Asylum procedure on the Greek islands: what you need to know 🇬🇷

Do you have a question about how the asylum procedure takes place on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros?

If you missed the Refugee.Info Live Chat on our Facebook page in October, no worries!

We gathered here the most important questions and answers, as provided by the lawyer from our partner organization SolidarityNow, Mary Mpasdeki.

You can still watch our Live Chat videos on our Refugee.Info Facebook Page.

You can also read more information on our website.

What is asylum and why do I need to go through this procedure?

Asylum is the protection you apply for if you arrived in Greece from another country, fleeing persecution or serious danger. You are entitled to apply for protection no matter your country of origin.

This is a complex procedure and you may need legal assistance. You can find legal services:

You can learn more about the Greek islands’ asylum processes on our website and .

What is the first procedure that I need to go through when I arrive on a Greek island?

When you arrive on a Greek island, you will have to register your name, age and gender at the Reception and Identification Service.

The police or Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) will identify your nationality and take your fingerprints. At this stage, you can express your intent to seek asylum.

What if I have family in another European country and I am on a Greek island? What can I do?

If you have family living in another EU country, it’s important to tell the Asylum Service that you want to apply for Family Reunification during Full Registration.

Please note that you’ll need to make a Family Reunification request within 3 months after you fully register your asylum claim with the Greek Asylum Service. You cannot apply for Family Reunification after these 3 months have passed.

You can find more information about Family Reunification here.

What happens after I register?  

The next step is Full Registration, during which the Greek Asylum Service will give you a date for your asylum interview.

During this process, you will also go through a vulnerability assessment. For example, if you are very ill, pregnant or an unaccompanied minor, the Asylum Service will identify you as vulnerable. This means that you will not get a geographical restriction and you will get priority for different services.

Once the Asylum Service registers your asylum claim, they will give you a registration card, broadly known on the islands as an “Ausweis.” If you have a geographical restriction, the Greek Asylum Service will add a red stamp on your document. This means that you are not allowed to leave the island.

If you are classified as vulnerable, the Greek Asylum Service will add a black stamp on your document, which means that you are allowed to move from the island to the rest of Greece.

Although I’m very sick, they don’t consider me vulnerable. How does the vulnerability process work?

It is very important that you meet with the medical teams of KEELPNO, the Greek Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, to mention your vulnerability.

The clinical psychologists of KEELPNO are responsible for your psychological evaluation. During these examinations, they will note your personal details and ask about your medical history as well as your current health condition.

If you have any medical documents with you, KEELPNO will ask you to present them. You will need to prove your vulnerability with a medical diagnosis from a Greek public hospital. The only way to arrange this appointment is through KEELPNO.

Read more about the vulnerability assessment here.

If I am recognized as vulnerable, will any future employers have access to my vulnerability files?

No, future employers cannot have access to the file of an asylum-seeker.
In fact, everything you say during your interview and all the documents related to your case are confidential. This means any vulnerability mentioned cannot be used against you.

My asylum interview is in a month. Could you give me some tips for the interview?

The asylum interview’s content depends on the asylum-seeker’s nationality. While some cases focus on whether Turkey is a safe third country for an applicant, other cases are examined based on the individual’s story and reasons for requesting protection.

A basic tip is that you remain consistent; what you claim during the full registration should be the same during the personal interview as well. It is also very useful to provide the Asylum Service with documents and proof of the reasons why you’re requesting asylum.

Finally, the most important thing is to seek legal assistance.

I am on the island for more than 1 year and my interview is still 2 months away. How long do I have to wait?

When it comes to time frames on the islands, what you experience in practice is unfortunately inconsistent with what’s stated in legislation. Actual time frames also differ among islands. Therefore, we cannot provide an accurate answer on how long it takes to receive the first decision.

Back in December 2017, the average time for processing applications at the first instance (before a possible first negative decision) on the islands, was 53 days from the time of Full Registration. The law states processing should take 7 days.  

I was recently transferred from Lesvos to a camp on mainland Greece. What will happen with my asylum interview?

If your geographical restriction is lifted and you are transferred to the mainland, the Asylum Service does not stop your asylum procedure. Instead, the Asylum Service will reschedule your interview and inform you about your new interview date.

According to the most recent updates on this issue, you don’t have to go back to the island and even if you do go back on your own, your interview might not take place.

It’s important that the Asylum Office has your most updated contact information.

Since many people are being transferred from the islands to the mainland these days, this information might change again. We will keep you posted with any updates.

I am on Lesvos and passed my interview 11 months ago, but still haven’t got an answer. Where can I ask for updates? Can I push to get my asylum decision sooner?

Yes, you can ask about the status of your asylum case. You can visit the info kiosk of any Greek Asylum Office and use your case number. If you have a legal advisor, they can also use your case number and ask the Asylum Service on your behalf.

However, there is unfortunately no way to put pressure on the Asylum Service to issue a decision sooner. There are several factors which lead to this severe delay; asylum interviewers are overloaded with work and need to follow time-consuming procedures to make sure they’ve thoroughly examined each case without making any mistakes.

How does the asylum procedure end?

The positive scenario is that the Asylum Service accepts your claim and grants you asylum in Greece.

This means that as a recognized refugee, you are granted a number of rights including the right to apply for a Residence Permit and Travel Document.

The negative scenario is that the Asylum Service rejects your asylum claim. In this case, you can appeal the decision before the Greek Appeals Authority. This is another long and complex process so you will definitely need legal assistance.

If I receive a final rejection, will they send me back to Turkey?  Can we ask to be sent back to Turkey, as it is very dangerous to go back to home our country?

If you receive a final rejection of your asylum claim, the Greek authorities may start the process of returning you to your country of origin or back to Turkey, but only if they think these countries are safe for you.

Although you cannot ask to be sent to Turkey, you may voluntarily ask to be returned to your home country.

After I get a positive decision, how can I leave the island and start a new life on the mainland?

After a positive decision, you can move anywhere you wish in Greece.

However, you have to cover the transportation and accommodation expenses on your own.

You’ll continue to receive cash assistance for a certain period of time and after that, you will have to find a job in order to be able to support yourself.

Many of you have told us about the harsh situation you’re facing on the Greek islands, especially on Lesvos, Samos and Chios. Please keep sending us your comments! Our colleagues at the IRC and SolidarityNow are pushing the authorities to come up with a solution. We will share all of your comments with them, to show how important your concerns are.