Conditions in reception facilities

Greece

Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 19/06/24

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Article 59(1) of the Asylum Code provides that material reception conditions must provide asylum seekers with an adequate standard of living that guarantees their subsistence and protects their physical and mental health, based on respect for 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 were reduced to 24 by March 2022.[5] Following the closure and handover of the (former) Elaionas camp to the Municipality of Athens in December 2022, these have been further reduced by year’s end.[6]

Prior to the eviction of Elaionas’ residents and the camp’s ultimate closure, residents of the camp, as well as various solidarity groups, had protested on multiple occasions, inter alia requesting for the camp to remain open until a solution for their dignified accommodation within the urban fabric could be found, to not be “uprooted” again and forced to relocate to other mainland camps, as per the MoMA’s plan, and for the professionals previously providing them with psychosocial care to be re-employed.[7]

Amidst these reactions, questionable practices by the MoMA that have been characterised as “blackmailing” by the camp’s former employees[8], were reported at the end of August to have taken place, in an effort to convince the camp’s residents to accept their transfer to other camps or eviction. As noted by previous employees of Elaionas camp “[t]hey are not entitled to the continuation of the financial assistance (cash card) since they are automatically deleted from the facility, while the acceleration of the asylum procedure takes the form of a promise for those who consent [to be moved]. To this day, in an attempt to informally punish the protesting residents and to suppress their resistance, the administration staff refuses to provide them with any kind of service, e.g. refusing to hand over travel documents […]“. They further noted that “people with very serious health issues were not allowed to collect their personal belongings, while with regards to a visually impaired person awaiting possible surgery the [camp’s] administration [seems to have] said: “What [do you think] we are here to collect everyone?”.[9]

These developments came 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. By 7 January 2021, the Filoxenia programme was officially terminated, pending the transfer of the last 130 beneficiaries to other accommodation facilities.[10]

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 on the mainland have been generally reported as better compared to those on the island RICs,[11] 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,[12] further highlighting the negative impact of camp-based accommodation on prospects of integration.

As noted by UNHCR in December 2022:

‘UNHCR considers that housing in apartments, particularly if there is already a programme in operation, should be retained as the preferred type of housing when emergency conditions do not prevail. Camps should be the exception and only a temporary response measure in situations of forced displacement, as our Agency’s experience worldwide has shown that camps can have a significant negative impact in the long term for all. They perpetuate the trauma of displacement and create obstacles to finding solutions for refugees, whatever they may be. On the other hand, enabling refugees to stay with their host communities in conditions of legality and peaceful coexistence supports their ability to become self-reliant, to take responsibility for their lives, to integrate and contribute to their host community’.[13]

Challenges regarding the camps’ remoteness and their residents’ accessibility to rights and services, including education, also continued being reported in 2021[14] and in 2022, including on account of ongoing challenges with respect to the lack of transportation (or lack of resources to access it when available), which have continued being reported in the first months of 2023.[15] Out of the 24 mainland camps that were operational in March 2022, 5 still lacked public transportation, even though distances from the specific facilities to services that can be necessary (e.g. Citizen’s Service Centre [KEP], Tax Office and ATM)) ranged from 2 km to 31.9 km.[16] Especially for the camps without public transportation and without a doctor present at the site, the distance to the nearest health facility or pharmacy can reach up to 15,3 km[17].

As noted by a single mother from Afghanistan in December 2022, after her eviction from ESTIA and return to a camp: ‘It takes hours for an ambulance to arrive here if there is an emergency. For any doctor appointments we have to pay the expenses for the public transportation by ourselves and we go without any translator. A doctor appointment without a translator is like no appointment.’[18]

Ιn January 2023, a 45 year-old Congolese national residing in Ritsona camp was found dead in his shelter. Reportedly,[19] during the night, the man had been complaining of feeling chest pains and was requesting medical support. Yet as further reported,[20] the facility, which was at the time accommodating roughly 2,000 persons, lacked sufficient medical personnel, practically operating only one first aid station that was not operational during night hours. Though an ambulance was called, as per complaints by the camp’s residents, it arrived with delay, and upon being transferred to the hospital in Chalkida (roughly 15 km away) the man was confirmed dead. Residents of the facility reacted by demanding adequate health coverage.

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, apartments/rooms, and shelters by March 2022[21] . This is also due to the significant decrease in the number of people hosted in the camps which were all operating below their capacity by December 2021, with the sole exception of Elaionas camp in Athens (109.23% occupancy).[22] At the same time, however, more than 2,261 unregistered persons continued residing in mainland camps in March 2022. 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 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 continued leading a large number of asylum applicants in a state of legal limbo.[23] That being said, in 2022 and the beginning of 2023, GCR has increasingly received complaints by residents of the camps, regarding poor and unsanitary conditions (e.g. very high levels of humidity, lack of warm water, holes in the walls etc.) in housing units of at least some mainland camps.

