Reception and identification procedure


Country Report: Reception and identification procedure Last updated: 08/06/23


Greek Council for Refugees Visit Website

The European Union policy framework: ‘hotspots’

The “hotspot approach” was first introduced in 2015 by the European Commission in the European Agenda on Migration as an initial response to the exceptional flows.[1] Its adoption was part of the immediate action to assist Member States, which were facing disproportionate migratory pressures at the EU’s external borders and was presented as a solidarity measure.

The initial objective of the “hotspot approach” was to assist Italy and Greece by providing comprehensive and targeted operational support, so that the latter could fulfil its obligations under EU law and swiftly identify, register and fingerprint incoming migrants, channel asylum seekers into asylum procedures, implement the relocation scheme and conduct return operations.[2]

In order to achieve this goal, EU Agencies, namely the EUAA (previously EASO), Frontex, Europol and Eurojust, worked alongside the Greek authorities within the context of the hotspots.[3] The hotspot approach was also expected to contribute to the implementation of the temporary relocation scheme, proposed by the European Commission in September 2015.[4] Therefore, hotspots were envisaged initially as reception and registration centres, where all stages of administrative procedures concerning newcomers – i.e., identification, reception, asylum procedure or return – would take place swiftly within their scope.

Five hotspots, under the legal form of First Reception Centres – now known as Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) – were established in Greece on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. In 2021, on Samos, Leros and Kos, the RICs were converted into ‘Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCAC)’.[5] The new facility in Samos was inaugurated on 18 September 2021 and the ones in Leros and Kos on 27 November 2021.[6] On Kos, despite the inauguration of the new centre, new infrastructures remained non-operational until August 2022.

In 2022, the existing facilities in Lesvos and Chios were converted to Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCAC).[7] However, on Lesvos and Chios, two new Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCAC) are under construction and are expected to be completed in 2023.

Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) and Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCAC)
Hotspot Start of operation Capacity Occupancy
RIC (Moria) October 2015 Non-operational Non-operational
CCACI. (Mavrovouni) September 2020[8] 8,000 1,709
CCACI. (Vastria) Under construction Estimated 5,000 Non-operational
CCACI. (Chalkios) February 2016 1,014 374
CCACI. (Akra Pachi – Tholos) Under construction Estimated 1,800 Non-operational
RIC March 2016 Non-operational Non-operational
CCACI. 18 September 2021 2,040 1,013
RIC June 2016 Non-operational Non-operational
CCACI. 27 November 2021 2,356 917
RIC June 2016 Non-operational Non-operational
CCACI. 27 November 2021 1,780 358
TOTAL 15,934 3,307

Source: Ministry of Migration and Asylum, National Situation: Migrant and Refugee Issue, Situation as of 31 December 2022, available at:


It was initially planned that the five hotspot facilities would have a total capacity of 7,450 places.[9] According to official data however, their capacity had increased to 13,338 places by the end of 2020. The construction of the ‘Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCACI.)’ in 2021 further increased capacity to 15,934 places. Yet, according to commentators, the construction of new mass facilities cannot be justified by the number of TCN residing in the RICs nor by the flows, since both were significantly lower in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years. Hence, based on the ministry’s official data, during 2022 new arrivals increased by 96% compared to 2021 giving a significant rise in the number of the transfers to the mainland.[10]

Local communities also expressed their opposition against the creation of the new ‘Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCACI.) because they do not consider them necessary and because they have strong concerns both related to the degradation of the islands and the rights of newcomers. In Lesvos and Chios, several protests took place and citizens attempted to disrupt the construction of the centres on the islands.[11] Οn 19 August 2022, a Greek Council of State’s decision paved the way for the continued construction of a new EU-funded closed controlled access centre in a 71,250 km2 forest in Vastria, on Lesvos island. However, an application for suspension by the North Aegean Region and by local communities (Komi and N. Kydonia), regarding the access road to the structure of Vastria was accepted by the Commission of Suspensions of the Greek Council of State in temporary decision 199/2022-19/12/2022. This prohibited any construction until the final judgment of the court on the application for its annulment, as it was considered that the construction of the road would lead to irreversible destruction of the forest and impact the rare birdlife of the protected area.[12] In Leros and Kos, criticism against the construction of the new facilities was expressed not only by local communities but also by the local authorities. The Mayors of both islands refused to attend the inauguration of the new centres. In 2021 the local authorities of both Leros and Samos challenged the construction of new centres.[13]

On Samos and Leros, the new closed facilities have been moved to different areas compared to where the previous RICs were located, namely in Zervou (Samos) and Lepida (Leros). Similarly, the new facilities under construction on Lesvos and Chios are located in different areas, namely in Plati – Vastria (Lesvos) and in Akra Pachi – Tholos (Chios). In Kos, the new facility has been expanded in an area attached to the existing RIC located in Pyli.

The new structures have been placed in remote locations, isolated from urban areas with very poor connection to the main cities of each island. More specifically, the new centre in Samos is located 7km away from the city of Vathy, the new centre in Leros is 6km from the city of Agia Marina and the new centre in Kos is 15km far away from the city of Kos. Similarly, the new centre in Lesvos is being constructed in an area which is 30km from the city of Mytilene and the facility in Chios is located 11km from the city of Chios.

