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World

Refugees cannot be returned to Greece, German court rules

  • People are supposed to apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive in before being relocated if they are successful.
26 Jan 2021

BERLIN: A German court said Tuesday that two refugees granted asylum in Greece could not be sent back there because of the "serious risk of inhumane and degrading treatment" they could face.

The two men from Syria and Eritrea would face "a serious risk that they would not be able to meet their most basic needs if they return", to Greece, said the court in the western city of Muenster.

Germany had previously rejected the two men's asylum applications because they had already been granted international protection in Greece and threatened them with deportation.

But the court ruled they would face "extreme material hardship" if they were returned, citing difficulties finding accommodation and access to the labour market.

"The applicants' applications for asylum cannot be rejected as inadmissible because they face a serious risk of inhumane and degrading treatment if they return to Greece," the court said.

Since becoming one of the main gateways into Europe for migrants and asylum-seekers in 2015, Greece has built dozens of detention centres on its islands.

But long waits in the camps and overcrowding are common.

Over 7,000 people have been living in the 32-hectare (79-acre) Kara Tepe tent camp on the island of Lesbos since September, when the permanent facility of Moria burned down.

Human rights campaigners say they are living in squalid conditions with "fewer rights than animals".

People are supposed to apply for asylum in the first EU country they arrive in before being relocated if they are successful.

But the system has been widely derided as some countries barely accept any refugees and others like Greece and Italy bear the brunt.

Athens last year moved thousands of refugees from Lesbos and other islands to the mainland.

But many have been unable to find accommodation or jobs after leaving the camps, and the government has scaled back housing and cash benefits.

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