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. 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 fulfill their 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.
For the achievement of this goal, EU Agencies, namely EASO (now EUAA), Frontex, Europol and Eurojust, work alongside the Greek authorities within the context of the hotspots. The hotspot approach was also expected to contribute to the implementation of the temporary relocation scheme, proposed by the European Commission in September 2015. Therefore, hotspots were envisaged initially as reception and registration centres, where all stages of administrative procedures concerning newcomers – identification, reception, asylum procedure or return – would take place swiftly within their scope.
Five hotspots, under the legal form of First Reception Centres – now Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) – were established in Greece on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos. During 2021, on Samos, Leros and Kos, the RIC have been converted into ‘Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (CCACI)’. The new facility in Samos has been inaugurated on 18 September 2021 and the ones in Leros and Kos on 27 November 2021. On Kos, despite the inauguration of the new center, new infrastructures remained non-operational and only the existing facilities of the RIC and the pre-removal Center – which are part of the new center- were functional throughout 2021. Two more Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (CCACI) on Lesvos and Chios are foreseen in 2022.
|Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) and Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (CCACI)|
|Hotspot||Start of operation||Capacity||Occupancy|
18 September 2021
27 November 2021
Source: Ministry of Migration and Asylum, National Situation: Migrant and Refugee Issue, Situation as of 31 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3LJbIKF.
The total capacity of the five hotspot facilities was initially planned at 7,450 places. According to official data, their capacity increased to 13,338 places by the end of 2020. The construction of the ‘Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (C.C.A.C.I.)’ in 2021 further increased said 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 low in 2020 and 2021 compared to previous years.
Local communities also expressed their opposition against the creation of the new ‘Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (C.C.A.C.I.) because they do not consider them necessary and because they raise 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 tried to disrupt the construction of the centers on the islands. In Leros and Kos, criticism against the construction of the new facilities were expressed not only by local communities but also by local Authorities. The Mayors of both islands refused to attend the inauguration of the new centers. Moreover, in January 2021 the local authorities of Leros have challenged the construction of the new center before the Council of State. Similarly, in Samos the inauguration of the new facility has not been welcomed by certain local opposition parties and other actors.
On Samos and Leros the new closed facilities have been transferred to different areas compared to where RICs were located, namely in Zervou (Samos) and Lepida (Leros). Similarly, the new facilities on Lesvos and Chios which are planned for 2022 are going to be 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 detached to the existing RIC.
All these new structures are isolated from urban areas with very poor connection to the main cities of each islands. More specifically, the new center of Samos is located 7km away from the city of Vathy, the new center of Leros is 6km from the city of Agia Marina and the new center of Kos is 15km far away from the city of Kos. Similarly, the new center on Lesvos is being constructed in an area 30km from the city of Mytilene and the facility of Chios 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. Similarly, criticism regarding the inadequacy of the Mavrovouni RIC is still vivid due to extreme weather conditions, inaccessible and inadequete sanitation facilities and the lack of security incidents despite significant police surveillance. This situation coupled with the closure of the site of Kara Tepe, which was run by the Municipality of Mytilene and which was offering decent living conditions to its residents spurred sharp criticism, with commentators accusing the government to adopt policies of deterrence.
Τhe new ‘Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (C.C.A.C.I.)’ are thus a cause of serious concern, despite the large amount of funding that were used for their construction. In Samos, the conditions prevailing in the new center are considerably better than the ones in the RIC in terms of infrastructure. Yet, testimonies collected by the Greek Council for Refugees from people living in the new center and civil society organisations amount to prison-like conditions. Approximately 100 people have been prevented to leave the reception center for two months due to an exit ban that the Greek administrative court found amounts to illegal de facto detention. The Ministry of Asylum and Migration takes great pride in the 24/7 surveillance and security control mechanisms of the new center, while at the same time, the residents have limited access to Healthcare. In fact, the Medical Unit of the facility in Samos has no doctor.
Hotspot transformation following the EU-Turkey statement
In March 2016, the adoption of the highly controversial EU-Turkey Statement committing “to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU”, brought a transformation of the so-called hotspots on the Aegean islands.
