The Greek government late on Monday defended its decision to stop processing asylum requests for one month after thousands of migrants converged at the border seeking to enter the EU from Turkey, saying it was in response to “emergency and exceptional situations.”
“The emergency conditions that have arisen at the border, make the examination of asylum applications — a strictly individual process — impossible,” the government announcement said.
The United Nation’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, said earlier on Monday that Greece had no right to stop accepting asylum applications.
“It is important that the authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people,” the agency said in their statement.
“All states have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner,” it added.
The UN agency further maintained that neither international nor European Union law provided “any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications.”
Greece responded to the statement by saying that “in the present conditions we are entirely outside the framework for the international protection of refugees, which is based on isolated and individual applications.”
With respect to the legality of the decision taken under international and European law, the government noted that there was provision in international treaties for temporary measures in response to emergency and exceptional situations.
“In this case there is a collective movement of populations, organized by a foreign state, to serve diplomatic goals in a clear-cut violation of international law and the EU-Turkey joint statement,” the government noted.
It then went on to add that it will take steps to protect the integrity of the Greek nation until a state of normality is restored along the Greek border.
“For this reason, suspending the acceptance of asylum applications is a measure that is absolutely necessary and reasonable and is supported by international law,” the government declared.