Conditions in detention facilities

Greece

Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 30/05/22

Author

Greek Council for Refugees Visit Website

The law sets out certain special guarantees on detention conditions for asylum seekers. Notably, the authorities must make efforts to ensure that detainees have necessary medical care, and their right to legal representation should be guaranteed.[1] In any event, according to the law, “difficulties in ensuring decent living conditions… shall be taken into account when deciding to detain or to prolong detention.”[2]

However, as it has been consistently reported by a range of actors, that detention conditions for third-country nationals, including asylum seekers, do not meet the basic standards in Greece.

 

Conditions in pre-removal centres

Physical conditions and activities

According to the law, detained asylum seekers shall have outdoor access.[3] Women and men shall be detained separately,[4] unaccompanied children shall be held separately from adults,[5] and families shall be held together to ensure family unity.[6] Moreover, the possibility to engage in leisure activities shall be granted to children.[7]

GCR regularly visits the pre-removal facilities depending on needs and availability of resources. According to GCR findings, as corroborated by national and international bodies, conditions in pre-removal detention facilities vary to a great extent and in many cases fail to meet standards.

Overall detention conditions in pre-removal detention facilities (PRDFs) remain substandard, despite some good practices, which have been adopted in some pre-removal detention facilities (such as allowing detainees to use their mobile phones). Major concerns include a carceral, prison-like design, the lack of sufficient hygiene and non-food items, including clothes and shoes, clean mattresses and clean blankets, the lack of recreational activities, and overcrowding persisting in some facilities. The provision of medical services in PRDFs remains critical, as the available resources remain inadequate with respect to observed needs.[8] In March 2020, CPT acknowledged after its visit that regrettably, once  again,  far  too  many  of  the  places  being  used  to  detain  migrants  offered conditions of detention which are an affront to human dignity.[9] The precise observations for each PRDF, included on the previous AIDA report, are still valid.[10]

In June 2021, the Greek Ombudsman pointed in particular to the following main issues:[11]

  • Overcrowding in detention, especially in police stations,
  • Lack of doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers,
  • Total lack of interpretation services,
  • Lack of entertaining activities,
  • Poor structures, hygiene conditions and lack of light and heating,
  • Inadequate cleaning,
  • Lack of clothing,
  • Lack or limited possibility of access open air spaces.

Poor detention conditions have often been invoked by appeal lawyers during detention reviews, as the court must decide not only on the necessity of detention, but also on its compatibility with certain human rights conditions. The Greek administrative courts have been very reluctant to accept arguments based on the poor detention conditions. In most cases, these arguments have been rejected as ‘vague and inadmissible’, with the justification that ‘direct medical care can be provided […] there is an area available for physical activity and by its nature it is not only intended for short stay’. In other cases, the conditions of detention are not examined at all.[12]

According to GCR’s experience, detention conditions remained the same as those described above in 2021.

Health care in detention

The law states that the authorities shall make efforts to guarantee access to health care for detained asylum seekers.[13] Since 2017, the responsibility for the provision of medical services in pre-removal detention centres was transferred to the Ministry of Health, and in particular the Health Unit SA (Ανώνυμη Εταιρεία Μονάδων Υγείας, AEMY), a public limited company under the supervision of Ministry of Health.[14]

However, substantial medical staff shortage has been observed in PRDFs already since the previous years. The CPT has long urged the Greek authorities to improve the provision of health-care services in all immigration detention facilities where persons are held for periods of more than a day or two. The  general  lack  of medical  screening  upon  arrival and  of access to health care have been compounded by the severe shortage of resources, including staffing resources, and the complete lack of integrated management of health-care services; combined with the lack of hygiene and appalling detention conditions, the Committee considered that they even presented a public health risk.

Official statistics demonstrate that the situation has not improved in 2021 and that pre-removal centres continue to face a substantial medical staff shortage. At the end of 2021, there were only six doctors in total in the detention centres on the mainland (2 in Amygdaleza, 1 in Tavros, 1 in Korinthos, 1 in Fylakio and 1 in Paranesti). Moreover in Kos PRDC, i.e. where persons are detained inter alia in order to be subject to readmission within the framework of the EU-Turkey Statement, there was no doctor.[15]

According to the official data, the coverage (in percentage) of the required staff in 2021 was as follows:

Provision of medical/health care Provision of phycological care Provision of social support services Provision of interpretation services
Doctors: 33.33% Physiatrists: 0% Social workers: 0% Interpreters: 0%
Nurses: 48.78% Phycologists: 0%
Health visitors: 25%
Administrators: 54.55%

Source: Information provided by the Directorate of the Hellenic Police, 8 March 2022.

 

More precisely, at the end of 2021, the number of AEMY staff present on each pre-removal detention centre was as follows:

Category Amygdaleza Tavros Corinth Paranesti Xanthi Kos Fylakio
Doctors 2 1 1 1 0 0 1
Psychiatrists 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nurses 3 3 3 3 3 2 3
Interpreters 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Psychologists 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Social workers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Health visitors 1 1 0 0 1 0 0
Administrators 1 0 1 0 0 0 1

Source: Information provided by the Directorate of the Hellenic Police, 8 March 2022.

 

Conditions in police stations and other facilities

In 2021, GCR visited more than 30 police stations and special holding facilities were third-country nationals were detained:

  • Attica:  police stations inter alia in Athens International Airport, Agios Panteleimonas, Vyronas, Piraeus, Syntagma, Drapetsona, Kalithea, Neo Iraklio, Pefki, Kypseli, Pagrati, Penteli, Chaidari, Glifada, Ampelokipoi, Cholargos, Omonoia. Egaleo, Exarheia, Kolonos, Galatsi
  • Northern Greece: police stations inter alia in Transfer Directorate (Μεταγωγών), Thermi, Agiou Athanasiou, Raidestou;
  • Eastern Aegean islands: police stations inter alia on Rhodes, Leros, Lesvos, Chios and Samos.

Police stations are by nature “totally unsuitable” for detaining persons for longer than 24 hours.[16] However, they are constantly used for prolonged migration detention. As mentioned above and according to the official data there were 380 persons in administrative detention at the end of 2021 in facilities other than pre-removal centres, of whom 35 were asylum seekers.[17] According to GCR findings, detainees in police stations live in substandard conditions as a rule, i.e. no outdoor access, poor sanitary conditions, lack of sufficient natural light, no provision of clothing or sanitary products, insufficient food, no interpretation services and no medical services; the provision of medical services by AEMY concerns only pre-removal detention centres and does not cover persons detained in police stations.

Similarly, CPT, following its visit in Greece in 2018 repeated that the detention facilities in most of the police stations are totally unsuitable for holding persons for periods exceeding 24 hours.[18] Despite this, police stations throughout Greece are still being used for holding irregular migrants for prolonged periods. GCR has supported several cases in 2020 in which migrants remained in detention for several days, even months: A citizen of Iran in detention in Pefki and Rafina police stations for one year; a Yezidi man in detention in Kallithea police station for six months; a man of Syrian origin in detention in Agios Panteleimonas, Pagrati and Kipseli police stations for five months; a person from Afghanistan in detention in Neo Iraklio police station for a period of six months.

Special mention should be made of the detention facilities of the Aliens Directorate of Thessaloniki (Μεταγωγών). Although the facility is a former factory warehouse, completely inadequate for detention, it continues to be used systematically for detaining a significant number of persons for prolonged periods.[19]

The ECtHR has consistently held that prolonged detention in police stations per se is not in line with guarantees provided under Article 3 ECHR.[20] In June 2018, it found a violation of Article 3 ECHR in S.Z. v. Greece concerning a Syrian applicant detained for 52 days in a police station in Athens.[21] In February 2019, it found a violation of Article 3 ECHR due to the conditions of “protective custody” of unaccompanied children in different police stations in Northern Greece such as Axioupoli and Polykastro.[22] In June 2019, the Court found that the conditions of the detention of 3 unaccompanied minors under the pretext of protective custody for 24 days, 35 days and 8 days at Polikastro police station, Igoumentisa port police station and Filiatra police station and Agios Stefanos police station and the cell of the Police Directorate of Athens respectively, were not in line with Art. 3 ECHR.[23]

 

 

 

[1] Article 47 (7) IPA

[2] Article 46(2) and 46(3) IPA

[3] Article 44(3) IPA

[4] Article 48(4) IPA

[5] Article 48(2) IPA

[6] Articles 48(3) IPA.

[7] Article 48(2) IPA.

[8] Global Detention Project/Greek Council for Refugees, Joint Submission to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Preparation for its Mission to Greece in December 2019, October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3cqZplk.

[9] Council of Europe’s anti-torture Committee calls on Greece to reform its immigration detention system and stop pushbacks, available at: https://bit.ly/39ZNL1h. See also, CPT, Report to the Greek Government on the visit to Greece carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)from 13 to 17 March 2020, CPT/Inf (2020) 35, Strasbourg 19 November 2020, available at: https://rm.coe.int/1680a06a86.

[10] AIDA, Report on Greece, 2019 Update, 195-197.

[11] These major problems were also pointed out by the Greek Ombudsman in June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3CVzZtM.

[12] OXFAM. GCR, Detention as the default, November 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3wpTmtW.

[13] Article 48 (1) IPA.

[14] Article 47(1) IPA.

[15] Information provided by the Directorate of the Hellenic Police, 11 February 2021.

[16] CPT, Report on the visit to Greece from 13 to 18 April and 19 to 25 July 2016, CPT/Inf (2017) 25, 26 September 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2g4Y9bU, 6.

[17] Information provided by the Directorate of the Hellenic Police, 11 February 2021.

[18] CPT, Report on the visit to Greece, from 10 to 19 April 2018, CPT/Inf (2019) 4, 19 February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2T0peQb, para 84

[19] Ombudsman, Συνηγορος του Πολίτη, Εθνικός Μηχανισμός Πρόληψης των Βασανιστηρίων & της Κακομεταχείρισης – Ετήσια Ειδική Έκθεση OPCAT 2017, 46.

[20] ECtHR, Ahmade v. Greece, Application No 50520/09, Judgment of 25 September 2012, para 101.

[21] ECtHR, S.Z. v. Greece, Application No 66702/13, Judgment of 21 June 2018, para 40.

[22] ECtHR, H.A. and others v. Greece, Application No 19951/16, Judgment of 28 February 2019, EDAL, available at: https://bit.ly/2FCoVFP.

[23] Sh.D. and Others v. Greece, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia (application no. 14165/16).

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