In Brief: Report says half of NGOs can't comply with Greek registration law

U.K.-based charity Choose Love has criticized the “onerous, expensive and arbitrary conditions linked with the registration process” for NGOs in Greece. Photo by: Egor Myznik on Unsplash

A new law that increases registration requirements for foreign and local NGOs providing services to refugees and migrants in Greece has made it impossible for many of them to operate legally in the country, according to a new report by U.K.-based charity Choose Love.

The group’s survey of 70 civil society organizations operating in Greece found that 45% believe they cannot comply, citing concerns about finances and requirements to provide the Greek government with sensitive data about their members.

The law, part of a series of regulations adopted over the last year, refers to a need for transparency in groups’ operations to protect the vulnerable people they serve. But many NGOs see the move as an effort to impede their work or shut them down altogether.

“While it is reasonable for a State to maintain a register of organisations, the onerous, expensive and arbitrary conditions linked with the registration process represent a direct challenge to the right of freedom of association,” Choose Love said in a statement.

Since the legislation took effect, 20 groups have lost access or faced obstacles accessing the centers where they operate, Choose Love said.

IFRC calls for Greece-Turkey border solution ASAP

As tensions mounted at the Greece-Turkey border and thousands of migrants and refugees went without access to basic services, IFRC President Francesco Rocca called on the EU to act fast and provide a more dignified solution.

Why it matters: The laws are part of a wider crackdown on refugees and migrants in Greece, a front-line country for unauthorized arrivals to Europe. Since its victory in mid-2019, Greece’s center-right New Democracy government has targeted NGOs and civil society actors, even accusing them of human trafficking and smuggling.

What happens next: Choose Love has called on Greece to revoke and revise its laws to bring the country “in line with European standards on freedom of association.” Meanwhile, Greece is still cracking down. In November, it passed a new confidentiality law that criminalizes aid workers’ efforts to publicly share evidence of abuse and neglect inside refugee camps.

About the author

  • Tania Karas

    Tania Karas is a Senior Editor at Devex, where she edits coverage on global development and humanitarian aid in the Americas. Previously, she managed the digital team for The World, where she oversaw content production for the website, podcast, newsletter, and social media platforms. Tania also spent three years as a foreign correspondent in Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon, covering the Syrian refugee crisis and European politics. She started her career as a staff reporter for the New York Law Journal, covering immigration and access to justice.