Moreover, since October 2021, the MoMA decided to interrupt the provision of food to residents of the camps that were no longer in the asylum procedure, as a means to force them out of the accommodation. As noted by 26 civil society organisations in the same month, 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”.[24] By November 2021, this food crisis was affecting 60% of all mainland camp residents,[25] 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 program (Helios) in Greece. Though specific statistics are not available for 2022, GCR and other organisations are aware of similar cases in 2022 as well.

In December 2022, media also reported that up to 1,000 residents of Ritsona camp were not receiving food, likely due to having received a negative asylum decision. Amongst them there were families with children and babies. As noted by one of those affected: ‘When my children queue up for the soup kitchen, the guards push them […] I may not have suffered physical violence, but the fact that my children have no rights, no right to food and medical care is a form of violence […] I came here to protect my children. If my life was not in danger in Iraq, I would have gone back’.[26]

That being said, as in previous years, so too in 2022, GCR continued receiving complaints by its beneficiaries with respect to the quality of food –which many have stressed is not edible or even expired at the time they receive it– and to the lack of specific food products, such as suitable milk for babies, throughout several of Greece’s camps, including near Athens and Thessaloniki.

As stated by a single-headed family supported by GCR,[27] after being transferred to a camp (previously residing in ESTIA): ‘The situation is very bad. With this cold, we don’t have winter clothes, they didn’t even give us [i.e. the camp authorities] a blanket. We cannot eat the food. The milk they give for the children makes them feel discomfort (« τα ενοχλεί »). They told me they cannot change something [i.e. the camp authorities]. In the [ESTIA] apartment we did things on our own, we cooked the food we eat. Here, we do not have a choice’.

Likewise, while commenting on the quality of food provided to those considered eligible by the Greek administration, an employee of Ritsona camp stated: ‘[t]he food they provide is terrible. It is not edible’.[28]

During the 2020-2021 winter, conditions were also reported as highly substandard, as several mainland camps, including Schisto, Elaionas, and the old Malakasa camp were covered by snow during adverse weather conditions in February 2021, and hundreds of persons, particularly those living in tents at the time, were unable to warm themselves, not least, due to reported electricity shortages in several mainland camps.[29] 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 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.[30]

As of October 2021, electricity shortages in Ritsona camp continued to create concerns about the residents’ access to heating for yet another winter (2021-2022).[31] Though the extent to which similar challenges remain in 2022 needs to be further checked, residents of the camps have continued complaining about lack of access to sufficient warmth during the 2022-2023 winter as well. For instance, as noted by a 21-year-old applicant from the DRC, following his eviction from ESTIA and return to a camp outside of Athens, where he was placed in a container: ‘The container was dirty, and there were not enough beds inside. The heating wasn’t working properly, and it was very cold. The first day we arrived, the cold was unbearable. They gave us only bedding, but no blankets in the beginning’.[32]

By April 2021, it was also reported that works had commenced on the construction of 2.5 to 3-meter concrete walls and 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’.[33]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 how 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.[34] This came close to a month after the MoMA issued a public call for tenders for the construction of fencing and the necessary infrastructure for enhancing security in Migrant Accommodation Structures.[35]

At the beginning of February 2022, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum assigned a contractor -selected in an international tender- the work of fencing and installing security infrastructure in the camps of Koutsochero, Vagiochori, Lagadikia, Alexandria, Filippiada and Serres until the end of April 2022. The same happened in the camp of Katsikas in Ioannina.[36] Due to the installation of the “HYPERION” surveillance system under the Greek Data Protection Authority review, cameras were installed, with private security guards controlling the entry and exit to and from the camp, demanding residents identify themselves.

These practices, in conjunction with the isolated nature of the camps and the frequent inability of residents to access means of transportation, have led to the establishment of prison-like structures, which make residents feel like they are being imprisoned.[37] ‘I feel trapped’ stated a single Afghan father of a 12-year-old girl, who was forced to leave ESTIA and return to a camp. ‘I felt I had been dumped there. Around the camp, there is nothing. To enter and exit, you need to show your papers. There are walls around the camp. I feel imprisoned even though I am allowed to go out, added a 21-year-old Afghan resident after his transfer to the camp. As noted by RSA, there was a victim of gender-based violence in his country of origin and had been a victim of assault during his previous stay in Moria camp. His transfer to a camp took place in blatant disregard for his mental health condition or previous efforts to re-establish a semblance of ‘normal’ life:

To go to Athens from here I have to walk 30 minutes to the nearest bus station and then ride a bus for more than one hour. I have to pay 6.10 euros for each ride. The busses don’t go to Athens often. I receive a 70€ allowance per month, so going to Athens is a luxury I cannot often afford and it is likewise hard for my partner to visit me here. I have many doctor’s appointments in Athens, sometimes three a week and is really hard to attend them. I have also enrolled on Greek classes in Athens but I cannot go there anymore. In the camp I went three times to find classes but there was nobody there. As I have almost no possibility to go anywhere, I am forced to stay most of the time in the camp and far from my friends. Since I’ve been in the camp, I keep thinking all the time. My psychological situation is worse’.[38]

