The Asylum Code has laid down an initial 50-day duration for asylum detention, which can be further prolonged with 50-days, with a maximum up to 18 months, notwithstanding previous periods spent in pre-removal detention.
In practice, the time limit of detention is considered to start running from the moment an asylum application is formally lodged with the competent Regional Asylum Office or Asylum Unit rather than the moment the person is detained. As delays are reported systematically in relation to the registration of asylum applications from detention, i.e. from the time that the detainee expresses the will to apply for asylum up to the registration of the application (see Registration), the period that asylum seekers spent in detention was de facto longer.
Beyond setting out maximum time limits, the law has provided further guarantees with regard to the detention period. Thus detention ‘shall be imposed for the minimum necessary period of time’ and ‘delays in administrative procedures that cannot be attributed to the applicant shall not justify the prolongation of detention.’ Moreover, the law provides ‘the detention of an applicant constitutes a reason for the acceleration of the asylum procedure, taking into account possible shortages in adequate premises and the difficulties in ensuring decent living conditions for detainees’. However, GCR has documented cases where the procedure was not carried out with due diligence and detention was prolonged precisely because of the delays of the administration.
It should also be mentioned that time limits governing the detention of asylum seekers differ from those provided for the detention of third-country nationals in view of removal. In relation to pre-removal detention, national legislation transposing the Returns Directive provides a maximum detention period that cannot exceed 6 months, with the possibility of an exceptional extension not exceeding twelve months, in cases of lack of cooperation by the third-country national concerned, or delays in obtaining the necessary documentation from third countries.
Following changes in legislation and practice, it is evident that detention lasts for prolonged periods, risking sometimes reaching the maximum time limits. For instance, out of 2,500 persons detained at the end of 2022, 724 had been detained for periods exceeding six months. Moreover, out of 1,006 asylum seekers detained at the end of 2022, 283 had also been detained for periods more than six months.
 Article 50(5)(b) Asylum Code.
 Article 50(5)(a) Asylum Code.
 Article 30(5) L 3907/2011.
 Article 30(6) L 3907/2011.
 Information provided by the Directorate of the Hellenic Police, 2 February 2023.