Conditions prevailing in the remaining RICs have not improved and people continue to be hosted in degrading conditions. In Vial (Chios), the conditions remain worryingly substandard despite the decrease of the accommodated population. The shocking news of the death of a Somali resident whose body was found 12 hours after his death surrounded by rodents is indicative of the situation.[14] Similarly, the Mavrovouni RIC is still completely inadequate due to extreme weather conditions, inaccessible and poor sanitation facilities and the increase in security incidents despite significant police surveillance.[15] This situation coupled with the closure of the site of Kara Tepe, which was run by the Municipality of Mytilene and which offered decent living conditions to its residents, has spurred sharp criticism. Commentators have accused the government of adopting policies of deterrence.[16]

Τhe new ‘Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCACI.)’ are thus a cause for serious concern, despite the large amount of funding that was used for their construction. In Samos and Kos the conditions prevailing in the new centres are considerably better than the ones in the RICs in terms of infrastructure. Yet, testimonies collected by the Greek Council for Refugees from people living in the new centres and civil society organisations reveal prison-like conditions. In 2021, approximately 100 people were prevented from leaving a reception centre for two months due to an exit ban which the Greek administrative court subsequently found to have amounted to an illegal de facto detention.[17] The Ministry of Asylum and Migration takes great pride in the 24/7 surveillance and security control mechanisms of the new centres, while at the same time, the residents face practices of illegal de facto detention and arbitrary restrictions of personal liberty and freedom of movement and have limited access to healthcare. In fact, the Medical Unit of the facilities in Samos [18] and Kos does not include any doctors, despite the extremely poor public primary health services on the islands.[19] In Lesvos, before the registration of their application, asylum seekers are detained in a sector called the ”Waiting area” (the previous quarantine area), and for approximately 5 days, where NGOs are not allowed to enter nor applicants to exit.

Hotspot transformation following the EU-Türkiye statement

In March 2016, the adoption of the highly controversial EU-Türkiye Statement committing ‘to end the irregular migration from Türkiye to the EU’[20] brought a transformation of the so-called hotspots on the Aegean islands.[21]

With the launch of the EU-Türkiye Statement, hotspot facilities turned into closed detention centres. People arriving after 20 March 2016 through the Aegean islands, and thus subject to the EU-Türkiye Statement, were automatically de facto detained within the premises of the hotspots in order to be readmitted to Türkiye in case they did not seek international protection or their applications were rejected, either as inadmissible under the Safe Third Country or First Country of Asylum concepts, or on the merits.[22] Following criticism by national and international organisations and actors, and due to the limited capacity to maintain and run closed facilities on the islands with a high number of people, the practice of blanket detention was largely abandoned from the end of 2016 onwards. It has been replaced by a practice of systematic geographical restriction, i.e. an obligation not to leave the island and reside at the hotspot facility, which is imposed indiscriminately to every newly arrived person (see Freedom of Movement).

L.4825/2021[23] replaced Article 8 (4) L.4375/2016[24] as follows:

‘The Regional Services of the Reception and Identification Services are:

  1. the Reception and Identification Centres (RIC),
  2. the Controlled Structures for Temporary Accommodation of asylum seekers and
  3. the Closed Controlled Access Centres, which are structured and have the responsibilities of RIC ​​and within which, in separate spaces, facilities of temporary accommodation and the special detention facilities provided in Art. 31 of L. 3907/2011 operate.

Within the premises of the above-mentioned facilities, special areas dedicated to people belonging to vulnerable groups as per article 14(8)are provided’[25]

Although the Rule of Procedure of Closed Controlled Access Centres on the islands does not provide for a blanket prohibition of exit, the regime of de facto detention has been reintroduced in practice for certain categories of residents in the ‘Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCACI.)’ of Samos, namely for those who do not hold an asylum seeker card.[26] Persons who do not have a card include:

  • new arrivals after the registration of their asylum application and pending the issuance of a card;
  • persons whose applications have been rejected at second instance who did not lodge or are unable to lodge a subsequent asylum application;
  • those who have filed a subsequent application until a decision on admissibility is issued; and
  • those whose applications have been rejected at first instance, until they can lodge an appeal.

By way of illustration, in the ‘Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (CCACI.)’ of Samos the number of people banned from exiting the camp was approximately 100 out of the 450 residents by December 2021.[27] This prohibition took effect without any written decision ordering the restriction in the CCAC, and without information on or notification to the persons concerned on the grounds of the restriction.

In support of an applicant who had filed a subsequent application which was pending and thus whose exit was prohibited, GCR lodged “objections” against this de facto detention before the Administrative Court of First Instance of Syros. Taking into account its character as a de facto detention measure and thus acknowledging its jurisdiction to assess this “exit ban”, the Court held that:

‘a. the detention of asylum seekers is […] only allowed on the basis of a decision issued by the competent Police Director, as an exceptional measure and only for one of the grounds exhaustively prescribed by Article 46 of said Law, [yet] no decision with such content has been issued […]” and said preconditions had not been met, b. “the Head of the […] CCAC illegally took the measure in question (exit ban) against the applicant’.[28]

Despite the court’s decision, the CCAC’s Head continued to impose this illegal detention measure in 2022, although officially prohibited from doing so. Moreover, the CCAC’s administration has allegedly adopted “revenge tactics” against some residents that have taken legal measures against the illegal prohibition, such as sudden police incursion in the residents’ containers in the early hours of the morning, transfers to the local police station and oral eviction notes to residents with a second instance rejection, pending the registration of their subsequent asylum application.[29] Furthermore, as described below, since July 2022, a 25-day movement restriction has also been applied to new arrivals in Samos CCAC.[30]

From April 2016 to 31 March 2020, 2,140 individuals had been returned to Türkiye on the basis of the EU-Türkiye Statement, of whom, 801 were returned in 2016, 683 in 2017, 322 in 2018, 195 in 2019 and 139 in 2020. No readmission operations took place during 2021 and 2022. In total, between 21 March 2016 and 31 March 2020, Syrian nationals accounted for 404 persons (19%) of those returned. 43 of them were returned on the basis that their asylum claims were found inadmissible at second instance based on the “safe third country” concept. Moreover, of all those returned, 23% did not express a wish to apply for asylum or withdrew their asylum applications in Greece.[31]