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.’[39]

In several cases in 2021, 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. 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?’.[40] 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 and how their housing needs would be met after the camp’s closure.[41] 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 Türkiye. As inter alia stated, ‘We have no other solution […] For three months they are not providing us with 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 whom families, women, and children, had their asylum applications rejected. We explained in the asylum interview our situation in Türkiye. It is not safe at all’.[42]

Protests were also reported in 2022, yet to the extent GCR can be aware, these were mostly related to the closure of Elaionas camp and the termination of ESTIA. For instance, in June 2022, Elaionas camp residents addressed an open letter to the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, The Mayor of Athens, the IOM Chief of Mission in Greece and Greek civil society more broadly. In the letter, they inter alia demanded an end to the closure of Elaionas camp. As noted: ‘Here we brought our hope of being able to start a new life, for us and our children, in peace. But the Greek authorities do not see in us human beings forced to flee: they see in us a problem to hide, taking us away from the eyes of Greek citizens, closing us in camps far from the cities, far from the rest of the society.’ With their letter, they called in June 2022 the Greek community to a demonstration, starting from the gates of the Elaionas camps to the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum.[43] In November 2022, refugees in Elaionas camp protested again, 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?’.[44] In November 2022, in the context of an eviction operation from ESTIA, as part of which the (former) residents were to be transferred to Katsikas camp, it was also reported that ‘the vast majority of refugees refused to enter the bus that had arrived to take them to the Katsikas camp, in Ioannina, and remained outside the building shouting slogans’.[45]

Last but not least, since March 2020, asylum seekers residing in mainland camps, RICs and CCACs 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. Even though such measures have for months been lifted for the rest of the population, they remain in application to facilities hosting refugees and third country nationals more broadly, with the last decision for 2022 issued on 31 December. Similar to previous such decisions, the latest one for 2022 inter alia maintains that exit from refugee-hosting facilities is only allowed between 7am-9pm, only for family members or representatives of a group, and only in order ‘to meet essential needs in the nearest urban centres’. [46]

 

Conditions on the Eastern Aegean islands

The situation on the islands has been widely documented and remains alarming, despite the gradual decrease in the levels of overcrowding since 2020 and the lack of overcrowding by the end of 2022.

Between January and December 2022, a total of 7,363 persons from the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos and Leros were able to leave the islands, while another 558 were transferred to the mainland from other islands.[47] By the end of December 2022, 4,371 asylum seekers and refugees were living in facilities with a designated nominal capacity of 15,190, with the majority in Lesvos (1,709), Samos (1,013) and Kos (917).[48] As per observations in the field, nominal capacity seems to not necessarily equate to actual capacity. For instance, as reported during the Lesvos Inter-Agency Coordination Meeting, which operates under UNHCR, on 19 January 2022, due to increased arrivals, the CCAC Director had informed that shelter availability in the Lesvos CCAC had become scarce, impacting on living conditions. At the time, the CCAC reportedly hosted 1,920 persons, which seems to also highlight a significant discrepancy vis-à-vis the nominal capacity of the CCAC, which has been consistently reported at 8,000 places by the National Coordination Centre for border Control, Immigration and Asylum, operating under the Ministry of Citizen Protection.[49] Nevertheless, despite available capacity, conditions remain unfit for purpose.

In 2021, similar 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.[50] 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.[51] As noted in December 2021,[52] “[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”.

Challenges with the stable supply of electricity in Mavrovouni have continued to be reported in the first months of 2023 and were reportedly expected to be resolved towards the end of March.[53] Amongst other issues reported was an increase in GBV incidents for which, with scarce exceptions, the survivors did not wish to follow through and open a case, as well as a concerning increase in the number of scabies cases in the camp.[54]

In 2022, infrastructure-related problems were also mentioned in Zervou Centre in Samos, the first among the five Closed Control Access Centres (CCACs) constructed. As mentioned by MSF, despite improvements (e.g. decongestion and the placement of containers instead of tents), the Zervou CCAC remains “a hostile environment, and fails to receive people in humane and dignified conditions”. The infrastructure problems, including interruptions in water supply and lack of access to heating and air conditioning, aggravate the living conditions in the winter and summer respectively.[55]

The island Centres’ location, in general, is usually remote, away from the island’s cities. In combination with the lack of access due to cost to public transportation, this adds a significant barrier for the centres’ residents to access health care or administrative services. The geographical, and thus social, isolation exacerbates the feeling of imprisonment for asylum seekers residing in reception centres on the islands. For example, Zervou camp in Samos is a closed centre surrounded by a double layer of barbed wire and camera surveillance where entry and exit are only allowed between 8 am – 8 pm. According to a testimony of a 23-year-old man from Afghanistan residing in the camp: ‘When you arrive at the camp doors, one by one they let you inside, to the checkpoint where they check your phone, wallet, pockets, and even the small pockets of your clothes. Then when you want to go inside you have to pass through doors with fingerprints.’[56]