With the launch of the EU-Turkey Statement, hotspot facilities turned into closed detention centres. People arriving after 20 March 2016 through the Aegean islands, and thus subject to the EU-Turkey Statement, were automatically de facto detained within the premises of the hotspots in order to be readmitted to Turkey 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. Following criticism by national and international organisations and actors, as well as due to the limited capacity to maintain and run closed facilities on the islands with high numbers 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).
“The Regional Services of the Reception and Identification Services are:
- the Reception and Identification Centers (RIC),
- the Controlled Structures for Temporary Accommodation of asylum seekers and
- the Closed Controlled Access Centers, which are structured and have the responsibilities of RIC and within which, in separate spaces, operate facilities of temporary accommodation and the special detention facilities provided in Art. 31 of L. 3907/2011
Within the premises of the above mentioned facilities, special areas dedicated to people belonging to vulnerable groups of article 14(8) L.4636/2019 are provided”
Although the Rule of Procedure of Closed Controlled Access Centers 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 Centers of Islands (C.C.A.C.I.)’ of Samos, namely for those who do not hold an asylum seeker card. Persons who do not have a card include:
- a) new arrivals after the registration of their asylum application and pending the issuance of a card,
- b) persons whose applications have been rejected at second instance who did not lodge or are unable to lodge a subsequent asylum application,
- c) those who have filed a subsequent application until a decision on admissibility is issued,
- d) those whose applications have been rejected at first instance, until they can lodge an appeal.
By way of illustration in the ‘Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (C.C.A.C.I.)’ of Samos the number of people banned from exiting the camp was around 100 out of the 450 residents by December 2021. This prohibition took effect without any written decision ordering the restriction in the CCAC, and without information on nor notification to the persons concerned on the grounds of such a 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”.
From April 2016 to 31 March 2020, 2,140 individuals had been returned to Turkey on the basis of the EU-Turkey 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. 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 on the basis of 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.
According to the official statistics of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum published in January 2021, “returns under the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration have not been made since March  due to Covid-19. It should be noted that despite the lifting of the measures for the pandemic, from 01/06  the requests of missions-returns of the Greek authorities have not been answered.” This has also been confirmed by more recent notes of the Readmission Unit of the Hellenic Police Headquarters. In July 2021, Greece made a new request to the EU Commission and FRONTEX for the immediate return to Turkey of 1,908 rejected asylum seekers living on the Aegean islands. The Greek Government accused Turkey for refusing to implement its commitments under the EU-Turkey Statement, and for continuing to refuse to engage in any way on the issue. However, despite the suspension of returns to Turkey since March 2020, the applications lodged by applicants falling under the scope of the JMD 42799/2021 (FEK B’ 2425/07.06.2021) are still examined in the context of the Safe third country concept and the Fast-Track Border Procedure.
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;
- 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.
This approach was first implemented by the First Reception Centre (FRC) set up in Evros in 2013, 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, the regulation of which was provided by existing legislation regarding the First Reception Service. However, this legislative act failed to respond to and regulate all the challenges arising within the scope of 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-Turkey 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.
L 4375/2016 has 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. The IPA, in force since 1 January 2020, regulates the functioning of the RICs and the conduct of the reception and identification procedure in a similar way.
Article 39 IPA, in force since 1 January 2020, 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.” Reception and identification procedures include five stages:
- 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 by the Police, Coast Guard or Armed Forces in case of mass arrivals;
- Channelling to reception and identification procedure: According to the law, newly arrived persons should be directly transferred to a RIC, 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.This restriction of freedom entails “the prohibition to leave the Centre and the obligation to remain in it”. Such a restriction is ordered on the basis of a written, duly motivated decision;
- Registration and medical checks, including Identification of vulnerable groups;
- 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;
- Further referral and transfer to other reception or detention facilities depending on the circumstances of the case.
Reception and identification procedures on the islands
At the early stages of the implementation of the Statement, persons arriving on the Eastern Aegean islands and thus subject to the EU-Turkey 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 numbers of populations, the “restriction of freedom” within the RIC premises as a de facto detention measure was no longer applied in the RICs, as of the end of 2016, with the exception of Kos. More specifically, in the measure of ‘restriction of freedom’ has been imposed to all newcomers in Kos throughout 2021; it applied for a period of 25 days, within which the applicants are banned from exiting the facility.