According to the official statistics of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum published in December 2022[32] ‘returns under the EU-Türkiye Joint Declaration have not been made since March [2020] due to Covid-19’. It should be noted that the Greek authorities have requested Türkiye to resume returns based on the EU-Türkiye Joint Declaration. This has also been confirmed by more recent notes of the Readmission Unit of the of the Hellenic Police Headquarters.[33] In July 2021, Greece made a new request to the EU Commission and FRONTEX for the immediate return to Türkiye of 1,908 rejected asylum seekers living on the Aegean island. The Greek Government accused Türkiye of refusing to implement its commitments under the EU-Türkiye Statement, and for continuing to refuse to engage in any way on the issue.[34] However, despite the suspension of returns to Türkiye since March 2020, the applications lodged by applicants falling under the scope of the JMD 42799/2021 (FEK B’ 2425/07.06.2021) in 2022 were still examined in the context of the Safe third country concept and the Fast-Track Border Procedure. On 2 February 2023, the Council of State in decision 177/2023 issued after a request of annulment by the Greek Council for Refugees and the organisation RSA-Refugee Support Aegean against the aforementioned JMD, formulated preliminary questions to the CJEU regarding the national list which includes Türkiye as a safe third country for asylum seekers originating from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, whose applications have been rejected as inadmissible. The Council of State submitted preliminary questions regarding the ‘legality of the national list of the fact that, for a long period (over 20 months), Türkiye has refused the readmission of applicants for international protection, while at the same time it is not clear whether the possibility of a change in Türkiye’s attitude in the near future has been taken into account’.


The domestic framework: Reception and Identification Centres

The hotspot approach is implemented in Greece through the legal framework governing the reception and identification procedure in the IPA. In practice, the concept of reception and identification procedures for newly arrived people under Greek law predates the “hotspot” approach.

The 2010 Greek Action Plan on Asylum already provided that third-country nationals should be subjected to first reception procedures upon entry. The competent authority to provide such services was the First Reception Service (FRS), established by L 3907/2011. First reception procedures included:

  • Identity and nationality verification;
  • Registration;
  • Medical examination and any necessary care and psychosocial support;
  • Provision of proper information about newcomers’ obligations and rights, in particular about the conditions under which they can access the asylum procedure; and
  • Identification of those who belong to vulnerable groups so that they be given the proper procedure.[35]

This approach was first implemented by the First Reception Centre (FRC) set up in Evros in 2013,[36] which has remained operational to date and has not been affected by the hotspot approach. Joint Ministerial Decision 2969/2015 issued in December 2015 provided for the establishment of five FRCs in the Eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Kos, Chios, Samos and Leros,[37] regulated by existing legislation regarding the First Reception Service.[38] However, this legislative act failed to respond to and regulate all the challenges arising within the scope of the hotspots’ functions. As a result, issues not addressed by the existing legal framework, for example the involvement of EU Agencies in different procedures, long remained in a legislative vacuum.

On 3 April 2016, in the light of the EU-Türkiye statement of 18 March 2016, the Greek Parliament adopted a law ‘on the organisation and operation of the Asylum Service, the Appeals Authority, the Reception and Identification Service, the establishment of the General Secretariat for Reception, the transposition into Greek legislation of the provisions of Directive 2013/32/EU, provisions on the employment of beneficiaries of international protection and other provisions’. This reform was passed through L 4375/2016.[39]

L 4375/2016 partially attempted to regulate the establishment and function of hotspots and the procedures taking place there. However, national legislation has failed to effectively regulate the involvement of the EU Agencies, for example Frontex agents. Following the enactment of L 4375/2016, the FRS was succeeded by the Reception and Identification Service (RIS). The RIS is currently subsumed under the General Secretariat for Reception of Asylum Seekers of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum.[40] The IPA, in force since 1 January 2020, regulated the functioning of the RICs and the conduct of the reception and identification procedure in a similar way. Under the Asylum Code[41], the relevant regulations were codified to include Closed Controlled Access Centre of Islands (CCACI.)’. Article 38 of the Asylum Code, provides that: ‘All third-country nationals and stateless persons who enter without complying with the legal formalities in the country, shall be submitted to reception and identification procedures.’[42] Reception and identification procedures include five stages:[43]

  1. Information on rights and obligations, transfer to other facilities, the possibility to seek protection or voluntary return, in a language the person understands or in a language that a person may reasonably be supposed to understand and in an accessible manner, by the Information Unit of the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) or the Closed Controlled Access Centre (CCAC) or in case of mass arrivals, by the Police, Coast Guard or Armed Forces i;[44]
  1. Channelling to reception and identification procedure: According to the law, newly arrived persons should be directly transferred to a RIC or CCAC, where they are subject to a 5-day “restriction of freedom within the premises of the centre” (περιορισμός της ελευθερίας εντός του κέντρου), which can be further extended by a maximum of 25 days if reception and identification procedures have not been completed.[45]This restriction of freedom entails “the prohibition to leave the Centre and the obligation to remain in it”.[46] Such a restriction is ordered on the basis of a written, duly motivated decision;[47]
  1. Registration and medical checks, including identification of vulnerable groups;[48]
  1. Referral to the asylum procedure: As soon as asylum applications are made, the Special Rapid Response Units (Ειδικά Κλιμάκια Ταχείας Συνδρομής) of the Asylum Service distribute the cases according to country of origin. Subsequently, they proceed to prioritisation of applications according to nationality (see Prioritised Examination);[49]
  1. Further referral and transfer to other reception or detention facilities depending on the circumstances of the case.[50]

Reception and identification procedures on the islands

At the early stages of the implementation of the EU-Türkiye Statement, persons arriving on the Eastern Aegean islands and thus subject to the Statement, were systematically and indiscriminately detained. Such measure was imposed either de facto, under the pretext of a decision restricting the freedom within the premises of the RIC for a period of 25 days, or under a deportation decision together with a detention order. This differs from the “geographical restriction” on the island, mentioned below.