These inadequate and dangerous conditions, have 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.[57] 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’.[58] Since February 2022, in the Zervou reception camp in Samos, there has been a lack of medical staff and supplies, as no appointed doctor was provided. A doctor from Samos Hospital was visiting the centre to identify vulnerable people among the asylum seekers, without providing, though, medical care. Since April 2022, MSF has been filling the gap in medical care services by running a mobile clinic three times per week. According to MSF, people first arriving at Zervou centre were not provided with medical care, as they underwent COVID-19 quarantine. This led to medical emergencies, stating that the health condition of a person with diabetes became life threatened as his condition was not identified. People needing special medical care were confronted with administrative impediments that delayed their transfer to hospitals on the mainland.[59] According to I Have Rights (IHR, an organisation that provides free legal information and support in Samos), in 2022 ‘42% of IHR beneficiaries met the legal category of vulnerability in Greece, of which 26% were survivors of torture and 12% of human trafficking. However, only 33% of those who were vulnerable got in contact with the centre’s psychologist’.[60]

According to MSF, between September 2021 and September 2022, 40% of their mental health patients in Zervou Centre displayed symptoms related to psychological trauma. ‘Everyone is suffering from a basic level of psychological distress,’ said Elise Loyens, MSF medical coordinator in Greece. ‘And always with the same symptoms; body pains, dissociation, depression, sleep disorders. People feel humiliated living under these conditions,’ she added. MSF revealed that one of its patients described Zervou Centre as ‘mental punishmentwhile avoiding leaving his room so as not to see the barbed wire and police surveillance.[61] Alkistis Afrafioti, Advocacy Officer at the Greek Council for Refugees, after GCR visited the Zervou camp, said:

‘Going to the centre, you have only one question: how is this suitable for people? It feels like visiting a prison located in the middle of nowhere. To enter and exit, people must go through a whole array of security measures with turnstiles, magnetic gates, x-rays, scanning cards, and fingerprints. The security guards are all over and you feel followed at every step. One resident we talked to told us how it felt like there were three security guards to one person. We met with an Afghan young man, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, that has turned to self-harm several times as he is trapped on the island for the last 3 years. For two months, he could not even exit the new facility due to an illegal exit ban.’[62]

Throughout the years, a number of cases regarding the situation on the Greek Islands have been examined before international jurisdictional bodies and temporary protection has been granted.

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 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 ordered the Greek authorities to arrange for 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.[63]

Moreover, in three cases of vulnerable applicants living on the Greek Islands under a geographical restriction, supported by Equal Rights Beyond Borders, the ECtHR 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.[64]

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.[65]

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 was suffering from severe bronchiolitis. Doctors recommended improvements in the girl’s living conditions and gave her special medication that required 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, since 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 girl.[66]

In September 2020, in a 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.”[67]

In a similar vein, on 9 August 2022, the ECtHR granted interim measures in a case represented by the organisation (IHR).[68] The case concerned two highly vulnerable applicants, one of whom was a beneficiary of international protection and the other a person with a pending appeal on their subsequent asylum application, who remained on the island of Samos. Both applicants were reportedly in need of emergency medical treatment due to their condition (Hepatitis B), which they could not receive on the island. Yet despite having their geographical restriction lifted for months, they still remained there, because as noted,[69] ‘in 2022, the authorities stopped conducting “organised transfers” from Samos’. The applicants were ultimately transferred following the Court’s intervention, which ordered the Greek Government to “a) guarantee to the applicants a medical assessment by a gastroenterologist/hepatologist, and b) ensure, if necessary, their medical treatment”.

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 2022 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,[70] 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.[71] 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.[72] By 1 January 2023, 389 unaccompanied minors remained in RICs,[73] almost three times higher than one year earlier when 131 unaccompanied minors were in RICs.[74] The available data does not allow the identification of the extent to which this concerned the islands and/or the RIC of Evros.

As highlighted by GCR / OXFAM / SCI:

‘In the new €43 million Closed Controlled Access Centre of Samos, which is fully funded by the European Union, asylum seekers had no access to adequate water for more than two weeks in May 2022. Due to a water pump malfunction the tap water supply was limited to only two hours per day (8-9 am and 7-8 pm). According to organisations operating on Samos island, there were days when asylum seekers living in the facility had no access to tap water at all, while receiving only three bottles of water (4.5 litres) per person per day, to meet all their needs – consumption, personal hygiene, laundry, personal and household cleaning. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 50 – 100 litres of water are needed per person per day to ensure that their most basic needs are met.27 International humanitarian standards stipulate that each person should receive a minimum of 15 litres per day for drinking and domestic hygiene. Inadequate access to water leads to degrading and dangerous living conditions, especially for vulnerable people. Water supply deficiencies are not limited to the Samos CCAC. The remote and isolated areas often selected for refugee camps and reception centres frequently result in water and electricity shortages. According to the UNHCR Chios Office and the Municipality of Chios, VIAL refugee camp on Chios island has regular water supply problems. Firstly, due to water supply needs that have to be covered for the surrounding agricultural fields and the neighbouring village’s residents; secondly, as no company has been contracted to fix immediate technical deficiencies’.[75]

