their jobs: “I often talk to my clients’ employers and explain the situation to them,” he says.
Aegean Refugee Support reported last October that without a valid residence permit (Uniform Residence Permit, ADET), refugees do not have access to social rights such as housing, work or social welfare.

They are also unable to authorize a lawyer to represent them legally in the absence of valid identification documents to certify their signature before public authorities.

In light of these issues, it is clear that the government of Greece must take immediate action to address the delays and difficulties faced by refugees in obtaining and renewing residence permits. The rights and welfare of these people must be protected, and the government must take action to ensure that all refugees have access to a fair and effective process to renew their residence permits. Failure to do so will only perpetuate the plight of those who have already fled persecution and conflict in their countries of origin.

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