Fuat Alteief came to Greece from Syria at the age of 27*. He survived torture in his home country. Fuat's first asylum application was rejected because he was to be returned to Turkey. However Turkey has not accepted asylum seekers from Greece for nearly three years, and so like thousands of others, Fuat found himself at an impasse, unable to go forward or back and caught between state interests.
After his application was rejected, Fuat was detained unlawfully on Kos. Through our intervention Fuat was eventually received refugee status and was released from detention, but the challenges he faced did not end there. After he was released, the Greek authorities denied him basic rights, refusing to issue him a residency permit. Even though he had a right to it, without a residency permit Fuat was not allowed to work, had no access to social benefits, and no access to housing.
Fuat’s situation drove him to work in exploitative conditions. He found temporary employment for three Euros an hour, without a contractor security. Without anywhere to live, he had to sleep at his job site and was completely dependent on arbitrary decisions of his employer, a typical sign of trafficking for labor exploitation. He eventually became hopeless and lost perspective and the situation had a devastating impact on his physical and mental health.
The Greek authorities' justification for depriving Fuat of basic rights and not issuing a residence permit? A "technical error." That Fuat had the right to his residency permit though they did not doubt.
After months of interventions before the Greek authorities, courts and the Greek ombudsman, Equal Rights eventually helped Fuat get his residency permit. However, this work was necessary just to enforce what was already clear – Fuat had a right to a residence permit in order to work, to receive health and social benefits, and escape destitution.
Fuat lives in Athens today.
*Name and age have been changed.