In October 2022, one year after its opening, Samos CCAC, still had no permanent doctor. According to GCR/OXFAM/SCI common bimonthly bulletin:

‘A doctor ‘loaned’ by the already under-staffed Samos General Hospital, occasionally visits the facility. This makeshift solution jeopardizes residents’ health, as there is no one to provide medical first aid or to assess daily health risks in the CCAC. In combination with the centre’s remote location and the fee imposed for buses to the city centre, this severely impedes residents’ effective access to healthcare. Moreover, the lack of full-time medical staff hinders adequate and timely vulnerability and age assessments, procedural safeguards that have a significant impact on the outcome of individuals’ asylum procedure’.[76]

Measures taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

The restriction of the movement of persons residing on the island RICs was successively prolonged up to 3 June 2020,[77] 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 the time of writing this report[78]. As already mentioned, said JMDs published on a regular basis cover all refugee hosting facilities and provide 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 in the nearest urban centres’.[79]

As noted by MSF in June 2021:

‘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.’[80]

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 arose 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 Türkiye at the end of February 2021, after being beaten with batons and stripped of their belongings.[81]

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 Türkiye’.[82]

As highlighted in the joint bimonthly bulletin on refugees and migrants of GCR / OXFAM / SCI published in July 2022:

‘Double standards are similarly evident in the supposed handling of COVID-19 precautions. All refugees who enter Greece via the Eastern-Aegean islands or Evros are immediately isolated in quarantine areas under the pretext of containing the spread of COVID-19. The quarantine period currently lasts for 5 days, but it can be prolonged if there are positive cases of COVID-19 amongst the group. However, quarantine is no longer required in Greece and no one entering Greece is subjected to this measure,46 apart from people claiming asylum. Ukrainians entering Greece and applying for temporary protection are not being put into quarantine. It therefore remains unclear why one specific group of people is forced to quarantine based solely on the fact that they are seeking asylum’.[83]

 

Destitution

Destitution and homelessness still remain matters of concern, despite the efforts made in previous years 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’.[84] Though the population of concern has since been significantly reduced, following the termination of ESTIA, which as far as GCR has observed was preceded by a stop in the acceptance of new residents several months before the programme’s termination, this remains valid in 2022 and the start of 2023, as based on observations from the field, particularly after the termination of ESTIA, in several cases applicants preferred pursuing alternatives to cover their survival needs, instead of being forced to remain in isolated, prison-like, camps.[85]

As noted in May 2022 by an LGBTQI+ applicant from Cameroon, upon entering Greece and being registered on island RIC alongside other newcomers, they did not receive shelter, ‘despite it being mid-winter’, as at the time, they were told the RIC was full. As per the person’s accounts, this resulted in being forced to undergo several days living in abandoned houses, without medical care, which was required due to suffering from burns on various body parts and from terrible pains. The person managed to leave the island and reached Athens during the first lockdown, finding a place to stay with the support of a fellow community member, but was soon forced to leave, as the person’s nightmares and screams during nights, wouldn’t let their roommates to sleep. This resulted in ending up again living in an abandoned building. A year later the person underwent surgery and finally managed to contact the asylum service. Yet as recounted, the asylum service ‘denied to offer any support’. The result was to remain stranded in a situation ‘without a roof, without social or medical support’.[86] As further noted by a professional of Diotima in June 2022: ‘Many people from this population [i.e. LGBTQI+] sleep in parks, groves, or abandoned dilapidated buildings. Without any support from public institutions, completely deprived of resources, they pursue various individual survival strategies: collecting and reselling used bottles, or engaging in survival sex. In this precarious context they are exposed to all kinds of dangers on a daily basis’.[87]