Following criticism by national and international organisations and actors, and due to limited capacity to maintain and run closed facilities on the islands with high population numbers, the “restriction of freedom” as a de facto detention measure was no longer applied in the RICs, as of the end of 2016, with the exception of Kos. The measure of ‘restriction of freedom’ was still imposed on all newcomers in Kos throughout 2022. It applied for a period of 25 days, within which the applicants were banned from exiting the facility. Since July 2022, a 25-day movement restriction has also been applied to new arrivals in Samos CCAC.[51] In both Kos and Samos, the restriction is imposed for a period of 25 days regardless of whether the Reception and Identification procedures have been in fact completed or not. According to the Samos centre’s administration, all newly arrived asylum applicants are only permitted to exit the centre after 25 days, despite being fully identified and registered within the first five days of their arrival,[52] rendering the measure unjustified. This also applies in Kos, where until April 2022, Reception and Identification procedures, as well as the initial registration of asylum application by RIS and the call for interview by RAO were often completed within a day. In any case, those who arrived since March 2020 on the Eastern Aegean Islands have been subject to a seven-day, ten-day or 14-day quarantine period,[53] so as to prevent the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, prior to their transfer to RICs in order to undergo reception and identification procedures, which were only carried out once the asylum seekers were moved out of quarantine. A geographical restriction is also systematically imposed on every newly arrived person on the Greek islands, initially by the police and the Head of the Asylum Service, imposing the obligation to remain on the islands and within the RIC facilities. For more details on the geographical limitation on the Greek Eastern Aegean Islands, see Reception Conditions, Freedom of movement and Identification.

In practice, those arriving on the Eastern Aegean islands and falling under the EU-Türkiye Statement are subject to a “restriction of freedom of movement” decision issued by the Head of the RIC. The decision is revoked once the registration by the RIC is completed, usually within a couple of days. A ‘restriction of freedom of movement’ is imposed to newcomers for a period of 25 days, within which applicants are not allowed to exit the RIC whether their registration and identification by the RIS has been concluded or not. At the same time, a removal decision “based on the readmission procedure” and a pre-removal detention order are issued by the competent Police Directorate upon arrival, parallel to the decision of the Head of the RIC. The removal decision and detention order are suspended by a “postponement of deportation” decision of the General Regional Police Director. The latter decision imposes a geographical restriction, ordering the individual not to leave the island and to reside – in most cases – in the RIC or another accommodation facility on the island until the end of the asylum procedure. Once the asylum application is lodged, the same geographical restriction is imposed by the Asylum Service. For more details on the geographical limitation on the Greek Eastern Aegean Islands, see Reception Conditions, Freedom of movement. It is due to this practice of indiscriminate and en masse imposition of the geographical limitation measures to newly arrived persons on the islands that a significant deterioration of the living conditions on the islands has occurred.

The CCACs’ dominant trait is the prison-like environment, as the sites are highly securitised and fortified with multiple layers of fencing around the site’s periphery and around each accommodation section within the centre and private security and police personnel guard each fenced section around the clock. To access the administrative services’ office inside the camp, residents must hold an asylum card and pass through a gate manned by a security officer and be subject to a security check and body check with a metal detector. Samos CCACs are in use but are still not fully operational. In Kos CCAC, the majority of the facilities were hailed as significant improvements to residents’ quality of life by the European Commission and the Greek authorities, such as medical sections, restaurant and communal areas, IT ‘labs’, distribution points for non-food items as well as playgrounds, have never been used. In Kos CCAC, as well as incarceration, there is a lack of interpretation and an inability to communicate needs. The institutional management of applicants as persons ‘in custody’ often becomes a springboard for rude and racist behaviour towards residents. In Lesvos, during the last months of 2022, due to increased arrivals, there was limited housing capacity in the CCAC, and consequently, several residents, even families with children, ended up living in tents without electricity, despite the weather conditions. (See Reception Conditions).

Moreover, unaccompanied children, are prohibited from exiting the fenced “SAFE AREA” container section of CCACs guarded by security personnel, and subject to “restriction of liberty” until their placement in shelters for minors. Since November 2022, the waiting period for the placement of UAMs residing in island CCACs in shelters for minors was reported to have increased up to an average of two months (Samos, Leros, Kos). Concerns have also been expressed about the absence of creative activities during the day and confinement in a non-child friendly, prison–like environment, especially when the waiting time for placement has increased.[54]

Since the implementation of the EU-Türkiye Statement, all newcomers are registered by the RIS.[55] In 2022, the registration of the newcomers carried out by the RIS on the island RICs was conducted within a few days, however significant shortcomings or lack of provision of medical and psychosocial assessment/services as required by law, due to the insufficient number or absence of medical staff working in the RIC on the islands (see also Identification).

The registration of initial asylum claims on the islands is no longer conducted by the RAO, but by the RIS. Concerns are raised regarding wrongful registration of newcomers’ data, especially the incorrect recording of the date of arrival[56] as the time spent in quarantine area/waiting area for registration and identification procedures to start is not included in the “restriction of movement” decision. Incorrect records were often found in the dates of birth, names spelling and country of origin.

As of 26 January 2020, in the context of implementing the IPA and following the visit of the Minister for Migration and Asylum,[57] all the newly arrived persons on the island of Kos were immediately subject to detention in the Kos Pre-removal Detention Facility (PRDF), except persons evidently falling under vulnerability categories. By the second half of 2021, this practice was not as generalised as certain groups of newcomers were not held in detention upon arrival. From September 2021 until December 2021, the maximum detention period was reduced from 18 months to 12 months. In January 2022, it was further reduced to 6 months. On September 2021, the practice of automatic detention upon arrival stopped, and new arrivals were placed in the RIC undergoing reception and identification procedures, after the end of the mandatory quarantine upon arrival.[58] RIS however continued to consider individuals transferred from Rhodes to Kos PRDC until the first months of 2022, as illegally staying third country nationals and refused to register and offer Reception and Identification procedures to inter-island arrivals. As they were not accepted to the CCAC in case they were released, they were exposed to high risks of homelessness and destitution. By the end of 2022, the so called ‘inter-islands arrivals’, were also subject to detention without access to the services that should be provided within the scope of Reception and Identification Procedures.