In any case, those who arrived since March 2020 on the Eastern Aegean Islands have been subject to a 7-day, 10-day or 14-day quarantine period, 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. On Lesvos the quarantine was sometimes extended beyond 14 days. A geographical restriction is also systematically imposed on every newly arrived person on the Greek islands, initially by the police and subsequently by the Head of the Asylum Service, imposing the obligation to remain on the islands and in 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-Turkey 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. Exceptionally, in Kos, 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 regardless 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 respectively 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 mass 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. Newly arrived persons are obliged to reside for prolonged periods in substandard facilities, where food and water supply is reported insufficient, sanitation is poor and security highly problematic, while their mental health is aggravated (see Reception Conditions).
Moreover, unaccompanied children, as a rule, are prohibited from moving freely on the islands and remain in the RIC under “restriction of liberty”. During 2021 the waiting period for the placement of UAMs residing in island RICs to shelters for minors has significantly decreased. More specifically, according to the official data available the average waiting time for the placement was 7.4 days.
Since the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement all newcomers are registered by the RIS. In 2021, the registration of the newcomers carried out by the RIS on the island RICs was conducted within a few days, however significant shortcomings and delays occur in the provision of medical and psychosocial assessment/services as required by law, due to the insufficient number of medical staff working in the RIC on the islands (see also Identification).
As of 26 January 2020, in the context of implementing the IPA and following the visit of the Minister for Migration and Asylum, 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. Additionally, by the end of the year, the so called ‘inter-islands arrivals’, were subject to detention without access to services that shall be provided within the scope of Reception and Identification Procedures. Amongst others, persons who were detained on other islands (i.e. Rhodes) in the absence of existing reception facilities, who were transferred to Kos’ PRDF, were not assessed regarding potential vulnerabilities by the RIS. Similarly, they did not receive medical checks unless they were referred to Health Unit (ΑΕΜΥ) active in the Detention Facility (which is deprived of doctors) or/and the hospital. Also, individuals of ‘interisland arrivals’ were not accepted to the RIC in case they were released, consequently exposing them to high risks of homelessness and destitution.
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 since April 2020 on the Greek Islands are subject to a 7 or 14-day quarantine so as 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. The degrading treatment of the new arrivals was publicly criticized by the Association of Doctors of the Public Health System of Lesvos. Since 8 May 2020, a dedicated site for these purposes has been in operation on the island Lesvos.
During 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 of Vathy were also used for the isolation of new arrivals. In Kos, new arrivals remain during the quarantine period in a separated area of the PRDF.
Sharp criticism has been raised regarding the conditions in the quarantine sites. According to testimonies, the sites do not meet with hygiene standards (cockroaches and mice in their containers, bathrooms dirty and moldy, lack of heat or proper insulation from the elements, insufficient number of mattresses, shortcomings in access to health care). Another cause of concern relates to the fact that newcomers receive no information/ decision regarding their confinement and especially regarding the legal grounds and the duration of quarantine. In addition to that, UNHCR and other actors providing legal counselling have 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. Also, in certain cases asylum seekers arriving by sea without negative COVID tests have been fined with a 5,000€ fine by the Greek police. At the beginning of August, the Chios Police Department fined 25 asylum seekers a total of 125,000 euro.
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. The said restrictions applied to refugee camps were successively prolonged and remain in force, despite the nationwide lifting of restriction of movement for the general population, resulting in a deterioration of [the asylum seekers’] medical and mental health (See Reception Conditions).
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, Asylum Service, EASO 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. 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. Decisions on applications for international protection are always taken by the Asylum Service, however.
Frontex: Frontex staff is also engaged in the identification and verification of nationality. Although Frontex should have an assisting role, it conducts nationality screening almost exclusively in practice, as the Greek authorities lack relevant capacity 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”.
EASO (now EUAA): EASO is also engaged in the asylum procedure. EASO 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 personnel can also conduct any administrative action for processing asylum applications, including in the Regular Procedure. 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.