That being said, the number of applicants, including those still unregistered/pending registration of their asylum claim (who face homelessness in accordance with the ETHOS typology developed by FEANTSA,[88] ) or who in any case lack access to reception conditions, is not known, as no official data is published on the matter and a detailed assessment of needs is further hindered by challenges in fully determining the statuses of those affected by conditions of homelessness and destitution. Nevertheless, organisations in the field have continued to report cases of applicants reaching Greece’s mainland camps in search of a shelter without any previous referral from authorities. In parallel, some broad indications on the number of those affected can potentially be revealed by reference to the number of appointments for the registration of asylum applications scheduled via the MoMA’s new platform in the RICs of Malakasa and Diavata, which at the end of 2022 stood at 34,395.[89] These regard applicants without access to reception, albeit, without it being possible to confirm whether each of these appointments relates to a unique applicant. Indications of ongoing challenges can also be revealed in a survey conducted under UNHCR between February 2022 and April 2023, which reached 47 households consisting of registered and pre-registered asylum applicants, as well as unregistered persons wishing to apply for asylum in Greece. With respect to their accommodation, only 25.53% were residing in (mainland and island) camps, while 8.51% declared they were hosted by others, 2.13% being homeless, 4.26% residing in accommodation they owned, and 2.13% being self-accommodated/renting. A large portion (42.55%) were at the time of the survey still residing in ESTIA,[90] and therefore their housing situation is not known following the programme’s termination, yet as has been reported, the termination of ESTIA inter alia led to at least some of the programme’s former beneficiaries in a situation of homelessness and destitution.[91]

Moreover, the Greek government’s decision to reduce the time beneficiaries of international protection are allowed to stay in accommodation designated for asylum seekers, has continued to exacerbate the risk of homeless and destitution for refugees in Greece, not least due to the ongoing lack of a comprehensive integration strategy and concrete measures.[92] 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’,[93] and given the ongoing lack of comprehensive and viable solutions for beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, homelessness and destitution have remained a risk in 2022 as well.

For instance, data collected in the context of a joint research carried by GCR, Diotima Centre and IRC in 2021 and 2022, which inter alia reached 64 households consisting of beneficiaries of international protection in Greece, who were interviewed based on a predetermined questionnaire between November 2021 and April 2022, found that 28% of said households were as per their accounts living in conditions of homelessness or without a stable roof over their head, while another 22% were at imminent risk of homelessness due to becoming ineligible to remain in Greece’s reception system.[94]

The 6-month restriction with respect to applicants’ right to access the labour market (see Access to Labour), initially introduced via the IPA in 2019, is an additional factor that needs to be taken into consideration, particularly amidst ongoing challenges in accessing the asylum procedure and accordingly reception conditions on the mainland, given that throughout this time asylum seekers are exclusively dependent on support received in the context of reception (once access is secured) and/or through civil society initiatives and soup kitchens.

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[95]. The number of UAM estimated as homeless and/or living in precarious conditions by the end of 2022 is not available, as relevant estimates have stopped being published. Nevertheless, between April 2021 and 1st January 2023, the National Emergency Response Mechanism aimed at tracing UAM in precarious conditions registered more than 5,000 new and unique requests for accommodation for UAM,[96] highlighting an ongoing challenge.

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. 146 (3,069 end December 2021) applications pending registration, 17,249 (31,787 end December 2021) applications pending at first instance and 4,921 (5,258 end December 2021) appeals pending before different Appeals Committees, at the end of 2022. In parallel, as of December 2022, 34,395 (asylum) registration appointments were reported as scheduled for 2023 in the mainland RICs of Malakasa and Diavata.[97]

 

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 the spring of 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 criminal prosecution and subsequent conviction under a hearing raising fairness concerns.[98]

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 organisations and NGOs and 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’.[99]

In 2020, the RVRN recorded a further increase in incidents of racist violence against refugees and migrants, as well as human rights defenders who were targeted due to their affiliation with these groups, from 51 in the previous year to 74 in 2020. Yet 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 [have] contribute[d] 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 [were], more than ever, the tip of the iceberg’.[100]

The same seems to apply in 2021, during which 28 incidents against refugees and asylum seekers were recorded by the network,[101] indicating a decrease compared to previous years. According to RVRN, 2021 was also the first year when no incidents of organised violence by far-right groups against refugees and migrants were recorded. Yet as per the RVRN’s estimation, this was due to the conviction of the far-right Golden Dawns party as a criminal organisation in 2020.[102] The RVRN also noted that the decrease in the report of such incidents against refugees and migrants is not indicative of the wider picture of racist violence for the reporting year, given that the specific trend was observed in a period with intense racist rhetoric and institutional targeting of refugees and migrants. Amongst the possible causes of this decrease is the reduction of flows and of the number of refugees on the islands and on the mainland. The broader restrictions of movement imposed in the context of combating the COVID-19 pandemic, have been also reported as a possible cause, as these measures seemed to have contributed to decreasing the visibility of this particular population in local communities and in the quantitative trends of related incidents of racist violence.[103]

In 2022 the RVRN reported 33 (among 74 in total) incidents of racist violence against migrants, refugees, or asylum-seekers. Victims were targeted due to their national origin, religion, or color. One among the victims faced racist violence due to their national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. During the same year, there were recorded incidents of racist violence where the perpetrators were members of official and unofficial racist groups.

