LITIGATION IN GREECE
Since May 2019, several Greek lawyers are part of our Greek team, which enables us to challenge unlawful practices of the Greek state in court. In Greece, dire reception conditions are one of the major problems for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection. Our first successes in court focus on this issue – we successfully challenged a case of “protective custody” of an unaccompanied minor at the European Court of Human Rights as well as objections against the detention of a Syrian applicant, who violated his geographical restriction escaping the inhumane reception conditions on Lesvos.
EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS: MINOR IS TO BE RELEASED IMMEDIATELY FROM "PROTECTIVE CUSTODY" (28 OCTOBER 2019)
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) granted interim measures and obliged Greece to immediately release an unaccompanied minor who was kept in ‘protective custody’ in a police station in Athens. He has to be accommodated in suitable conditions until he is going to be transferred to be reunified with his sister in the UK.
The 16-year-old Afghan was arrested when he went to the police station to renew his International Protection Applicants Card. The Dublin-III family reunification with his sister in UK was already approved, and the transfer was scheduled for end of October / beginning of November. For long, he did not know why he was arrested, until the police officer told him, that it was because he was "underage". He was then moved to another police station, where he faced devastating conditions: he was isolated in a five square meters cell without a bed or even a mattress, only with a cement bench in a corner. There was only one shower in the detention facility for a total of 17 prisoners, which the minor could not use in the 18 days of imprisonment, despite his suffering from scabies, that would require regular washing and a medical treatment. The cell was dirty and full of insects, and he could only leave it for using the washrooms.
It is a common practice in Greece to take minors in “protective custody”, justified with the lack of suitable accommodation facilities for minors. However, this practice clearly violates the Right to Liberty (Art. 5 ECHR), as there is no criminal ground for detention.
The proceedings were handled by Equal Rights Beyond Borders.
ADMINISTRATIVE COURT ATHENS: DETENTION UPON VIOLATION OF GEOGRAPHICAL RESTRICTION IS UNLAWFUL
The Administrative Court of First Instance of Athens accepted objections against administrative detention. The person was detained because he left the island of Lesvos even though he was legally obliged to stay there (so called geographical restricition, cf. for a legal analysis here). It was envisaged that he would be returned to Lesvos.
However, the court identified a personal state of emergency due to the dire living conditions in the hotspot:
“It is in the Court’s view that the fact that the applicant for international protection violated the geographical restriction imposed on him to remain on the island of Lesbos pending the examination of his asylum claim, as to protect himself against the dire living conditions in the Moria hotspot that could endanger his health and human dignity, does not give any indication that there is a risk of him absconding. Therefore, he should be released from detention on the condition that he regularly reports to the authorities."
After the court decision, the applicant was released and his asylum procedure was continued in the regular procedure on the mainland. Taking persons into detention after a violation of the geographical restriction is a common practice in Greece. The decision will hopefully help to oppose this arbitrary practice.
Parts of the Greek decision can be found on immigration.gr.