The undisputable right of access to the asylum procedures of a particularly vulnerable applicant

Martha Chatziantoniou 

Attorney at law, Athens Solidarity Center Legal Service * 

Access to asylum procedures in Greece presents significant challenges for people with serious disabilities, especially when they live outside the protective framework of the state. This is the case for applicants who make a subsequent application for asylum, following the final rejection of their original application.

A recent case handled by the legal team of the SolidarityNow Athens Solidarity Center was the support of a subsequent asylum application by a Cameroonian, with a severe physical disability, unable to move independently. In this case, the legal team, after drafting the subsequent asylum application, managed -after long and time-consuming consultations with the asylum service- to submit it without the physical presence of the applicant, which was allowed for the first time by the asylum service, due to the special circumstances of force majeure.

This subsequent application was examined to determine whether it relates to new essential elements of refugee content and was deemed admissible, which is a great success, as a very small percentage of such applications are usually accepted. Thus, apart from the substantial fact of the successful outcome of his application, the applicant managed to exercise all his rights – for which the law requires a personal presence – through his representation by his lawyers, who successfully represented him, both in writing and in person, acting on his behalf at all stages of the process, up to the delivery in their hands, of the International Protection Card that was finally issued. 

In this outstanding case, the legal team of Athens Solidarity Center argued, and the asylum service accepted that due to the applicant’s special circumstances there was force majeure, justifying his absence from all proceedings and his representation solely by his lawyers. We are pleased that asylum procedures which generally present zero flexibility, in the present case have been adapted in such a way as to ensure the undisputable right of access to the asylum procedures of a particularly vulnerable applicant. 

 *Since May 2019 the Athens Solidarity Center is financed by EEA and Norway Grants, with HumanRights360 and CROWE Greece as the fund operator. The Center is also supported by the Municipality of Athens.