Procedures followed on the islands amid the COVID-19 outbreak

In addition to those who arrived during March 2020 and who were subject to the Emergency Legislative Order suspending the access to the asylum procedure (and accordingly where not transferred to RICs but detained and transferred to mainland), those who arrived after April 2020 on the Greek Islands were subject to a seven or 14-day quarantine to prevent the potential spread of the virus, prior to their transfer to RICs in order to undergo reception and identification procedures. In some cases, the quarantine was extended beyond 14 days.

As specific places/sites were not available to that end, individuals subject to quarantine had to remain at the point of arrival in a number of cases, i.e. at isolated beaches or in other inadequate locations, inter alia ports, buses etc.[59] The degrading treatment of the new arrivals was publicly criticised by the Association of Doctors of the Public Health System of Lesvos[60]. Since 8 May 2020, a dedicated site for these purposes has been in operation on the island Lesvos.[61]

In 2021, designated containers inside the RIC of Mavrovouni in Lesvos were in use for the preventative quarantine of newcomers, apart from the site in Megala, Therma. In Samos, designated containers inside the RIC in Vathy were also used for the isolation of new arrivals. In Kos, new arrivals remained in a separate area of the PRDF for the quarantine period.

Significant criticism has been raised regarding the conditions in the quarantine sites. Another cause of concern relates to the fact that newcomers received no information/ decision regarding their confinement and especially regarding the legal grounds and the duration of quarantine. Additionally, UNHCR and other actors providing legal counselling have had no access to the sites and as result, newcomers receive limited to no information regarding the Reception and Asylum procedures about to be initiated following their quarantine. It is worth noting that before the end of quarantine, newcomers are not -even temporarily- registered by the RIS. Worryingly enough, in certain cases the mobile phones of newcomers are confiscated by the Authorities upon arrival, rendering any communication with their relatives and/or legal actors impossible.[62] Also, in certain cases, asylum seekers arriving by sea without negative COVID tests have been fined with a 5,000 euro fine by the Greek police. At the beginning of August 2021, the Chios Police Department fined 25 asylum seekers a total of 125,000 euros.[63]

Moreover, since 21 March 2020, Greece imposed lockdown schemes to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, including severe limitations on the movement of people hosted in RICs and Temporary Accommodation Facilities. Though restrictions applied to refugee camps were successively prolonged and remained in force until November 2022, despite the nationwide lifting of restriction of movement for the general population,[64] there was a deterioration of [the asylum seekers’] medical and mental health (See Reception Conditions).[65]

During the first months of 2022, residents of the RIC were able to exit the camp from 07:00 to 21:00. In January 2022, the General Secretary of the Ministry of Asylum and Migration orally announced that the residents would exit the RIC depending on the numbers of confirmed COVID cases on the islands. Due to the low number of confirmed COVID cases, this measure was not practically enforced. New arrivals were obligated to stay in a 14-day quarantine before their registration. Up until November 2022, quarantine was imposed on all newcomers in Lesvos and Kos. Limited information regarding the procedures (before RIS and GAS) to be followed was provided to newcomers isolated in the quarantine areas. During the confinement period, access to human rights actors has also been very limited. A Joint Ministerial Decision published on 19 November 2022 (GG B’ 5874) terminated the five-day quarantine period, stipulating that new arrivals who test negative to COVID-19 should be held in the CCAC’s First Reception Area for registration by RIS, undergoing Reception and Identification procedures. Newly arrived asylum seekers who test positive are placed in mandatory quarantine for five or more days with restricted access to their rights in the above-mentioned conditions. However, registration by the RIS might not take place immediately upon arrival, due to the limited capacity of the latter.

Consequently, in Lesvos applicants are restricted for approximately 5 days in the renamed “waiting area” inside the CCAC before their registration.

The newcomers arriving within the municipality of West Lesvos are transferred to the Controlled Facility for Temporary Accommodation of West Lesvos (Megala Therma or Kastelia) which is complementary to the CCAC of Lesvos and is located to a remote area. The newcomers are in fact arbitrarily detained without any formal reason and without initiating reception and identification procedures. There is not any administrative staff from the RIC apart from the deputy commander nor any translators. The living conditions are unacceptable. Medical screening is provided only by the Médecins Sans Frontières mobile unit visiting the residents twice a week.[66]

In Kos, the containers of the old RIC which were unsustainable and unfit for habitation were used as a quarantine area, along with areas of the Pre-removal Detention Centre (PRDC). After the termination of quarantine, the old RIC has been used as a “First Reception Area”. In practice, the ‘first reception area’ or so called ‘waiting area’ in Samos and Lesvos is the same area that was used for quarantine detention. The occasional increase of arrivals in Kos, during December 2022 and January 2023, combined with the absence of a doctor needed to sign the registration form, has led to some individuals remaining at the site of the “First Reception Area “for more than 16 days. Individuals are held in this area without access to legal or other information, healthcare and without undergoing vulnerability assessments. The period that the asylum seekers are held in the ‘waiting area’ is not included in the 25-day movement restriction imposed after the RIS registration in Kos, Samos and Leros CCAC.

Actors present in the RIC

As well as civil society organisations, a number of official actors are present in the RIC facilities on the islands, including RIS, Frontex, the Asylum Service, EUAA and the Hellenic Police.

Police: The Police is responsible for guarding the external area of the hotspot facilities, as well as for the identification and verification of nationalities of newcomers. According to the IPA, the registration of the applications of international protection, the notification of the decisions and other procedural documents, as well as the registration of appeals, may be carried out by police staff.[67] Moreover, in exceptional circumstances, the interviews of the applicants under the “fast track border procedure” may be carried out by police staff, provided that they have received the necessary basic training in the field of international human rights law, the EU asylum acquis and interview techniques.[68] However, decisions on applications for international protection are always taken by the Asylum Service.

Frontex: Frontex staff is also engaged in the identification and verification of nationalities. Although Frontex should have an assisting role, in practice, it conducts nationality screening almost exclusively, as the Greek authorities lack relevant resources such as interpreters. The conduct of said procedures by Frontex is defined by an internal regulation. It should be noted that, even though the Greek authorities may base their decision concerning the nationality of a newcomer exclusively on an assessment by Frontex, documents issued by the latter are considered to be ‘non-paper’ and thereby inaccessible to individuals. Assessments by Frontex are thus extremely difficult to challenge in practice.

