Gay Syrian Refugee Denied Asylum in Greece, Applies to EU Court

Greek Island Of Lesbos On The Frontline Of The Migrant Crisis
MORIA, GREECE - MARCH 12: Refugees mainly from Syria, Iran and Iraq are seen inside a registration camp while waiting to be registrated, outside the village of Moria, on March 12, 2016 in Moria, Greece.Alexander Koerner / Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

ATHENS (Reuters) - Lawyers have filed an application to the European Union's human rights court to halt the deportation of a gay Syrian refugee who was denied asylum in Greece, a German advocacy group said on Friday.

The former oil industry worker has been threatened with death by Islamic State (IS) if he doesn't return to Syria and work for the radical Islamist group in oil operations in territory it controls, it said.

The man was one of only two asylum seekers the Greek asylum service have rejected out of a group of 30 applicants it considered, a government migration official told Reuters.

The decision was "incomprehensible", especially in view of the man's sexual orientation, said Karl Kopp, spokesman for the German group Pro Asyl which provides support for refugees.

"We applied for interim measures ... because the man is in imminent danger if he returns to Turkey," Kopp said of the man who fled first to Turkey and then Greece in March.

"He worked in the oil industry," he said. "When he was in Istanbul, IS threatened to kill him if he didn't join their oil operations in Syria."

Three lawyers from Pro Asyl joined a local lawyer in Lesbos and the Greek refugee council (GCR) to jointly apply for interim measures at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg on Thursday to stop his deportation.

A Pro Asyl statement said the man faced discrimination in Turkey, which it called "one of the countries in Europe and beyond where homosexuals face the most problems and dangers".

He is now being held by Lesbos police until the deportation process is completed, a local police spokesman told Reuters.

This would be the first case before the ECHR to challenge the EU-Turkey deal that lets Athens send illegally arriving refugees back to Turkey, Pro Asyl said in an announcement.

Under Greek law, there is room for a further domestic appeal on the decision, which could potentially prevent him from being deported if approved, the migration official said.

Applications for interim measures, which can also prevent a deportation, are normally considered by the ECHR within a few days, unlike normal appeals that usually take more time.

(Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Tom Heneghan)