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.
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.