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, was the competent body for the provision of medical and psychosocial services. Serious shortcomings were noted in 2021 due to the insufficient number of medical staff in the RIC (see also Identification).
Reception and identification procedures in Evros
People arriving through the Evros border are not subject to the EU-Turkey statement. Therefore, they are not subject 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 subject to reception and identification procedures at the RIC of Fylakio, Orestiada, which is the only RIC that continues to operate as a closed facility. 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, in 2021, detention in the RIC exceeded one month, as an initial quarantine period is applied. More specifically, the National Public Health Organization (ΕΟΔΥ) conducts COVID-19 Rapid Tests to every newcomer, before entering the RIC. Following that and regardless of the result, a 14- or 10-days quarantine is imposed to all of them as a precaution. No registration by the RIS takes place before the end of the quarantine period. However, newcomers are formally recorded with their temporary data from the Border Guard Units before being put into quarantine.
Depending on the number of arrivals, new arrivals, including families and children, 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. Prolonged ‘pre-RIC detention’ has occurred in instances where new arrivals surpassed the accommodation capacity of RIC Fylakio. 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 2021, the period of pre-RIC detention has been limited to several days as far as GCR is aware. An isolation scheme is imposed to newcomers who are principally transferred to border guard police station or the pre-removal center. A quarantine within the RIC is sometimes not imposed if a Medical Note of the doctor of the Health Unit (AEMY) present in the pre-removal center demonstrates that the individuals do not show any COVID symptoms by the day they are transferred to the RIC,
According to official data, as of 31 December 2020 the capacity of Fylakio RIC was 282 places, while at the same date there were 259 persons remaining there. Such data is not available for 2021.
Information on the number of persons registered by the Fylakio RIC in 2021 is not available.
After the maximum period of 25 days, or in some cases more than 25 days, newly arrived persons are released, with the exception of those referred to pre-removal detention facilities, where they are detained further in view of removal. Certain persons might exceptionally be released even before the period of 25 days. Upon release, asylum seekers from Evros are not referred by the State to open reception facilities, with the exception of vulnerable cases.
As reported in February 2021 by Human Rights 360 “In the framework of the abolishment of protective custody for the unaccompanied minors and the acceleration of their placement into suitable shelters, the Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors, Irene Agapidaki, stated that the unaccompanied minors should be registered during the first day that they enter the RIC and before their 14-day quarantine. However, the fear of the spread of COVID-19 and the caution of the registration officers, puts the application of the above decision in danger, as up until now, newly arrived UASCs and the rest of the people are being placed in a 14-day quarantine before their registration at the RIC.”. Moreover, according to the said report “the provision of article 43 of Law 4760/2020 regarding the abolishment of protective custody does not clarify the legal status of the unaccompanied minors currently present at the RIC of Fylakio and who continue to stay there until the placement in a suitable shelter is completed. The problem arises particularly when the obligatory 14-day quarantine is applied as a measure against the spread of Covid19 and the procedures of the RIC follow under the new unified registration system, in anticipation of the placement to appropriate accommodation facilities. In most cases like these, unaccompanied minors stay at the RIC of Fylakio considerably longer than the 25-day time limit in which the procedures are supposed to be completed.”
During 2021 the waiting period for the placement of UAMs being in a ‘restriction of liberty status’ (namely in protective custody or in the RIC) to shelters for minors has significantly decreased. More specifically, according to the official data available the average waiting time for the placement has been 4.7 days. However, it is underlined that the average waiting time for the placement of UAMs in protective custody was 1.26 days in 2021. Transfers to shelters for minors might be conducted with certain delays which may reach up to 2-3 months.
 European Commission, European Agenda on Migration, COM(2015) 240, 13 May 2015.
 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: https://bit.ly/2wWHXVE.
 Ministerial Decision 25.0 / 466733/15-12-2021, according which the RIC of Samos, Leros and Kos are renamed as ‘Closed Controlled Access Centers of Islands (C.C.A.C.I.)’, See also Art. 8 par. 4 L.4375/2016.
