MINISTRY OF CITIZEN PROTECTION
Athens, March 1, 2012
The three new structures of the Citizen Protection Ministry, the Asylum Service, the First Reception Service and the Appeals Agency, were presented today, Thursday 1, 2012, before the Political Leadership of the Ministry, in the facilities that used to house the Police Officers’ School of the Hellenic Police of ( 96 Mesogeion Ave. , Athens ).
In his speech, during the event, the Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection Mr. Manolis Othonas, pointed out, among others:
«The National Plan for the Management of Migration Flows is coherent, comprehensive and effective, as it responds to all those causes that generate and reproduce the problem. The establishment of the three Services inaugurated here today will bring about major changes.
The establishment of the new Asylum Service and the Appeals Agency, and their staffing with scientific personnel specialized on the requirements of the asylum system, combined to the system’s decentralization, are initiatives that reverse the practices followed for whole decades in this field and create the necessary conditions that allow us to speak of a new era in the Greek asylum policy. […]
The migration problem, too, the same as the financial one, is primarily a European problem. Greece is handling this issue as the advance guard of the EU, being its member-state whose borders are the borders of Europe, and as a transit country for thousands of people aguishly struggling to reach central Europe . […]
We have a very important task to fulfill within the next period of time, so as to complete our effort. We also need to create a respective number of initial reception centers, fourteen in number. Those will necessarily have to be in several areas across the country. We proceed fast with establishing the first center of this type, which has been planned in every detail, so that it can both ensure the necessary living conditions and allow for the aforementioned procedures to be conducted. The European Union and our other European partners will help us with funding for both construction and operation. What we lack is adequate space .
This is the key-issue coming up against the well-known reactions of local societies in proximity to such planned structures, even if not so close. The blunt truth, though, is that without these structures we may be handling the problem more or less effectively from time to time, but we are not going to have the substantial outcome sought. This issue of localisms and demagogies has to stop. The Greek State must fulfill its obligation and cure this deep wound of the Greek society.
To this effect, Mr. Papadimos has to take central, coordinated, inter-ministerial and cross-partisan initiatives immediately, within the term of the current Government. […]
With everybody’s assistance and cooperation, upon the responsibility and initiative of the distinguished people who have been selected to lead the above services, I am confident that we will succeed».
Then, Mrs. Stavropoulou, Director of the Asylum Service, set the tone of the Ministry’s new structures in the management of migration flows, stating, among other things:
«One year ago, the greatest legislative and institutional change has taken place in our country in the field of political asylum and migration. This change consists of two axes: The first axis is that deliberation on a foreigner’s refugee status, i.e. on whether he/she is entitled to political asylum in Greece, becomes independent . Now, this ruling is delegated to civil servants employed in the Asylum Service and to independent committees, thus being harmonized with the requirements of the international and European law. The second axis is the creation of modern structures, to be coordinated by the Initial Reception Service, where foreigners arrested shall be staying for a short period of time, so as for their legal status to be clarified, for the necessary medical examinations to be conducted, and for any vulnerable individuals to be identified, such as minor foreigners».
Moreover, during the presentation, Mrs. Stavropoulou mentioned «are you going to ask me how it is possible, in these times of harsh austerity and cut-downs on the public sector, to hope for such a structure to be set up? Well, we invite civil servants who are interested to come and submit their application . And we appeal to their agencies to perceive the national significance of our work and provide their support. Everybody has to help now, if we are to make progress in this field, too. And when I say ‘everybody’ I mean all state agencies, international and European organizations dealing with refugees, NGOs so many years fighting for the obvious on such issues».
Then, Mr. Panayotis Nikas, Director of the Initial Reception Service, presented the main philosophy of the Initial Reception Service, pointing out:
«The mission of the Initial Reception Service is to receive foreigners arrested due to illegal entry or illegal stay in Greece and host them in conditions safeguarding human dignity and their rights .
The Initial Reception Centers inaugurate a new system for the sorting and registration of foreigners, and mostly for a reliable identification of their true origin, which will become feasible through transfer of know-how and training of our staff in collaboration both with FRONTEX and EASO ( European Asylum Support Office).
Apart from this sorting, the Initial Reception Centers shall meet the foreigners’ subsistence requirements, including medical examinations. If deemed necessary, foreigners will be offered medical care for the treatment of urgent medical conditions, as well as psycho-social support . They will be receiving information on their rights and obligations, protection of family life, unobstructed communication with the UN High Commissioner, and care for individuals in vulnerable groups, such as children and victims of torture».
Finally, the Director of the Appeals Agency Mrs. Lambrini Koletta pointed out that «our goal is to succeed in materializing the will of the State, as outlined in L. 3907/2011, overcoming the weaknesses of the past that have cost us a series of convictions for violations of human rights and have made us the recipients of harsh criticism both by the international and the domestic society. We believe we can achieve this by utilizing the conclusions and experience gained from the operation of the system for granting international protection to date, and also by making best use of the know-how generously offered in this field by international organizations, predominantly by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Union and NGOs active in the field of asylum».
The event was also attended by the outgoing Minister for Citizen Protection Mr. Christos Papoutsis, the Secretary General for Public Order Mr. Eleftherios Economou, the Secretary General for Maritime Security Mr. Athanassios Christopoulos, the Secretary General for Civil Protection Mr. Theodore Boufis, the Secretary General for Population and Social Cohesion of the Ministry of Interior Mrs. Vassiliki Kordatou , the Chief of the Hellenic Police Lieutenant General Nikolaos Papagiannopoulos, the Chief of the Hellenic Coast Guard Vice Admiral Constantinos Soulis, the Chief of the Fire Department Lieutenant General Panagiotis Bonatsos , representatives from the Ministries of Interior, Finance, Foreign Affairs , Health and Social Solidarity, ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic delegations, representatives from the Greek Ombudsman and the National Commission for Human Rights , delegates from the Task Force , the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the European Commission and FRONTEX, senior Officers of the Hellenic Police, and representatives of Non Governmental Organizations.