UNHCR/IOM: provide information to newly arrived persons.

Asylum Service: According to IPA, the Asylum Service has a presence in the hotspots. Specifically:

‘(a) third-country national or stateless person wishing to seek international protection, shall be referred to the competent Regional Asylum Office, Unit of which may operate in the RIC;

(b) both the receipt of applications and the interviews of applicants may take place within the premises of the RIC, in a place where confidentiality is ensured’.[69]

EUAA (previously EASO): EUAA is also engaged in the asylum procedure. EUAA experts have a rather active role within the scope of the Fast-Track Border Procedure, as they conduct first instance personal interviews, and they issue opinions regarding asylum applications. Following a legislative reform in 2018, Greek-speaking EASO (now EUAA) personnel can also conduct any administrative action for processing asylum applications, including in the Regular Procedure.[70] Following a mission conducted in Greece in 2019, ECRE published a report in November 2019 which provides a detailed overview on the role of EASO in Greece.[71]

RIS: The RIS previously outsourced medical and psychosocial care provision to NGOs until mid-2017. Since then, the provision of said services have been undertaken by the Ministry of Health, throughout different entities under its supervision. At the end of 2019, the National Organisation for Public Health (Εθνικός Οργανισμός Δημόσιας Υγείας, ΕΟΔΥ), a private entity supervised and funded directly by the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity,[72] was the competent body for the provision of medical and psychosocial services. Serious shortcomings were however noted in 2021 due to the insufficient number of medical staff in the RIC (see also Identification).

Security personnel in CCACs: Surplus private security personnel guard each accommodation and other section of the CCACs, without presence of interpreters, with endogenous inability to communicate the needs of the residents considering the inability of habitants to access services and exit the residence containers sections without an asylum card.

Reception and identification procedures in Evros

People arriving through the Evros border are not subject to the EU-Türkiye statement. Therefore, they are not subjected to the fast-track border procedure and there is no geographical restriction imposed on them upon release.

Persons entering Greece through the Greek-Turkish land border in Evros are however subject to reception and identification procedures at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Fylakio, Orestiada, which was inaugurated in 2013. People transferred to the RIC in Fylakio are subject to a “restriction of freedom of movement” applied as a de facto detention measure, meaning that they remain restricted within the premises of the RIC for the full 25-day period. In some cases, detention in the RIC exceeded one month, as an initial quarantine period was applied. More specifically, the National Public Health Organisation (ΕΟΔΥ) conducted COVID-19 Rapid Tests on every newcomer, prior to their entry into the RIC. Following that and regardless of the result, a quarantine scheme was imposed on all of them as a precaution. No registration by the Reception and Identification Service (RIS) took place before the end of the quarantine period. However, newcomers were formally recorded with their temporary data from the Border Guard Units before being put into quarantine.[73] The application of blanket COVID-19 restrictions was halted during the course of the reporting period and isolation was imposed only on individuals who tested positive for coronavirus.

Depending on the number of arrivals, new arrivals, including families and minors, once detected and apprehended by the authorities, may first be transferred to a border guard police station or the pre-removal centre in Fylakio, where they remain in detention (so called ‘pre-RIC detention’) pending their transfer to the RIC Fylakio. ‘Pre-RIC detention’ of several days or even weeks has occurred in instances where new arrivals surpassed the accommodation capacity of the RIC Fylakio.[74] Their detention “up to the time that [the person] will be transferred to Evros (Fylakio) RIC in order to be subject to reception and identification procedures”, as justified in the relevant detention decisions, has no legal basis in national law (see Grounds for Detention). By the end of 2022, the period of pre-RIC detention was limited to a few days as far as GCR is aware.

By the end of September 2022, 3,392 individuals were registered by the RIS in Evros, out of which 2,857 were men and 535 were women.[75] Information on capacity of the RIC and the number of individuals residing in the RIC during the reporting period were not made available.

Within 2022, the lodging of asylum applications was no longer conducted by the GAS. In the scope of Reception and Identification procedures, RIS conducted the registration of the asylum applications of the newcomers, where all personal details of the applicants and the reasons for seeking international protection were recorded. Registration took place immediately upon arrival for all newcomers (single adults, families and UAMs). In a considerable number of cases concerning UAMs, the registration of the asylum application took place before they were referred/ appointed to a child protection actor.

After 25 days, the majority of applicants who were not considered vulnerable (especially single men) were referred to pre-removal facilities on the mainland (mostly in PRDF of Xanthi and Paranesti), where they remained under detention. By the end of 2022, after the maximum period of 25 days, or in some cases less than 25 days, newly arrived persons were released and the majority were referred by the RIS to open reception facilities in the mainland, with the exception of UAMs who continued to remain in the RIC, pending their placement and transfer to a shelter for minors. However, individuals who had been convicted upon arrival by Greek Penal Courts (i.e. for illegal entry) or who had had penal charges brought against them were not released, but referred to pre-removal facilities in the mainland (mostly in PRDF of Xanthi and Paranesti), where they remain detained on alleged public order grounds. .

By the end of September 2022, 305 UAMs (279 boys and 26 girls) were registered by the RIS in Evros.[76] During 2022 the waiting period for the placement of UAMs in a ‘restriction of liberty status’ (namely in protective custody or in the RIC) to shelters for minors remained short. According to official data available, the average waiting time for the placement was 7.64 days. However, the average waiting time for the placement of UAMs in protective custody was 2.25 days in 2022.[77] Transfers to shelters for minors may be conducted with delays of up to 2-3 months.




[1]  European Commission, European Agenda on Migration, COM(2015) 240, 13 May 2015.

[2] European Commission, The hotspot approach to managing migration flows, 11 September 2015, available at:

[3]   Ibid.