Moreover, according to the RVRN, the specific attack pattern recorded throughout the years seems to have applied to other settings in 2021 and 2022, such as in schools. Namely, the RVRN recorded racist actions against migrants and refugees from perpetrators that acted individually in the victim’s neighbourhood, in a public service, or in a public transport. Despite their low intensity, those incidents increase the victims’ feelings of threat and insecurity and impact the bond of trust between them and the social environment. These incidents declined during the pandemic due to restrictions on movement in public spaces. However, they re-appeared during 2022.[104]

In 15 of the incidents recorded in 2022, as per their testimonies, the victims were subjected to verbal and physical violence and sexual assault by law enforcement officials. Among those incidents, 7 took place on Greece’s borders during the asylum seekers’ entry into the territory. In some of those incidents, the victims stated that they were detained and subjected to violence during detention. Also, the victims testified that they were subjected to violence on the borders by groups of men who reportedly wore black or military-type clothing and had guns or batons. In one case, they covered their faces with full face masks and had radio contact. In the latter incidents, the victims testified that they did not recognise any distinctive characteristics of any (Greek or international) law enforcement agency in their clothing or appearance. However, due to their equipment and modus operandi, victims perceived that their perpetrators were actors representing the state. The targeting of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers has already been stated, according to the RVRN, by the Recording Mechanism of Incidents of Informal Forced Returns. The latter reported 51 cases where victims were subjected to verbal and physical violence, sexual assault, and theft as their perpetrators pushed them back. As per the Mechanism’s Report, in 33 cases, the perpetrators were from law enforcement authorities, and in 18, the perpetrators reportedly did not bear any distinctive mark. [105]

Added to these seemingly organised incidents of racist violence is the attack against a shelter for unaccompanied minors from a group of 40-50 people covered with full face masks and hoods, throwing rocks against the building while using xenophobic language. The perpetrators targeted children and employees working at the shelter. Indeed, among the victims, there were human rights defenders who were subjected to harassment or violent behaviours due to their support towards migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. The UN Special Rapporteur in June 2022 spoke of a climate of fear due to the attempts to criminalise, among others, the action of human rights defenders.[106]

Lastly, as highlighted by the US Department of State, as part of its 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Greece:

‘Significant human rights issues [in Greece] included credible reports of: cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of prison detainees and of migrants and asylum seekers by law enforcement authorities; […] forced returns and alleged violence by government authorities towards migrants and asylum seekers; […] crimes involving violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic minority groups; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons’.[107]

 

 

 

[1] See for example: FRA, Current migration situation in the EU: Oversight of reception facilities, September 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2xObtYA, 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: https://bit.ly/36YGhx1.

[3] UNHCR data portal, available at: https://bit.ly/3JXA7ep.

[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 Türkiye’, 12 June 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3tZ01Gt. Amongst many others, also see Arsis et. al., ‘Joint Statement on push backs practises in Greece’, 1 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3tWOTdc.

[5] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/43mIVEv.

[6] A list of relevant facilities is available on the MoMA’s website, under ‘Facilities/Temporary Reception’ at: https://bit.ly/42b3wuv. However, the list is not necessarily accurate given that Elaionas is still listed as an operating facility.

[7] EfSyn, ‘They dynamically demand their stay in Elaionas camp’, 16 August 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3V5LTKO; ‘The refugees of Elaionas say ‘No’ to second ‘uprooting’’, 8 August 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/443jlFK and ‘Mobilisation refugees and solidarity groups’, 5 July 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/41BSDlW.

[8] EfSyn, ‘They refute Mitarakis, talk about blackmailing practices of the administration’, 30 August 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/40GYVj4.

[9] Ibid.

[10] 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: https://bit.ly/3wfctn3.

[11] For instance, UNHCR, Greece Update No.16: Lesvos, 9 March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3opJQkl.

[12] 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.

[13] New 247, ‘The government threw mothers with underage children on the streets’, 10 December 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3AsMA7x.

[14] For instance, U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Greece, ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2020: Greece’, 30 March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3oCmF6F.

[15] Inter alia, as per information acquired during the 17 March 2023 protection working group for Northern Greece, which is organised under UNHCR.

[16] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3L4TFhN.

[17] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/43mIVEv.

[18] RSA, ‘A Step Backwards for Protection and Integration: On The Termination of the Estia II Housing Programme for Asylum Applicants’, 22 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3HmVE1F.

[19] To Kouti tis Pandoras, ‘Dead refugee in Ritsona facility’, 16 January 2023, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3n2wmid.

[20] 902.gr, ‘The death of a refugee in Ritsona proves the deterioration of health structures’, 18 January 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3HeP7WG.

[21] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/43mIVEv.

[22] IOM, Supporting the Greek Authorities in Managing the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Vulnerable Migrants (SMS), December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3L4TFhN.

[23] In 2022, the number of applications rejected as inadmissible due to ongoing application of the ‘safe third country’ concept in the case of Türkiye, stood at 3,409 at first instance and 2,696 at second instance. MoMA, Reply to parliamentary question, 156079/2022, 16 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3Lid1ln.

