Greece’s new asylum legislation is a “blatant attack on Europe’s humanitarian commitment to protect people fleeing conflict and persecution,” the Greek Council of Refugees (GCR) and Oxfam have warned.

In a joint statement, the two humanitarian groups on Wednesday said the new asylum system was designed to deport people, rather than offer them safety and protection.

“We are extremely worried that the EU will now use Greece’s asylum system as a blueprint for Europe’s upcoming asylum reform,” Evelien van Roemburg, Oxfam’s Europe Migration Campaign Manager, said in the statement.

Roemburg added: “While Greece has a sovereign right to manage its borders, it must protect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. The EU and Greece have made a political choice to jeopardise the lives and futures of people it has a responsibility to protect.”

The report also noted the “inhumane” living conditions in Greece refugee camps, putting people’s health at risk during the novel coronavirus pandemic. It cited the conditions in the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, underlining the camp’s insufficient capacity and lacking access to basic healthcare.

“The situation in Moria was scary. During the pandemic, everybody was afraid that if the virus gets to us, then they will dig a mass grave to bury us. They only gave us two masks and soap. But how are we supposed to wash our hands without water? In the food line, it was so packed, we couldn’t keep a distance. We were not protected,” Rawan, an Afghan mother of two boys, was quoted as saying.

The statement called on Greek and EU authorities to immediately review the new asylum law, introduced on Jan. 1, 2020, and urged them to institute a fair and effective asylum procedure.

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