[4]   European Commission, Council Decisions (EU) 2015/1523 of 14 September 2015, OJ 2015, L239/146 and 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015, establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece, OJ 2015, L248/80, available at:

[5]  Ministerial Decision 25.0 / 466733/15-12-2021, according which the RIC of Samos, Leros and Kos are renamed as ‘Closed Controlled Access Centres of Islands (C.C.A.C.I.)’, See also Art. 8 par. 4 L.4375/2016.

[6]  MoMA, The Minister for Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, inaugurated the new closed controlled access centres in Samos, 18 September 2021, available at:; MoMA, N. Mitarachi: Today in Leros and Kos, as a few days ago in Samos and in a few months in Chios and Lesvos, we inaugurate the new Closed Controlled Access Centres, with a view to the future. Images we can all recall from the period 2015-2019 belong definitely to the past, 27 November 2021, available at:

[7]   Article 12, Presidential Decree 77/2022- Gov. Gazette 212/A/17-11-2022

[8]  A new facility in Kara Tepe (Mavrovouni) was established in September 2020 after Moria RIC burnt down.

[9]   European Commission, Third Report on the Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Türkiye Statement, COM(2016) 634, 28 September 2016.

[10]  MoMA, ‘information note reception and identification procedures’, December 2022,

[11]   Tvxs, Χίος – Λέσβος: Μαχητικό «όχι» των κατοίκων στις προσφυγικές δομές – φυλακές, available in Greek at:

[12]  Commission of suspensions, Council of State, 19-12-2022, decision 199/2022, available at:

[13]   CNN Greece, Προσφυγικό: Στο ΣτΕ ο δήμος Λέρου κατά της κατασκευής ΚΥΤ στο Λακκί, 4 January 2021, available in Greek at: and ECRE, Greece: Significant Decrease of Arrivals – Chaos Continues, 15 January 2021, available at:

[14]  The Guardian, ‘A scene out of the middle ages’: Dead refugee found surrounded by rats at Greek camp, 7 May 2021, available at:

[15]  Legal Centre Lesvos, there is nothing more permanent than the temporary – ουδεν μονιμοτερον του προσωρινου, 14 September 2021, available at:

[16]  GCR, Closure of model camp on Greek islands amidst horrific living conditions is cause for concern, available at:

[17] Administrative Court of Syros, Decision No ΑΡ 36 /17-12-2021, available at:

[18]  GCR & Oxfam Bulletin, March 2022, available at:; OXFAM and GCR, Lesbos Bulletin Update on Lesbos and the Aegean Islands, by the Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam, 6 March 2022, available at:

[19]  ‘In both Samos and Kos, only one ambulance is available for the islands’ entire population of more than 32,000 and 37,000 people respectively’ Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam International Submission Inquiry on Fundamental Rights in the EU-funded Migration Facilities on the Greek Islands Case OI/3/2022/MHZ , p.13. Kos’ General Hospital ‘HIPPOCRATES’ systematically lacks a GP (pathologist) and a pediatrician

[20]  European Council, EU-Türkiye statement, 18 March 2016, available at:

[21]  The Greens / European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, The EU-Türkiye Statement and the Greek Hotspots, a failed European pilot project in refugee policy, June 2018, available at:

[22]   In this respect, it should be mentioned that on 28 February 2017, the European Union General Court gave an order, ruling that ‘the EU-Türkiye Statement, as published by means of Press Release No 144/16, cannot be regarded as a measure adopted by the European Council, or, moreover, by any other institution, body, office or agency of the European Union, or as revealing the existence of such a measure that corresponds to the contested measure.’ Therefore ‘the Court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the lawfulness of an international agreement concluded by the Member States’.[22] The order became final on 12 September 2018, as an appeal lodged before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was rejected. General Court of the European Union, Cases T-192/16, T-193/16 and T-257/16 NF, NG and NM v. European Council, Order of 28 February 2017, press release available at:; CJEU, Cases C-208/17 P, C-209/17 P and 210/17 P NF, NG and NM v European Council, Order of 12 September 2018.

[23]   Article 28 L.4825/2021 on ‘Reform of deportation and return procedures of third country nationals, attraction of investors and digital nomads, issues of residence permits and procedures for granting international protection, provisions of competence of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum’.

[24] According to Article 8(4) L. 4375/2016 ‘The Regional Services of the Reception and identification Service shall be: a. The Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) b. Mobile Reception and Identification Units (MRIU) c. The Open Temporary Reception Structures for third-country nationals or stateless persons who have applied for international protection, d. The Open Temporary Accommodation Structures for third-country nationals or stateless persons: who are under a return procedure in accordance with article 22 of law 3907/2011, or with paragraph 3 of this article in conjunction with article 30 of law 3907/2011 or whose removal has been postponed in accordance with Article 24 of law 3907/2011 or who fall under the provisions of article 76 para. 5 or article 78 or article 78a of law 3386/2005’. Article 30(4) L. 4686/2020 amended article 8(4) L.4375/2016 and foresaw the establishment of the so called ‘Closed Temporary Reception Facilities’ for asylum seekers against whom a detention decision has been issued and the ‘Islands’ Closed Controlled Facilities’, for asylum seekers, persons under a removal procedure and persons under geographical limitation. The provision does not specify further information, such as the general operation of such centres, the reasons for placing third country nationals in such facilities, the possibility of and procedures for entry and exit, general conditions, the maximum period of stay etc and up today such centres have not yet been established. Article 8(4) L. 4375/2016 as amended by article 30(4) L. 4686/2020 was applied until the entry into force of L. 4852/2021 in 4th September 2021.

[25]   as amended by Article 62 L.4939/2022.

[26]   Joint Ministerial Decision 25.0/118832 – Gov. Gazette 1454/Β/25-3-2022 ΦΕΚ Β 3191/20.7.2021.

