The Greek government is making it impossibly hard for many vital humanitarian groups to operate – but protecting the rights of vulnerable people must come first.
New rules introduced earlier this year require NGOs in Greece to register with the government, but by doing so they must fulfil a host of expensive and bureaucratic obligations. This new process will result in a vast number of small grassroots organisations, just like the partners we support, being prevented from doing their vital work.
Today, alongside 72 other organisations, we released a statement to Greek officials calling on them to reconsider this legislation and engage in constructive dialogue with civil society. Humanitarian work is essential work and must be protected and respected.
Joint letter to:
- The Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi
- The Alternate Minister of Migration and Asylum, Giorgos Koumoutsakos
- The European Commissioner for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová
- The President of the Expert Council on NGO Law of the Council of Europe, Jeremy McBride
- The President of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, Anna Rurka
- The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule
- The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales
The undersigned organisations welcome the ‘Opinion on the Compatibility with European Standards of Recent and Planned Amendments to the Greek Legislation on NGO Registration’ from the Expert Council on NGO Law of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe (hereafter Expert Council). The organisations appreciate the efforts of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum to centralize the registration of organisations active in the field of international protection, migration, asylum and social integration of third-country nationals, but endorse the recommendation that current legislation “should be substantially revised so that they are brought into line with European standards”.
The Expert Council expressed their concern that the registration and certification procedure creates unnecessary and disproportional barriers on the work of NGOs and impedes freedom of association. This could have a chilling effect on civil society and potentially create a “worrying humanitarian situation” as organisations cover existing gaps in the provision of services, protection, health and the monitoring of human rights. These concerns are not unfounded; a recent announcement by the Minister of Migration and Asylum made clear that after the registration process only 18 out of 44 organisations will be allowed to continue work inside government facilities until a final decision on their certification is given. A first listing of NGOs that will receive a final decision on their certification, and which are allowed to continue their work in government structures excludes a large number of organisations which provide essential services, including medical NGOs.
In order to continue work in government facilities, organisations that previously registered were obliged to re-register within two months after publication of legislation. According to the Expert Council these requirements do not satisfy proportionality requirements for the restriction on the freedom of association. The low number of organisations that proceeded to the certification stage of the registration procedure reflects the Expert Council finding that the procedure is onerous, time consuming and costly, especially for smaller NGOs. In addition the Expert Council warns there could be arbitrary decisions made based on the vagueness of criteria for certification and a lack of independence of the deciding body.
Both the Expert Council and the European Court of Justice recently emphasized that the work of NGOs is essential for a democratic state and a well functioning pluralistic society and therefore there should be minimal limitations to their work. The work of many organisations in Greece is essential in providing basic services including legal assistance, medical care, child protection, women’s protection and empowerment, housing, support for unaccompanied children, (informal) education, employment counseling, job matching, Site Management Support, and provision of information, but are currently hampered by legislative requirements. To ensure the well functioning of civil society in Greece NGOs should have been consulted about legislation regarding their work and the procedure for registration and certification should be made as ‘simple as possible’ and in line with the right to the freedom of association. Therefore, we respectfully ask you:
- To implement the recommendations made by the Expert Council on NGO Law to bring legislation on NGO registration in line with European standards.
- To urgently reconsider the requirements for certification and the decision making pathway for certification in accordance with the findings of the Expert Council on NGO Law.
- To engage in a constructive dialogue with civil society on the requirements for registration and certification and how the government could encourage organisations to be accountable and transparent, as a means to attain the legitimate goals set out in Article 11(2) of the ECHR.
- To proceed with timely public consultation and discussion with civil society on legislative reforms and forthcoming legislation regarding registration of NGOs in Greece as per the expert council’s recommendation.
We remain at your disposal for more information.
- Action for Education
- Action for Women
- ActionAid Hellas
- Advocates Abroad
- Afghan Community Migration & Refugees in Greece
- ARION-CETACEAN RESCUE AND REHABILITATION RESEARCH CENTER
- ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth
- Centre for Research on Women’s Issues (CRWI) “Diotima”
- Changemakers Lab
- Civil Act
- Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
- Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
- Free Movement Skateboarding UK
- Greek Forum Of Migrants – Ελληνικό Φόρουμ Μεταναστών
- Greek Forum of Refugees
- Hellenic Liver Patient Association “Prometheus”
- Hellenic Liver Patient Association “Prometheus”
- Help Refugees
- Humanity Now: Direct Refugee Relief
- Humans for Humans (The Imagine Project)
- I AM YOU Humanitarian Aid
- InCommOn AMKE
- Indigo Volunteers
- Intereuropean Human Aid Association
- INTERSOS Hellas
- Jesuit Refugee Service Greece – JRS Greece
- La Luna Di Vasilika ONLUS
- Lesvos Solidarity
- Medical Volunteers International e.V.
- Melissa: Network of Migrant Women in Greece
- MERIMNA – Society for the care of children and families facing illness and death
- Mobile Info Team
- Northern Lights Aid
- Office of Displaced Designers
- One Happy Family
- Project Armonia
- ReFOCUS Media Labs
- Refugee Legal Support (RLS)
- Refugee Rescue
- Refugee Rights Europe
- Refugee Trauma Initiative (RTI)
- Refugee Youth Service
- Samos Volunteers
- ShowerPower Foundation
- Social Hacker A.M.K.E.
- Still I Rise
- Terre des hommes Hellas
- Together for Better Days
- Velos Youth
- Verein FAIR.
- Wave – Thessaloniki
- We Need Books
- Yoga and Sport For Refugees
- ΒΙΟΚΑΤΑΝΑΛΩΤΕΣ ΓΙΑ ΠΟΙΟΤΙΚΗ ΖΩΗ (ΒΙΟΖΩ)
- Θάλασσα Αλληλεγγύης- Thalassa of Solidarity
- Κοινωφελές Σωματείο Αρωγής Ηλικιωμένων και Ατόμων με Αναπηρία-ΦΡΟΝΤΙΖΩ
- Μary Pini Director KESO Μαίρη Πίνη Διευθύντρια ΚΕΣΟ
- 50και Ελλάς