 Ministry of Migration and Asylum, The Minister for Migration and Asylum, Mr. Notis Mitarachi, inaugurated the new closed controlled access center in Samos, 18 September 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3DHQzOe; Ministry of Migration and Asylum, 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 Centers, 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: https://bit.ly/3j61isb.
 A new facility in Kara Tepe (Mavrovouni) was established in September 2020 after Moria RIC burnt down.
 European Commission, Third Report on the Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, COM(2016) 634, 28 September 2016.
 CNN Greece, Προσφυγικό: Στο ΣτΕ ο δήμος Λέρου κατά της κατασκευής ΚΥΤ στο Λακκί, 4 January 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3DFVT4y and ECRE, Greece: Significant Decrease of Arrivals – Chaos Continues, 15 January 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/37tbYPr.
 GCR & Oxfam Bulletin, March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3NPHNCh; OXFAM and GCR, Lesbos Bulletin Update on Lesbos and the Aegean Islands, by the Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam, 6 March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3ujUNIZ.
 The Greens / European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, The EU-Turkey Statement and the Greek Hotspots, a failed European pilot project in refugee policy, June 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/38TAhkb.
 In this respect, it should be mentioned that on 28 February 2017, the European Union General Court gave an order, ruling that “the EU-Turkey 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”. 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: http://bit.ly/2lWZPrr; 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.
 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’.
 According to Article 8(4) L. 4375/2016 “The Regional Services of the Reception and identification Service shall be: a. The Reception and Identification Centers (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 centers, 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 centers 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.
 Joint Ministerial Decision 25.0/118832 – Gov. Gazette 1454/Β/25-3-2022 ΦΕΚ Β 3191/20.7.2021.
 Administrative Court of Syros, Decision No ΑΡ 36 /17-12-2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3KroeOI; 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: https://bit.ly/3un8NBI.
 UNHCR, Returns from Greece to Turkey, Returns from Greece to Turkey, in the framework of the EU – TUR Statement. Source: Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection, 31 March 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3a4rcIV.
 Article 7 L 3907/2011.
 Joint Ministerial Decision 11.1/1076/2012, Gov. Gazette 3543/Β’/31.12.2012; Reception and Identification Service, RIC at Fylakio, Evros.
 Joint Ministerial Decision No 2969/2015, Gov. Gazette 2602/Β/2-12-2015.
 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”.
 Article 39(1) IPA.
 Article 39(2) IPA.
 Article 39(3) IPA.
 Article 39(4)(a) IPA.
 Article 39(4)(a) IPA.
 Article 39(5) IPA.
 Article 39(6) IPA.
 Article 39(7) IPA.
 UNHCR, Explanatory Memorandum pertaining to UNHCR’s submission to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on developments in the management of asylum and reception in Greece, May 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2BbSrAA, 2.
 Information provided by the Reception and Identification Service, 26 February 2021.
 Article 39 IPA, See also FRA, Update of the 2016 Opinion of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights on fundamental rights in the ‘hotspots’ set up in Greece and Italy, 3/2019, 4 March 2019, 8 «The implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement is linked to the hotspots approach», available at: https://bit.ly/2WpjLCF.
 Pursuant to Article 78 L 3386/2005.
 Data available to GCR by the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum.
 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.
 Press Release, Ministry for Migration and Asylum, 26.01.2020, available at: https://bit.ly/39Z2Myk (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: https://bit.ly/3oMEj6W .
 NIEM, Serious violations of human rights and access to healthcare for new arrivals of asylum seekers on Lesvos island in 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/378pWpE; Equal Rights Beyond Borders, Submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants regarding the human rights impact of COVID-19 protocols on asylum seekers arriving to Kos and Chios, March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3NWi1MU.
 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: https://bit.ly/3DTNpan.
 Joint Ministerial Decision Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 17567/2022 – Gov. Gazette 1454/Β/25-3-2022,
 Article 90(2) IPA.
 Article 90(3), b IPA.
 Article 39(6) IPA
 Established by L 4633/2019.
 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: https://bit.ly/39PPbt7.
 Information provided by the Reception and Identification Service, 26 February 2021.
 Data available to GCR by the Special Secretariat for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum.