Detention of vulnerable applicants

Greece

Country Report: Detention of vulnerable applicants Last updated: 30/11/20

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National legislation provides a number of guarantees with regard to the detention of vulnerable persons, yet does not prohibit their detention. According to the former Article 46(10) L 4375/2016, now article 48(2) IPA women should be detained separately from men, the privacy of families in detention should be duly respected,[1] and the detention of minors should be a last resort measure and be carried out separately from adults.[2] Moreover, according to the law, “the vulnerability of applicants… shall be taken into account when deciding to detain or to prolong detention.”[3] Article 48 IPA reiterates this provision.

More generally, Greek authorities have the positive obligation to provide special care to applicants belonging to vulnerable groups (see Special Reception Needs).[4] However, persons belonging to vulnerable groups are detained in practice, without a proper identification of vulnerability and individualised assessment prior to the issuance of a detention order. In 2019, GCR has supported various cases of vulnerable persons in detention whose vulnerability had not been taken into account. These include:

  • A citizen from Pakistan suffering from psychiatric problems, who was hospitalized for a month during detention. He was detained in a police station for a period of two months and later transferred to the PRDC of Amygdaleza. He was released after remaining a total of four months in detention.[5]
  • An asylum seeker of Palestinian origin, torture survivor, who was detained for a month in Agios Panteleimonas Police Station in Athens, waiting to be transferred back to Leros, due to an imposed geographical restriction.
  • A female detainee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, with psychological and cardiological issues, detained in Tavros PRDC for a period of two months. She was released following her asylum registration in detention.

 

Detention of unaccompanied children

 

Unaccompanied or separated children “as a rule should not be detained”, and their detention is permitted “only in very exceptional cases… as a last resort solution, only to ensure that they are safely referred to appropriate accommodation facilities for minors.”[6] Nevertheless, national legislation does not explicitly prohibit detention of unaccompanied children and the latter is applied in practice. As no best interests determination procedure is provided by Greek law, no assessment of the best interests of the child takes place before or during detention, in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[7]

Due to the lack of accommodation facilities or transit facilities for children, detention of unaccompanied children is systematically imposed. Unaccompanied children “can be detained for a long period in very sub-standard conditions before their referral to an appropriate reception facility”.[8] Specifically, they are detained in police stations and pre-removal facilities or in Reception and Identification Centres, where in a number of cases (in particular in Fylakio RIC) their stay there amounts to de facto detention. For example and as of the Fylakio RIC, UNHCR states “that the hosting capacity of the RIC is for approximately 280 persons and often has an average of 100 to 140 UAC staying under ‘protective custody’ beyond the 25 days and up to 3-5 months. During this period, the children are restricted in a facility without adequate medical and psychosocial services and without access to recreational and educational activities. Due to overcrowding, they stay together with families and adults, at risk of exposure to exploitation and abuse.”[9]

Despite the announcement by the Minister for Migration Policy already since 2017 that “not a single child would be kept in protective custody”,[10] the detention of unaccompanied children continues to occur. At the end of 2019, 98 unaccompanied children were held in detention (“protective custody”) in the pre-removal centre of Amygdaleza,[11] 97 were detained in police stations and other facilities around Greece, and a number of them were in de facto detention in particular in Fylakio RIC.[12] Unaccompanied children are detained either on the basis of the pre-removal or asylum detention provisions, or on the basis of the provisions concerning “protective custody”.[13] The latter is subject to no maximum time limit.

Out of 5,301 unaccompanied children estimated in Greece at the end of the year, as many as 2,222 were on a waiting list for long term or temporary accommodation.[14]

In February 2019, the ECtHR found that the automatic placement of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children under protective custody in police facilities, without taking into consideration the best interests of the child, violated Article 5(1) ECHR.[15] Moreover, during 2019, both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights has ordered the Greek authorities to immediately halt the detention of unaccompanied children and transfer them in reception facilities and in conditions in line with Art. 3 ECHR. More precisely, the ECtHR has granted interim measures in four cases regarding UAMs detained in police facilities in Greece. These include:

  • The case of 2 unaccompanied girls placed in protective custody in Tavros PRDF (Athens) in March 2019. The ECtHR ordered the Greek Authorities to immediately transfer the girls to an accommodation facility for minors and ensure that their living conditions are in line with Article 3 ECHR.[16]
  • The case of 20 unaccompanied boys detained at Kolonos police station in Athens in October 2019. The ECtHR granted interim measures ordered their transfer to appropriate shelters. Due to the fact that 9 of the minor applicants have been transferred for Kolonos police Station to Amigdaleza PRDF (Minor’s section), the Court ordered (one week after the initial decision) in a new Decision, to transfer these applicants to a shelter.[17]
  • The case of a 16-year-old unaccompanied boy (October 2019)[18] and the case of 2 unaccompanied boys (November 2019) detained in police stations in Attica region.[19]

 

Additionally, in May 2019 the European Committee of Social Rights, following a collective complaint submitted by ECRE and ICJ with the support of GCR, has indicated to the Greek Authorities to adopt immediate measures and inter alia to “ensure the use of alternatives to detention of migrant children, and to ensure in particular that unaccompanied children in police stations, pre-removal centres and Reception and Identification Centres are provided with immediate access to age-appropriate shelters”.[20]

In its preliminary findings from its visit to Greece (2-13 December 2019), the Working Group of Arbitrary Detention “invite[d] the Government to ensure that the best interest of each child is prioritized and that children who enter the country in an irregular manner are not detained and are placed in facilities appropriate to their age. As the Greek Ombudsman has observed, this could be achieved by transitioning to community-based care, foster care, supported independent living, and the gradual reduction of institutional structures.”[21]

 

Detention following wrong age assessment

 

Despite the fact that there are currently two Ministerial Decisions outlining age assessment procedures for unaccompanied children (see Identification), within the scope of the reception and identification procedures,[22] and that of the asylum procedure,[23] no age assessment procedure is provided by the national framework to be applied by the Hellenic Police for minors held in detention. In practice, children under the responsibility of police authorities are as a rule deprived of any age assessment guarantees set out in the relevant Ministerial Decision, and systematically undergo medical examinations consisting of left-hand X-ray, panoramic dental X-ray and dental examination in case their age is disputed.[24] In addition to the limited reliability and highly invasive nature of the method used, it should be noted that no remedy is in place to challenge the outcome of that procedure.

As noted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ”[a]t present, the police reportedly rely primarily on x-ray and dental examinations under the third step of the age assessment procedure, and these examinations are not sufficient to accurately assess a person's age. Persons claiming to be children are reportedly not generally represented or informed of their rights in a language that they understand during the assessment […] The guarantees applicable to age assessment do not apply to unaccompanied children who are in protective custody under the responsibility of the Hellenic Police. As a result, unaccompanied minors and other children are being detained unnecessarily due to inaccurate assessment procedures, and are treated as and detained with adults”. [25]

A number of cases of unaccompanied minors detained as adults have been identified by GCR during 2019. These include for example in Kos PRDF the case of a child of Palestinian origin, claiming to be 15 years old, who was deemed by the authorities to be an adult, following dental and hand X-rays; A 17 year old minor from Egypt, carrying a copy of his passport and birth certificate on him, who was detained as an adult, without an age assessment procedure, based solely on the initial age registration of the police on the day of his arrest; Two UAM from Guinea, carrying on them original birth certificates, remaining in detention for a period of 5 months.[26]

In another case supported by GCR, an unaccompanied minor from Pakistan who was initially registered as an unaccompanied minor, has been considered as an adult following X-Rays examinations and transferred in Corinth PRDF where he remained detained with unrelated adults. It was only after the intervention of GCR that the UAM has been referred for macroscopical examinations by a paediatrician and a psychosocial assessment. On the basis of these findings, the applicant has been re-identified as a minor and transferred to a shelter.   

 

Detention of families

 

Despite the constant case law of the ECtHR with regard to the detention of families in the context of migration control,[27] families with children are in practice detained. In 2019, that was in particular the case for families with children who, due to the lack of reception capacity, were living in occupied buildings and squats and have been arrested during police evacuation operations. Among others, throughout 2019, GCR has supported cases of single-parent families, families with minor children or families where one member remained detained.



[1] Article 46(10)(b) L 4375/2016, as amended by Article 10 L 4540/2018.

[2] Article 48(2) IPA.

[3] Article 46(8) L 4375/2016, as amended by Article 10 L 4540/2018.

[4] Article 60 IPA.

[5] GCR document no. 123/22-03-2019.

[6] Article 46(10A) L 4375/2016, inserted by Article 10 L 4540/201848(2) IPA.

[7] L 2101/1992, Gov. Gazette A’ 192/2-12-1992 has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

[8]UNHCR, “Submission by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the case of International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) v. Greece (Complaint No. 173/2018) before the European Committee of Social Rights”, page 9, available at: https://bit.ly/39EHqWq

[9]Ibid. p. 5

[10] AMNA, ‘Υπ. Μεταναστευτικής Πολιτικής: Ως το τέλος του έτους όλα τα ασυνόδευτα παιδιά σε κατάλληλες δομές’, 2 August 2017, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2wo3hO5.

[11] Information provided the Directorate of the Hellenic Police, 8 February 2020 2019.

[12] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children in Greece, 31 December 2019.

[13] Article 118 PD 141/1991.

[14] EKKA, Situation update: Unaccompanied children in Greece, 31 December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2STL3Rw.

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

[16] The case has been supported by GCR, see GCR, Το ΕΔΔΑ χορηγεί ασφαλιστικά μέτρα σε κρατούμενα ασυνόδευτα ανήλικα, 26 March 2019, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2FADnOT.

[17] The case has been supported by Arsis, see Arsis, Το ΕΔΔΑ αποφασίζει με ασφαλιστικά μέτρα την άρση της κράτησης ασυνόδευτων ανηλίκων σε αστυνομικά τμήματα”, 10 October 2019, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2SEuHxm ; Arsis, Το ΕΔΔΑ με νέα απόφαση ασφαλιστικών μέτρων υποδεικνύει στην Ελληνική Κυβέρνηση τη μεταφορά σε κατάλληλες δομές φιλοξενίας των ασυνόδευτων ανηλίκων που κρατούνται στην Αμυγδαλέζα”, 18 October 2019, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2P95BEB

[18] The case has been supported by Equal Rights beyond Borders, see ERBB, European Court of Human Rights: Minor is to be released immediately from "protective custody", 29 October 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Il3hGF

[19] The case has been supported by Refugee Support Aegean, see RSA, European Court of Human Rights asks Greece to transfer two unaccompanied boys detained in police station to suitable shelter, 6 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Qkfpx4.

[20]  Council of Europe, European Committee of Social Rights, Decision on Admissibility and on Immediate Measures, 23 May 2019, Complaint No. 173/2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2uXCWvl .

[21] Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), Preliminary Findings from its visit to Greece (2-13 December 2019), available at: https://bit.ly/2vNJInk .

[22] Joint Ministerial Decision 92490/2013 on the Programme for medical examination, psychosocial diagnosis and support and referral of third-country nationals entering without documentation to first reception facilities, Gov. Gazette 2745/B/29-10-2013, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/1Fl5OVT.

[23] Joint Ministerial Decision 1982/2016, Verification of minority of applicants for international protection, Gov. Gazette 335/B/16-12-2016, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2kS49Jf.

[24] Information provided by the Directorate of the Hellenic Police, 8 February 2020.

[25]  Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), Preliminary Findings from its visit to Greece (2-13 December 2019), available at: https://bit.ly/2vNJInk .

[26] GCR document 427/2019.

[27] See for example ECtHR, Mahmundi and Others v. Greece, Application No 14902/10, Judgment of 31 July 2012.

 

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