[27]  Amnesty International, Greece: Asylum seekers being illegally detained in new EU-funded camp, 2 December 2021, available at:

[28] Administrative Court of Syros, Decision No ΑΡ 36 /17-12-2021, available at:; GCR, The Administrative Court of Syros ruled unlawful the measure of prohibiting the exit of an Afghan asylum seeker from the new Closed Controlled Access Facility of Samos (CCF Samos), 22 December 2021, available at:

[29]  GCR and Oxfam briefing, Lesbos Bulletin, available at:

[30]  ‘Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam International Submission Inquiry on Fundamental Rights in the EU-funded Migration Facilities on the Greek Islands- Case OI/3/2022/MHZ’, available at:

[31]  UNHCR, Returns from Greece to Türkiye, Returns from Greece to Türkiye, in the framework of the EU – TUR Statement. Source: Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection, 31 March 2020, available at:

[32]  MoMA, MoMa Yearly Report 2020, December 2020, available at:, 5.

[33] Fenix, Fenix calls the Greek authorities to examine the merits of asylum applications rejected on admissibility, 1 February 2022, available at:

[34] MoMA, New request from Greece for the return of 1.908 illegal economic migrants to Türkiye, 28 July 2021, available at:

[35] Article 7 L 3907/2011.

[36]  Joint Ministerial Decision 11.1/1076/2012, Gov. Gazette 3543/Β’/31.12.2012; Reception and Identification Service, RIC at Fylakio, Evros.

[37]  Joint Ministerial Decision No 2969/2015, Gov. Gazette 2602/Β/2-12-2015.

[38] Law 3907/2011 ‘On the Establishment of an Asylum Service and a First Reception Service, transposition into Greek Legislation of the provisions of the Directive 2008/115/EC ‘on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals’ and other provisions’.

[39]  L 4375/2016, Gov. Gazette 51/A/3-4-2016, available at:

[40]  Article1 PD, 18/2020 (ΦΕΚ 34/Α/19-2-2020), available in Greek at:

[41] Asylum Code, see

[42] Article 38(1) Asylum Code.

[43]    Article 38(2) Asylum Code.

[44]  Article 39 Asylum Code.

[45] Article 40 Asylum Code.

[46]  Ibid.

[47] Article 40(a) Asylum Code.

[48]  Article 41 Asylum Code.

[49]  Article 42(c)Asylum Code.

[50]  Article 43(a)Asylum Code.

[51]  ‘Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam International Submission Inquiry on Fundamental Rights in the EU-funded Migration Facilities on the Greek Islands- Case OI/3/2022/MHZ’, available at:

[52] ‘Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam International Submission Inquiry on Fundamental Rights in the EU-funded Migration Facilities on the Greek Islands- Case OI/3/2022/MHZ’, available at:

[53]  Information provided by the Reception and Identification Service, 26 February 2021.

[54] Data available to GCR by the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the MoMA.

[55]  Article 8(2) L 4375/2016 as amended by Article 116(3) L 4636/2019, Article 9 L 4375/2016 as amended by Article 39 IPA; see also, Ministerial Decree No 1/7433, Governmental Gazette Β 2219/10.6.2019, General Operation Regulation of the RICs and the Mobile Units of Reception and Identification.

[56] Equal Rights Beyond Borders, HIAS Greece & RSA, ‘THE STATE OF THE BORDER PROCEDURE ON THE GREEK ISLANDS SEPTEMBER 2022’, 2022, available at:, 13.

[57]  Press Release, Ministry for Migration and Asylum, 26.01.2020, available at: (in Greek) and TVXS, ‘Οι πρώτοι μετανάστες σε κλειστό κέντρο στην Κω, την ώρα που ο Μηταράκης επισκέπτεται το νησί – Πανηγυρίζει ο Βορίδης’, 26 January 2020, available in Greek at:

[58] Equal Rights Beyond Borders, HIAS Greece & RSA, The state of the border procedure on the Greek islands, September 2022, available at:, 31.

[59], Παρατημένοι σε παραλίες εν μέσω κοροναϊού πρόσφυγες που φτάνουν στη Λέσβο, 4 April 2020, available in Greek at:

[60]  Association of Doctors of the Public Health System of Lesvos, ‘ΝΕΕΣ ΑΦΙΞΕΙΣ ΚΑΙ ΜΕΤΡΑ ΑΠΟΜΟΝΩΣΗΣ’, 29 April 2020, available at:

[61], Μυτιλήνη: Λειτουργεί από το πρωί η ‘καραντίνα’ των νεοεισερχόμενων προσφύγων και μεταναστών, 9 May 2020, available at:

[62] Equal Rights Beyond Borders, Rights of Migrants regarding the human rights impact of COVID-19 protocols on asylum seekers arriving to Kos and Chios, March 2022, available at:

[63]   European Council of Refugees and Exiles, Greece: Tabled Bill Continues Erosion of Protection – Greek Authorities Imposing Fees and Fines on Asylum Seekers and NGOs, 27 August 2021, available at:

[64]  Joint Ministerial Decision Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 17567/2022 – Gov. Gazette 1454/Β/25-3-2022,

[65]  Médecins Sans Frontières, Constructing crisis at Europe’s borders: The EU plan to intensify its dangerous hotspot approach on Greek islands, June 2021, available at:

[66]  RSA, ‘What is happening today in the refugee structures on the Aegean islands, Lesvos’, 3 May 2023, available at:, and newsletter April-May 2023, available at:

[67]   Article 90(2) IPA.

[68]  Article 90(3), b IPA.

[69]  Article 39(6) IPA

[70] Article 65(16) and 90(3) b IPA; ECRE Report, The Role of EASO Operations in National Asylum Systems, November 2019, available at:

[71]  ECRE, The Role of EASO Operations in national asylum systems, November 2019, available at:

[72]  Established by L 4633/2019.

[73]  Human Rights 360, ‘The European and national asylum policy at the land borders of Evros’, 18 February 2021, available at:

[74]  Communication from the UNHCR (15.5.2019) in the M.S.S. and Rahimi groups v. Greece (Applications No.30696/09, 8687/08), available at:



[77]  Data available to GCR by the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the MoMA, as of 16-02-2023

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation