Conditions in reception facilities


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


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Article 55(1) IPA provides that material reception conditions must provide asylum seekers with an adequate standard of living that guarantees their subsistence and promotes their physical and mental health, based on the respect of human dignity.

However, no mechanism for the monitoring and oversight of the level of the reception conditions, including the possibility to lodge a complaint regarding conditions in reception facilities, has been established, contrary to the obligations under Article 28 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive. Thus, no designated body is in place to oversee reception conditions, and no possibility to lodge a complaint against conditions in reception facilities exists in Greece.[1]



Conditions in temporary accommodation facilities on the mainland

A total of 32 mainland camps, most of which were created in 2015-2016 as temporary accommodation facilities in order to address urgent reception needs on the mainland, following the imposition of border restrictions were operating in December  2020.[2] However, following the continued drop in arrivals in 2021 (roughly 42% drop compared to 2020),[3] which coincides with the exponential increase of the number of reports and allegations regarding pushbacks at the borders, since March 2020,[4] these temporary accommodation facilities have been reduced to 25 by December 2021.[5]

These developments come after a June 2020 announcement by the MoMA that 60 mainland facilities, consisting of hotels used as emergency accommodation under the Filoxenia programme on the mainland, would be closed by the end of 2020. As noted at the time by the Minister, “henceforth in 2020 there is a negative trend [with respect to arrivals] compared to the previous year. In conjunction with the speeding-up of the asylum procedure, this allows us to discuss about the closure of facilities within 2020, instead of the creation of new ones”[6], while in another statement it was also noted that the process was also inter alia made possible by “the systematic departure of those who are no longer entitled to hospitality from the [accommodation] sites”,[7] By 7 January 2021, the Filoxenia programme was officially terminated, pending the transfer of the last 130 beneficiaries to other accommodation facilities.[8]

Regarding conditions in the mainland camps, these vary across facilities, as different types of accommodation and services are offered at each site. Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that camps are never suitable for long-term accommodation, compliance with the standards of the recast Reception Conditions Directive should be assessed against the situation prevailing in each camp.

Overall, even if conditions in the mainland have been generally reported as better compared to those on the island RICs,[9] challenges regarding their remoteness and their residents’ accessibility to rights and services continued being reported throughout 2021.[10] Indicatively, out of the 25 mainland camps that were operational at the start of December, 5 still lacked public transportation, even though distances from the specific facilities to services that can be necessary (e.g. Citizen Service Centers and ATMs) ranged from 2 km to 31.9 km, while the average distance of all mainland camps from such services ranged from 6.42 km to 12.86 km.[11] The same gaps continue in the first two months of 2022.[12]

Moreover, the disproportionate restrictions imposed on camps and more broadly refugee-hosting facilities, in the context of measures aimed at limiting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, further compounded the already limited access of the children living in mainland camps to education, not least due to the aforementioned lack of secured transportation. As noted in a joint letter issued by 33 civil society organisations, including GCR, “[i]n some places the issues observed have to do with inconsistent interpretation of COVID-19 related movement restriction policies by the Greek authorities, which ends up discriminating against children who, as a result, are not being allowed to leave these camps [in order to attend school]”.[13]

Regarding housing arrangements, with very few exceptions (e.g. 8 tents in all of the mainland camps), there has been a significant reduction in the emergency units used to address accommodation needs, which were mostly covered through containers, apartment/rooms and shelters by December 2021. This also due to the significant decrease in the number of people hosted in the camps which were all operation below their capacity by December 2021, with the sole exception of Eleonas camp in Athens (109.23% occupancy),.[14] At the same time, however, more than 2,800 unregistered persons continued residing in the mainland camps. As far as GCR is aware, this includes persons whose asylum applications have not yet been registered, beneficiaries of international protection and persons with rejected asylum applications, thus highlighting a significantly underreported issue that is closely linked to the access to reception conditions, integration policies and prospects, and the persistent application of the “third safe country” (STC) concept by the Greek Asylum Service, which has inter alia led an increasing number of asylum applicants in a state of legal limbo.[15]

Living conditions in the camps remain unsuitable. By way of illustration, out of 22 people residing in mainland camps interviewed by GCR, Diotima Centre and IRC between mid-November 2021 and 1 March 2022, 10 described the living conditions in the camps as “very bad”, 8 as “Bad” and 4 as “neither good nor bad”. Moreover, in 68% of the cases respondents stated that they do not feel safe in the camp, 60% stated they felt forced to share accommodation with people they did not know and/or with whom they did not wish to be jointly accommodated, 64% that the place they lived in was not clean, 50% that they could not easily reach necessary services (e.g. hospitals) outside of the camp and 60% that they did not have a chance to get to know the Greek society or meet Greek people, due to their accommodation.[16]

Moreover, the MoMA decided to interrupt the provision of food to residents of the camps that were no longer in the asylum procedure since October 2021, as a means to force them out of the accommodation. As noted by 26 civil society organisations in October 2021, of those affected “25% are women (including pregnant women), single-headed families, 40% children, chronic patients, and patients with special medical and nutritional conditions. In some places, food is not even provided to those put in quarantine due to COVID 19”.[17]  By November 2021, this food crisis was affecting 60% of all mainland camp residents,[18] many of whom were beneficiaries of international protection who continue to be forced to stay and/or return to camps in 2021 due to a lack of alternatives as well. In several cases known to GCR, some of them stayed even after having completed the sole available large-scale integration programme (Helios) in Greece.

Moreover, the Greek government’s decision to reduce the time beneficiaries of international protection are allowed stay in accommodation designated for asylum seekers, exacerbated the risk of homeless and destitution faced by refugees in Greece, not least due to the ongoing lack of a comprehensive integration strategy and concrete measures.[19] As already noted by UNHCR in June 2020, just days following the decision’s entry into force, “[m]any of those affected are vulnerable, including but not only most staying in ESTIA accommodation. Their effective inclusion in national systems offering services and for cash or in-kind support has not been possible so far. The situation is aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic”.[20]

During the 2020-2021 winter, conditions were also reported as highly substandard, as several mainland camps, including Schisto, Eleonas and the old Malakasa camp were covered by snow during adverse weather conditions in February 2021, and hundreds of persons, and particularly those living in tents at the time, were unable to warm themselves, not least, due to reported electricity shortages in several mainland camps.[21] In the old Malakasa camp near Athens, even though tents were fully replaced by containers, these were reportedly not equipped with showers and toilets, forcing many, including families with small children, to walk into the snow in order to access common facilities/lavatories, and leaving many refugees in fear for the health of their new-borns, due to the lack of electricity amid freezing temperatures.[22] As of October 2021, electricity shortages at least in Ritsona camp, continued to create concerns on the possibility of residents to access heating for yet another winter.[23]

By April 2021, it was also reported that works had commenced on the construction of 2.5 to 3-meter concrete walls and/or fences around the open (COVID-19 restrictions notwithstanding) mainland camps of Ritsona, Diavata and Nea Kavala, raising questions for the camp’s employees, who were reportedly not informed of the initiative, but also “discomfort to refugees who have for years been living in isolation, outside the urban fabric”.[24] As noted by a single woman refugee from Afghanistan residing in the mainland camp of Diavata in May 2021, “At night, when I look behind the camp’s barbed wire fences, I realise who different my life here is from the rest […] I can only observe the beauty of the city lights from afar, without even knowing for how long I have to stay here”.[25] This came close to a month after the MoMA issued a public call for tenders for the construction of fencing and the necessary infrastructure aimed at enhancing security in Migrant Accommodation Structures.[26]

On this note, it should be recalled that camps are not per se suitable for long-term accommodation as “camps can have significant negative impacts over the longer term for all concerned. Living in camps can engender dependency and weaken the ability of refugees to manage their own lives, which perpetuates the trauma of displacement and creates barriers to solutions, whatever form they take. In some contexts, camps may increase critical protection risks, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and child protection concerns.”[27]

In a number of cases, asylum seekers and refugees residing in mainland camps continued to protest against substandard living conditions, their ongoing exclusion from the Greek society, and the new policy of excluding those not eligible for reception conditions from the provision of food, amidst severe delays in the distribution of cash assistance. Indicatively, in October 2021, residents of Nea Kavala camp protested by obstructing entry to the camp, while calling to for food not to be cut. As stated “[o]ur children go to school without having eaten; is this humanitarian?”.[28] Small tensions were reported in April, amid a protest in Skaramangas camp which was scheduled to close without, reportedly, the residents being informed of where or if they would be transferred ad how their housing needs would be met after the camp’s closure.[29] In November, refugees in Elaionas camp also protested, calling for the site to not be closed and for procedures to be speeded-up. As stated, by a woman from Somalia, “The municipality wants to transfer us from here, but where can we go? We have children that go to school, we have people that work in the city. Why do they want to remove us from here and where can we go?”.[30] In the same month, residents of Oinofyta camp barred entry to the camp for at least two days, protesting for the ongoing rejections of asylum claims lodged by Kurdish nationals, on account of the Greek Asylum Service’s persistent application of the “safe third country” concept in the case of Turkey. As inter alia stated, “We have no other solution […] For three months they are not providing us cash assistance, the situation is very difficult. But the most important issue is that for the past two-three months approximately 150 Kurdish nationals from Syria, amongst who families, women and children, had their asylum applications rejected. We explained in the asylum interview our situation in Turkey. It is not safe at all”.[31]

Measures taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Accommodation facilities on the mainland in which COVID-19 cases were identified in 2020, were put in quarantine for 14 days and all residents, i.e. COVID-19 cases and residents which have not been identified as such, were not allowed to exit the facility. COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, followed by a 14-day quarantine in Ritsona (Evoia region) accommodation facility (camp), Malakasa (Attica region) accommodation facility (camp) and Koutsohero (Larisa region) accommodation facility (camp) in the beginning of April 2020 and in a hotel used for the accommodation of applicants in Kranidi (Peloponnese) in late April 2020.[32] Since then, the lockdown in Ritsona, Malakasa and Koutsohero has been successively prolonged up until 7 June 2020, contrary to the lockdown on the general population which has been ended on 4 May 2020.[33] As reported, the “management of COVID-19 outbreaks in camps and facilities by the Greek authorities follows a different protocol compared to the one used in cases of outbreaks in other enclosed population groups. The Greek government protocol for managing an outbreak in a refugee camp, known as the ‘Agnodiki Plan’, details that the facility should be quarantined and all cases (confirmed and suspected) are isolated and treated in situ. In similar cases of outbreaks in enclosed population groups (such as nursing homes or private haemodialysis centres) vulnerable individuals were immediately moved from the site to safe accommodation, while all confirmed and suspected cases were isolated off-site in a separate facility”.[34]

By 26 October 2020, an estimated 800 asylum seekers living in camps had been reportedly found positive with Covid-19.[35] Meanwhile, only a few dozen vaccinations had taken place in the mainland camps of Malakasa, Schisto and Elaionas by June 2021,[36] which at the time accommodated close to 7,000 persons. By October 2021, the number of vaccinations in accommodation facilities for refugees was reported at 20% according to the Minister of Health, but these data were quickly challenged inter alia by medical organisations involved in the vaccination of refugees and migrants, such as MdM, that claimed the percentage was no more than 2%.[37] As far as GCR can be aware, an estimated 30-35% of camp residents may have been vaccinated by January 2022, though in lack of regularly published official data, this needs to be further checked.

Lastly, as already discussed, since March 2020, asylum seekers residing in RICs and mainland camps have continued to be subject to a further and disproportionate restriction of their movement, in the context of measures aimed at countering the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Namely, as per the latest relevant Joint Ministerial Decision in March 2022,[38] which largely repeats the wording of previous such Decisions, exit from the facilities was only allowed between 7am-9pm, only for family members or representatives of a group, and only in order “to meet essential needs”.[39]


Conditions on the Eastern Aegean islands

The situation on the islands has been widely documented and remains extremely alarming, despite the gradual decrease in the levels of overcrowding since 2020 and the lack of overcrowding by the end of 2021.

Between January and December 2021 a total of 13,753 persons from the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros were able to leave the islands, while another 726 were transferred to the mainland from other islands.[40] By the end of December 2021, 3,216 asylum seekers and refugees were living in facilities with a designated capacity of 14,374, more than half of whom in the temporary facility in Mavrovouni, Lesvos (1,863).[41] Yet despite available capacity conditions remain unfit for purpose.

Similarly to mainland camps, there was a lack of access to heating during the winter on the islands in early 2021 in the RIC of Chios and Mavrovouni. Even if heating devices had been secured in the latter camp, insufficient and/or unstable power supplies made it impossible for residents to use them.[42] By the end of the year, this had yet to be resolved, exposing the residents of Mavrovouni, who still lived in tents to experience yet another winter with severe shortages in electricity and heating, after the MoMA failed to renew the electricity generator maintenance contract that had expired in September.[43] As noted in December 2021,[44] “[m]any Mavrovouni residents report that they still only have electricity for 1-2 hours during the morning and 1-2 hours during the night. The lack of electricity and thus lighting is also causing protection risks, particularly for women. Women in Mavrovouni report sexual harassment and assaults on a regular basis, especially during the night due to inadequate lighting and slow response by the police”.

Conditions are largely described as inadequate, dangerous, with dire consequences on asylum seekers’ mental health, while a number of fatal events have been reported. In May 2021, the body of a young Somali refugee was found with bite marks and surrounded by rodents in his tent, after the man had passed away.[45] As noted at the time by the Director of Intersos Hellas “[p]eople are exposed daily to rats, garbage and violence. In the island hospitals children are frequently accepted with marks from rat bites. It is shameful and frightening to have to live in such conditions, when in reality this isn’t necessary”.[46]

As highlighted in research carried by IRC between 2018-2020 on the islands of Lesvos, Samos and Chios, with the examination of more than 900 records of patients received by IRC, movement restrictions in the camps, particularly following the lockdowns imposed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, led to “a marked deterioration in the mental health of people in the camps. The research found an alarming spike in the number of people who disclosed psychotic symptoms, jumping from one in seven (14%) to almost one in four (24%). There was also a sharp rise in people reporting symptoms of PTSD, which climbed from close to half (47%) of people beforehand to almost two in three people (63%)”[47], while asylum seekers increasingly reported suicidal thoughts, and one in five had already attempted to take their lives due to the impact of prolonged containment.[48]

In March 2020, a 6-year-old child was killed by a fire that broke out in Moria RIC, Lesvos.[49]

Following a number of recommendations to the Greek authorities regarding the living conditions on the islands issued in previous years,[50] similar recommendations have been addressed in 2021 inter alia by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and civil society organisations working in the field of human rights and humanitarian assistance[51].

On 12 May 2021, in a letter addressed to the Minister for Citizens’ Protection, the Minister of Migration and Asylum, and the Minister of Shipping and Island Policy of Greece, the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, while urging the Greek authorities “to put an end to pushback operations at both the land and sea borders with Turkey”, also stressed that:

“[A]ction to improve the lingering substandard living conditions in the Reception and Identification Centres must not be delayed and that all appropriate standards must be met, and overcrowding prevented. With the new reception facilities reportedly set to operate as closed centres, the Commissioner is concerned that this will lead to large-scale and long-term deprivation of liberty. She urges the Greek authorities to reconsider the closed nature of these centres, in order to ensure that the regime applicable to these facilities safeguards the freedom of movement of their residents, in line with the relevant Council of Europe standards. Finally, the Commissioner reiterates that the policy of containment of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants on the Aegean islands lies at the heart of many of the long-standing problems Greece has experienced in protecting the rights of these persons”[52]

In October 2021, a month following the operationalisation of the Samos Closed Controlled facility, in a joint briefing, 29 NGOs also stressed that:

“The new model, designed to keep refugees out of sight and out of mind, sees asylum seekers and refugees housed in prison-like centres in remote areas. It creates an environment that strips people of their agency, decimates their mental health, and prevents them from interacting with and integrating into local communities. Authorities are also building walls around camps on the mainland, to similar effect.”[53]

Moreover, as reported, “[t]he services inside the Samos MPRIC are also insufficient. Over one month after it was inaugurated, there are still no state-appointed (EODY) doctors in the medical centre to treat people -other than an army doctor who is there on weekdays from 8.00 to 15.00 only- and no ambulance. There is no protected section for single women, which raises significant safety concerns, with many reporting they feel unsafe. Other elements also highlight the gap between what the MRPIC is to provide in principle, and what is delivered in practice. This ranges from smaller issues that beneficiaries have shared, such as the reality that there are basketball courts, yet no balls, kitchenettes inside the housing units, yet no cooking equipment, to the harsher reality that the site does not afford protection from the weather and winter elements. For instance, the rains of 15 October flooded the camp, forcing residents to wade through high pools of water whenever exiting their containers.”[54]

As further stressed in a report published by MSF in June 2021:

“The impact of the hotspot containment policy on people’s physical and mental health is a humanitarian crisis with devastating consequences. Since 2016, chronic overcrowding, security issues, and a lack of access to adequate healthcare, sanitation, and food have contributed to at least 21 deaths, including a six-month-old baby who died of dehydration. The Mavrovouni temporary facility built following the destruction of Moria remains well below adequate standards. Residents continue to live in a make-shift camp, exposed to harsh weather conditions, in a site reported to have lead contamination. Just like Moria RIC, the sanitation in Mavrovouni is grossly inadequate, as are its safety precautions.

The persistent deficiencies in providing basic reception conditions, coupled with the procedures in place to implement the EU-Turkey Statement, are clearly harming people seeking protection in Europe. According to European Fundamental Rights Agency, “the processing of asylum claims in facilities at borders, particularly when these facilities are in relatively remote locations, brings along built-in deficiencies and experience in Greece shows, this approach creates fundamental rights challenges that appear almost unsurmountable.” The high-security detention-like conditions in the RICs cannot provide asylum seekers with a safe environment. The highly visible police presence, the official communications delivered by loudspeaker, the fencing and razor wire, all serve to worsen the pervasive sense of fear and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. People lack a sense of privacy, respect, care or dignity, with long-term consequences for their health and well-being”.[55]

Moreover, a number of cases with regards the situation on the Greek Islands have been examined before international jurisdictional bodies and respectively temporary protection has been granted.

Inter alia, in May 2019, in response to a collective complaint brought before the Committee by ICJ, and ECRE, with the support of GCR, the European Committee on Social Rights exceptionally decided to indicate immediate measures to Greece to protect the rights of migrant children and to prevent serious and irreparable injury or harm to the children concerned, including damage to their physical and mental health, and to their safety, by inter alia removing them from detention and from Reception and Identification Centres (RICs) at the borders.

In December 2019, in a case supported by GCR, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, granted interim measures to five unaccompanied teenagers, asylum seekers, who had been living for many months in the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) and in the “jungle” of Samos. The interim measures indicated to the Greek authorities their timely transfer to a centre for unaccompanied minors and to ensure that their reception conditions were compatible with Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment) and the applicants’ particular status.[56]

Moreover, in three cases of vulnerable applicants living on the Greek Islands under a geographical restriction, supported by Equal Rights Beyond Borders, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Greek Authorities to provide reception conditions in line with Art. 3. These included the case of a pregnant woman and persons with medical conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.[57]

The ECtHR granted interim measures in an April 2020 case concerning several vulnerable individuals in the RIC of Moria, to ensure their immediate placement in appropriate reception conditions.[58]

In May 2020, in a case supported by METAdrasi, the ECtHR granted interim measures for a Syrian family in the RIC of Samos with a 10-month-old baby girl who is suffering from severe bronchiolitis. Doctors recommended improvements in the girl’s living conditions and gave her special medication that requires the use of a rechargeable device. However, the use of this device was impossible, as the family lived in inhumane conditions in a tent that they had bought for themselves, in an open space next to the RIC. In addition, due to the fact that they had not been registered by the Regional Asylum Office of Samos, despite almost 4 months passing since their arrival in Greece, they were deprived of access to free medical care, when they did not even have the means to get the necessary medicines for the little girl[59].

In September 2020, in case supported by RSA, the ECtHR indicated that the Government of Greece should protect the life and physical integrity of two vulnerable asylum seekers held in the new emergency facility in Kara Tepe set up on Lesvos following the destruction of the Moria camp in early September 2020. The case concerned two asylum seekers who had their geographical restriction on Lesvos lifted due to their identification by the Reception and Identification Service (RIS) as vulnerable persons on 17 July 2020. Despite the prior decision of the Greek authorities to allow their transfer to appropriate conditions on the mainland, the applicants were still confined on the island in the aftermath of the Moria fires in dire conditions, following the Greek government’s announcement of a general prohibition on departures from Lesvos. The ECtHR indicated interim measures under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court “take all necessary measures to safeguard the applicants’ life and limb in accordance with Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention, in view of the particular circumstances and the applicants’ vulnerability.”[60]

However, and despite the repeated calls by international and national human rights bodies to address the increasingly desperate situation of refugees and migrants in reception centres in the Aegean islands and the increasing number of Courts’ Decisions dealing with the situation on the Islands, the situation on the Greek Islands remained dangerous and persons there were exposed to significant protection risks throughout 2021 as well.

By 15 August 2021, and despite for example the Decision of the European Committee on Social Rights indicating immediate measures and inter alia ordering the Greek Authorities to ensure that migrant children in RICs are provided with immediate access to age-appropriate shelters,[61] some 6,600 refugees and asylum-seekers continued residing on the Aegean islands, the majority of whom were from Afghanistan (48%), Syria (13%) and DRC (10%). Women accounted for 21% of the population, and children for 29% of whom nearly 7 out of 10 were younger than 12 years old. Approximately 14% of the children were unaccompanied or separated, among them, most came from Afghanistan.[62] Out of the total number of asylum seekers and refugees remaining on the islands at the end of 2020, 7,093 were residing in the RICs of Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos, with a total nominal capacity of 3,338 accommodation places, while 7,172 persons were residing in the temporary camp of Mavrovouni, Lesvos.[63] By 31 December 2021, 131 unaccompanied minors still remained in RICs,[64] but the available data does not allow to identify the extent to which this concerned the islands and/or the RIC of Evros.

Measures taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

On 22 March 2020 and within the framework of measures taken against the spread of COVID-19 and a Joint Ministerial Decision, a number of measures were taken regarding the islands’ RICs facilities. In accordance with said JMD, inter alia since 22 March 2020, there has been a lockdown in the islands’ RICs facilities and annexes of these facilities. Residents of these facilities were restricted within the perimeter of the Centre and exit is not allowed with the exception of one representative of each family or group of residents who is allowed to exit the facility (between 7 am and 7 pm) in order to visit the closest urban centre to cover basic needs. No more than 100 persons per hour could exit the facility for this purpose if public transport was not available.[65] For the same period, all visits or activities inside the RICs not related to the accommodation, food provision and medical care of RIC residents, are only permitted following authorization of the RIC management. For the provision of legal services, access shall also be granted following authorization from the RIC management and in a specific area, where this is feasible. Special health units were also established in order to treat any case of COVID-19 and to conduct health screening for all RIC staff.[66]

The restriction of the movement of persons residing in the island RICs was successively prolonged up to 3 June 2020,[67] contrary to the lockdown on the general population which ended on 4 May 2020. Since then, these disproportionate restrictions have continued being renewed on a regular basis, with the most recent decision being issued in March 2022. As already mentioned, said decision, which covers all refugee hosting facilities, provides that exit from the facilities is only allowed between 7am-9pm, only for family members or representatives of a group, and only in order “to meet essential needs [68].

As noted by MSF in June: “There are significant gaps in access to adequate and timely healthcare for people held on the Greek islands. This may lead to otherwise manageable medical and mental health conditions deteriorating, becoming more severe and potentially chronic. The COVID-19 pandemic should have been the final straw to abandon cramped hotspots. Instead, the pandemic has amplified the suffering of migrants subjected to a chaotic COVID-19 outbreak response and harsh lockdowns in poor living conditions, with little to no access to water, hygiene, or essential services. Measures taken have dangerously conflated public health and migration control agendas.” [69]

Additionally, as mentioned in Reception and identification procedures on the islands, since late March- April 2020 newly arrived persons on the Greek Islands, have been subject to a 14 days quarantine outside of the RIC facilities, prior to their transfer to RICs, which caused challenges due to limited suitable facilities for isolating new arrivals on the islands. Particular concerns arοse on Lesvos, where newly arrived persons are quarantined in the Megala Therma facility, from where 13 asylum seekers, among whom were pregnant women and families with children, were reportedly forcibly removed and illegally sent back to Turkey at the end of February, after being beaten with batons and stripped of their belongings[70].

As also noted by MsF, “[t]he designated COVID-19 quarantine sites for new arrivals have become de-facto detention centres. As of mid-January 2021, more than 500 people arriving to the north coast of Lesvos have been confined in the Megala Therma quarantine site, often for weeks at a time, in grossly undignified and inhumane conditions. Our teams provide general healthcare on-site once a week. They have witnessed a very serious and systematic neglect in the provision of essential services, protection and proper access to specialist healthcare. There have also been deeply concerning allegations of asylum seekers being taken from Melaga Therma and returned to Turkey”. [71]



Destitution and homelessness still remain matters of concern, despite the efforts made in order to increase reception capacity in Greece (see Types of Accommodation). As stated by UNHCR in February 2020, “Housing options and services to cater for the present population are scarce countrywide”.[72] This remains valid in 2021.

The number of applicants who face homelessness is not known, as no official data are published on the matter. Yet organisations have continued to report cases of applicants reaching Greece’s mainland camps in search of a shelter, without any previous referral from authorities, while many continue living in tents and makeshift shelters. As reported in April 2020 by RSA, “Throughout last year, the refugee camp in Malakasa, has been extensively used by homeless refugees to find emergency shelter – most of them newcomers from the Evros region. As of February 2020, near 250 people resided in common areas and makes-shift shelters in dire conditions and more than half of the camp’s population were not registered as residents by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum”[73].

Throughout the year, GCR’s Social Unit also continued to receive requests from applicants to support them in finding accommodation. Up to November 2020, more than 700 new requests for accommodation (close to 900 persons in total) were received by GCR. The vast majority concerned the cities of Athens (48%) and Thessaloniki (31%), and to the largest extent (roughly 94% of requests) concerned asylum seekers, many of whom unregistered and/or with police notes, all of whom were registered as homeless by GCR’s services[74].

The IPA, in force since January 2020, imposed a 6-month restriction to asylum seekers for accessing the labour market (see Access to Labour). Asylum seekers are thus exposed to a situation of potential destitution and homelessness. This should be taken into consideration, as during this period asylum seekers are exclusively dependent on benefits and scarce reception options.

Moreover, as mentioned above, living conditions on the Eastern Aegean islands do not meet the minimum standards of the recast Reception Conditions Directive and thus asylum seekers living there are exposed to deplorable conditions, frequently left homeless and without access to decent housing or basic services.[75] Overcrowding also occurs in mainland sites. Given the poor conditions and the protection risks present in some of these sites, homelessness and destitution cannot be excluded by the sole fact that an applicant remains in one of these sites.

Persons identified as vulnerable also face destitution risks. For instance, despite significant improvements with respect to broader aspects of UAM protection, as of 30 April 2021, an estimated 853 unaccompanied minors were still reported as homeless and/or living in informal/insecure housing conditions, while 102 were still reported as living in the RICs[76]. The number of UAM estimated as homeless and/or living in precarious conditions by the end of 2021 is not available, as relevant estimates have stopped being published. Nevertheless, between April and December 2021, the National Emergency Response Mechanism aimed at tracing UAM in precarious conditions registered more than 1,500 new and unique requests for accommodation for UAM,[77] highlighting an ongoing, albeit underreported issue.

As further highlighted by data collected (through a questionnaire) in the context of an ongoing research carried by GCR, Diotima Centre and IRC, which covers 188 asylum seekers and refugees between mid-November and 1 March 2022, 20% (the majority beneficiaries of international protection) reported being homeless and/or without a stable place of residence. An additional 7.5% were at imminent risk of being exposed to similar living conditions, after recognition of their status.[78]

In any event, in order for the Greek authorities’ compliance with their obligations relating to reception conditions to be assessed, the number of available reception places that are in line with the standards of the recast Reception Conditions Directive should be assessed against the total number of persons with pending asylum applications, i.e. 3,069 applications pending registration, 31,787 applications pending at first instance and 5,258 appeals pending before different Appeals Committees, at the end of 2021. [79]


Racist violence

Situations such as the one giving rise to the condemnation of Greece in Sakir v. Greece continue to occur, with examples drawn from a case on Leros in spring 2020, where an asylum-seeking victim of crime who complained to the police about assault and bodily injury with racist bias by police officers had his complaint set aside and found himself subject to a criminal prosecution and subsequent conviction under a hearing raising fairness concerns.[80]

The Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) coordinated by UNHCR and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights, witnessed an increasing number of xenophobic and racist incidents in 2019 and early 2020, targeting the transfers of asylum-seekers to reception facilities on the mainland, newly arrived refugees and migrants, as well as staff of international organizations and NGOs, members of civil society and journalists, due to their association with the defence of the rights of refugees, on the Islands and in Evros. As noted by the RVRN, in March 2020, “such targeted attacks have escalated with physical assaults on staff providing services to refugees, arsons in facilities used for shelter and for services to refugees, NGO vehicles and blocking of the transfer or the disembarkation of new arrivals with the parallel use of racist comments”.[81]

In 2020, the Network recorded a further increase in incidents of racist violence against refugees, migrants but also human rights defenders who were targeted due to their affiliation with the above-mentioned groups. In 2019, the incidents against these groups were 51, while in 2020 they amounted to 74. The periodic intensification of these incidents is inextricably linked to the institutional targeting of refugees, migrants, and supporters. At the same time, as noted by RVRN, “the restriction of movement for refugees in public spaces, in the context of measures adopted against the pandemic, combined with reduced flows, seems to contribute to the invisibility of the specific target group and to the reduction of recorded incidents against them […] indicat[ing] that in 2020 the Networks recordings are, more than ever, the tip of the iceberg”.[82]




[1] See for example: FRA, Current migration situation in the EU: Oversight of reception facilities, September 2017, available at:, 2.

[2] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS): Factsheets, December 2021, available at:

[3] UNHCR data portal, available at:

[4] As noted by UNHCR in June 2020 “Such [pushback] allegations have increased since March and reports indicate that several groups of people may have been summarily returned after reaching Greek territory”. UNHCR, “UNHCR calls on Greece to investigate pushbacks at sea and land borders with Turkey”, 12 June 2020, available at: Amongst many others, also see Arsis et. al., “Joint Statement on push backs practises in Greece”, 1 February 2021, available at:

[5] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), December 2021, available at:

[6] MoMa, “Guarding of the borders, decreased arrivals and the speeding up of the asylum procedure allow us to close 60 of the 92 facilities on the mainland by the end of the year” (“Η φύλαξη των συνόρων, οι μειωμένες ροές και η επιτάχυνση των διαδικασιών ασύλου μας επιτρέπουν να κλείσουμε τις 60 από τις 92 δομές στην ενδοχώρα μέχρι το τέλος του έτους”), 10 June 2020, available in Greek at:

[7], “The first 8 hospitality sites for asylum seekers on the mainland have been closed. 59 more to follow by the end of the year” (“Έκλεισαν οι 8 πρώτες δομές φιλοξενίας αιτούντων άσυλο στην ενδοχώρα. Ακολουθούν άλλες 59 έως το τέλος του έτους”), 14 August 2020, available in Greek at:

[8] MoMA, “Completion of the Filoxenia programme for asylum seekers in hotels” (“Ολοκλήρωση του προγράμματος Φιλοξενίας Αιτούντων Άσυλο σε ξενοδοχεία”), 7 January 2021, available in Greek at:

[9] For instance, UNHCR, Greece Update No.16: Lesvos, 9 March 2021, available at:

[10] For instance, U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Greece, “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2020: Greece”, 30 March 2021, available at:

[11] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum  Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), December 2021, available at:

[12] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), February 2022, available at:

[13] Open letter: “All children have the right to go to school. Do not take that away from them”, 9 March 2021, available at:

[14] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), December 2021, op.cit.

[15] Based on the number of inadmissibility decisions issued in 2021 on the basis of the STC, this  population could exceed 6,000 persons in 2021, highlighting a 126% increase from 2020 (223%  inadmissibility decisions compared to 2020). For more, see RSA, The Greek asylum procedure in figures: most asylum seekers continue to qualify for international protection in 2021, 10 March 2022, available at:

[16] Data collected through a joint questionnaire prepared by GCR, Diotima Centre and IRC in the context of the joint project prepared by GCR, Diotima Centre and IRC, under the joint project “Do the human right thing–Raising our Voice for Refugee Rights”. The project is implemented under the Active citizens fund program, which is supported through a € 12m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 -2021, and is operated in Greece by the Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow. As of 1 March 2022, 188 such questionnaires have been collected, albeit only 22 were filled by people specifically residing in mainland camps. 

[17] Joint Statement by 26 NGOs, “Are you eligible to eat?”, 18 October 2021, available at:

[18] Inter alia see Joint Statement by 27 NGOs, “NGOs raise alarm at growing hunger amongst refugees and asylum seekers in Greece”, 25 November 2021, available at:

[19] Amongst others, see  Joint Press Release of 74 organizations, “Refugees in Greece: risk of homelessness and destitution for thousands during winter”, December 2020, available at:; IRC, “Over two thousand refugees in Greece at risk of homelessness as support programme closes, warns IRC”, 5 March 2021, available at:

[20] Euronews, “Thousands of migrants face eviction in Greece sparking fears over homelessness”, 2 June 2020, available at:

[21], “The snow is not pleasant when you are living in a tent – “Medea” buried the refugee camps (“Το χιόνι δεν είναι ευχάριστο όταν μένεις σε σκηνή – Η «Μήδεια» έθαψε τους προσφυγικούς καταυλισμούς”), 16 February 2021, available at:

[22] Efsyn, “Last minute improvisations for the refugees in Eleonas” (“Αυτοσχεδιασμοί της τελευταίας στιγμής για τους πρόσφυγες στον Ελαιώνα”), 16 February 2021, available in Greek at:

[23] GCR, Diotima Centre and IRC, Homeless and Hopeless: an assessment of the housing situation of asylum applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, January 2022, available at:, 9.

[24] Alterthess, “New fence in the Diavata camp raises questions” (“Νέος φράχτης στο καμπ των Διαβατών προκαλεί ερωτήματα”), 21 April 2021, available in Greek at: Also see, “Three meter wall surrounds the hospitality center of Nea Kavala” (“Τείχος τριών μέτρων κυκλώνει τη δομή φιλοξενίας Νέας Καβάλας “), 22 April 2021, availabl in Greek at: and  Efsyn, “Walls of shame in refugee facilities” (“Τείχη της ντροπής σε προσφυγικές δομές”), 23 April 2021, available in Greek at:

[25] Solomon, “We call it modernisation” – The facilities for refugees on the islands and the mainland are closed”, 10 May 2021, available (Greek) at:

[26] MoMA, Conducting a public tender according to article 27 of law 4412/2016, through the National System of Electronic Public Procurement (ESIDIS), for the assignment of an Agreement – Framework of the project “Fencing works and installation of security infrastructure” in the facilities of the mainland”, 31 March 2021, available in Greek at:

[27] UNHCR, Policy on Alternatives to Camps, 22 July 2014, UNHCR/HCP/2014/9, available at:, 4.

[28] alter thess, “Ten days without food – Refugee protest in Nea Kavala”, 13 October 2021, available (Greek) at:

[29] Efsyn, “Refugee Protest in Skaramangas”, 12 April 2021, available (Greek) at:

[30] Euronews, “Migrant protest in Elaionas – they call for the accommodation facility to not be closed”, 4 November 2021, available (Greek) at:

[31] Efsyn, “Oinofyta: The refugee facility is closed – Protest on the mass rejection of Kurds”, 24  November 2021, available (Greek) at:

[32] See inter alia Papadatos-Anagnostopoulos D, Kourahanis N, Makridou E, Exclusion of refugees by the national strategy in response to COVID-19, Κέντρο Έρευνας και Εκπαίδευσης στη Δημόσια Υγεία, την Πολιτική Υγείας και την Πρωτοβάθμια Φροντίδα Υγείας, 2020, available at:, 20.

[33] Joint Ministerial Decision No Δ1α/Γ.Π.οικ.26792/24.4.2020; Joint Ministerial Decision Δ1α/Γ.Π.οικ.28597/6.5.2020; Joint Ministerial Decision No Δ1α/Γ.Π.οικ. 31690/21.5.2020.

[34] Lancet-Migration, Carruthers E., Veizis A., Kondilis E., Orcutt M., Situational brief: Asylum seekers, refugees & migrants in Greece during covid-19, 27 May 2020, available at:

[35] Liberal, “Ν. Μηταράκης: 800 κρούσματα του ιού στους μετανάστες – Αφορά το 1% των αιτούντων άσυλο”, 26 October 2020, available in Greek at:

[36] Solomon, “Muddy waters with regards to the vaccinations of refugees and migrants”, 6 July 2021, available (Greek) at:

[37] efsyn, “Starting a race for the vaccination of refugees and migrants”, 1 October 2021, available (Greek) at:

[38] Annex II, JMD Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 17567, Gov. Gazette 1454/B/25-03-2022, available at:

[39] Annex II, JMD Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 81558, Gov. Gazette 6290/29-12-2021, available at:

[40] MoMA, Briefing Notes: International Protection, Annex A, December 2021, available (Greek) at:

[41] National Coordination Centre for Border Control, Immigration and Asylum, Situational Picture in the Eastern Aegean 31.12, 1 January 2022, available in Greek at:

[42] GCR & Oxfam, Lesbos Bulletin: Update on the EU response in Lesbos, by the Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam, 15 February 2021, available at:, 2.

[43] GCR & Oxfam, Lesbos Bulletin: Update on the EU response in Lesbos, by the Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam, 1 December 2021, available at:

[44] Ibid.

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

[46] Avgi, “Guardian / «Scenes out of the middle ages in Greece with a dead refugee surrounded by rats”, 7 May 2021, available (Greek) at:

[47] IRC, The Cruelty of Containment: The Mental Health Toll of the EU’s ‘Hotspot’ Approach on the Greek Islands, December 2020, available at:

[48] IRC, The Cruelty of Containment, op.cit., 14-15.

[49], Ένα νεκρό παιδί από τη φωτιά στη Μόρια, 16 March 2020, available at:

[50] AIDA, Country Report Greece, 2017 Update, March 2018, 131-133.

[51] Joint Statement: Greece: Move Asylum Seekers, Migrants to Safety, Immediate Hotspot Decongestion Needed to Address COVID-19, 24 March 2020, available at:

[52] Council of Europe, “Greek authorities should investigate allegations of pushbacks and ill-treatment of migrants, ensure an enabling environment for NGOs and improve reception conditions”, 12 May 2021, available at:

[53] Joint NGO Briefing on the situation in Greece, 27 October 2021, available at:

[54] ibid

[55] MsF, Constructing Crisis at Europe’s Borders: The EU plan to intensify its dangerous hotspot approach on Greek islands, June 2021, available at:, 16-17

[56] GCR, The European Court of Human Rights provides interim measures to unaccompanied minors living in  the RIC and the “jungle” of Samos island, 30 December 2019, available at:

[57] Equal Rights Beyond Border, Application No. 15192/20 – M.A. v. Greece, 26/03/2020, Vial evacuation COVID-19; Application No. 15782/20 – M.A. v. Greece, 07/04/2020 Vial evacuation COVID-19; Application No. 59841/19 – A.R. v. Greece, 21/11/2019 SGBV-evacuation Kos – Lifting of Geographical Restriction, available at:

[58] ECtHR, E.I. v. Greece, Application No 16080/20, Order of 16 April 2020. See further RSA, ‘Evacuation of overcrowded island camps a legal imperative’, 21 April 2020, available at:

[59] METAdrasi, “The European Court of Human Rights grants interim measures in favour of a family from Syria”, 28 May 2021, available at:

[60] RSA, “European Court of Human Rights orders Greece to safeguard asylum seekers’ life and limb on Lesvos”, 24 September 2020, available at:

[61] European Committee of Social Rights, Idem.

[62] UNHCR, Aegean Islands Weekly Snapshot, 9-15 August 2021, available at:

[63] General Secretariat for Information and Communication, National Situational Picture Regarding the Islands at Eastern Aegean Sea (31/12/2020), 1 January 2021, available at:

[64] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 31 December 2021, available at:

[65] JMD No. Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 20030, Gov. Gazette B’ 985/22-3-2020.

[66] UNHCR, Help-Greece, About Coronavirus, available at:

[67] JMD No Δ1Α/ΓΠ.οικ.29105/2020, Gov. Gazette B’ 1771/9-5-2020; JMD No Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 20030/2020, Gov. Gazette B’ 985/22-3-2020.  

[68] Annex II, JMD Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 17567, Gov. Gazette 1454/B/25-03-2022, available at:

[69] MsF, Constructing Crisis at Europe’s Borders: The EU plan to intensify its dangerous hotspot approach on Greek islands, June 2021, available at:, 2.

[70] GCR & Oxfam, Lesbos Bulletin: April 2021, 21 April 2021, available at:, p.3, refers to Aegean Boat Report, “Small Children Left Drifting In Life Rafts In The Aegean Sea!”, 22 February 2021, available at:; EU Observer, “Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea”, 25 February 2021, available at:; The Guardian, “’We were left in the sea’: asylum seekers forced off Lesbos”, 19 March 2021, available at:

[71] MsF, Constructing Crisis at Europe’s Borders: The EU plan to intensify its dangerous hotspot approach on Greek islands, June 2021, available at:, 2.

[72] UNHCR, Factsheet, Greece: 1-29 February 2020.

[73] RSA, “In this place, we have to help ourselves!” – Malakasa Camp, 19 April 2020, available at:

[74] Data does not include persons in-between locations, who lack uninterrupted access to stable accommodation. Also see, GCR, “Staying at home” or “staying on the streets”; GCR PR on homelessness amid the pandemic” (“«Μένουμε σπίτι» ή «Μένουμε στο δρόμο»; ΔΤ του ΕΣΠ για την αστεγία υπό συνθήκες κορονοϊού”), 16 April 2020, available in Greek at:

[75] For instance, see ethnos, ‘Samos: Hundreds of homeless migrants sleep in the streets’, 17 October 2019, available at:

[76] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 30 April 2021, available at:

[77] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 31 December 2021, available at:

[78] The research takes place under the joint project “Do the human right thing–Raising our Voice for Refugee Rights”. The project is implemented under the Active citizens fund program, which is supported through a € 12m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 -2021, and is operated in Greece by the Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow.

[79] MoMA, Briefing Notes: International Protection, Annex A, December 2021, available (Greek) at:

[80] RSA, Submission in Sakir v. Greece, July 2020, available at:

[81] RVRN, ‘Racist Violence Recording Network expresses concern over xenophobic reactions against refugees’, 11 November 2019, available at:

[82] RVRN, Annual Report 2020, 5 May 2021, available at:

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