[24] Joint Statement by 26 NGOs, ‘Are you eligible to eat?’, 18 October 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3LovDyr.

[25] 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: https://bit.ly/3iLj1Fe.

[26] Avgi, ‘Ritsona / Holidays without food for hundreds of refugees and migrants’, 18 December 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/43dn7eM.

[27] Aggelidis, D., ‘Homeless [‘ανέστιοι’] refugees without ESTIA’, EfSyn, 24 December 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3LvxNis.

[28] Avgi, ‘Ritsona / Holidays without food for hundreds of refugees and migrants’, 18 December 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/43dn7eM.

[29] In.gr., ‘The snow is not pleasant when you are living in a tent – ‘Medea’ buried the refugee camps (‘Τοχιόνι δεν είναι ευχάριστο όταν μένεις σε σκηνή – Η «Μήδεια» έθαψε τους προσφυγικούς καταυλισμούς’), 16 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3fmDFJI.

[30] Efsyn, ‘Last minute improvisations for the refugees in Elaionas’ (‘Αυτοσχεδιασμοί της τελευταίας στιγμής για τους πρόσφυγες στον Ελαιώνα’), 16 February 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3wfWTrf.

[31] 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: https://bit.ly/3tTuCsm, 9.

[32] RSA ‘A step backwards for protection and integration: On the termination of the ESTIA II housing programme for asylum applicants’, 22 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/43vr3Y5.

[33] Alterthess, ‘New fence in the Diavata camp raises questions’ (‘Νέος φράχτης στο καμπ των Διαβατών προκαλεί ερωτήματα’), 21 April 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2Rs9Gbl. Also see Eidiseis.gr, ‘Three meter wall surrounds the hospitality center of Nea Kavala’ (‘Τείχος τριών μέτρων κυκλώνει τη δομή φιλοξενίας Νέας Καβάλας ‘), 22 April 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3wiwE3h and Efsyn, ‘Walls of shame in refugee facilities’ (‘Τείχη της ντροπής σε προσφυγικές δομές’), 23 April 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2S1IHTV.

[34] Solomon, ‘We call it modernisation’ – The facilities for refugees on the islands and the mainland are closed’, 10 May 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/372ij3X.

[35] 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: https://bit.ly/3op9p59.

[36] EFSYN, «Υψώνουν τείχος στη δομή των Ιωαννίνων» (Greek), 14 February 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3C2pjKi.

[37] RSA ‘A step backwards for protection and integration: On the termination of the ESTIA II housing programme for asylum applicants’, 22 January 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/43vr3Y5.

[38] Ibid.

[39] UNHCR, Policy on Alternatives to Camps, 22 July 2014, UNHCR/HCP/2014/9, available at: http://bit.ly/1DAf2kz, 4.

[40] alter thess, ‘Ten days without food – Refugee protest in Nea Kavala’, 13 October 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3JLctlW.

[41] Efsyn, ‘Refugee Protest in Skaramangas’, 12 April 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3qE9XpW.

[42] Efsyn, ‘Oinofyta: The refugee facility is closed – Protest on the mass rejection of Kurds’, 24 November 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3JIAaeD.

[43] Europe Must Act ‘Eleonas Camp/ Athens: Open Letter by Camp Residents’, June 2022.

[44] Euronews, ‘Migrant protest in Elaionas – they call for the accommodation facility to not be closed’, 4 November 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3La4CP8.

[45] Kontranews, ‘ESTIA programma: new refugee evictions – they are sending them to an accommodation facility’, 15 November 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3AswLNY.

[46] JMD Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 75297 on Emergency measures to protect public health against the risk of further spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in the whole territory from Sunday, 1 January 2023 at 06:00 until Monday, 30 January 2023 at 06:00, published on 31 December 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3na7qVX, Annex II.

[47] MoMA, Briefing Notes: International Protection, Annex A, December 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/41W5ZsN.

[48] National Coordination Centre for Border Control, Immigration and Asylum, Situational Picture in the Eastern Aegean 31.12.22, 1 January 2023.

[49] For instance, see NCCBCIA, National Situational Picture Regarding the Islands at Eastern Aegean Sea (19/01/2022), 20 January 2022 and National Situational Picture Regarding the Islands at Eastern Aegean Sea (31/12/2022), 1 January 2023. Both can also be accessed on the MoMA’s website at: https://migration.gov.gr/en/statistika/, under the label ‘National Situation: Migrant and Refugee Issue’.

[50] GCR & Oxfam, Lesbos Bulletin: Update on the EU response in Lesbos, by the Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam, 15 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3e0NsFO, 2.

[51] GCR & Oxfam, Lesbos Bulletin: Update on the EU response in Lesbos, by the Greek Council for Refugees & Oxfam, 1 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/36yc2wL.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Based on information received through the Lesvos Inter-Agency Coordination Meetings, operating under UNHCR, on 15 February 2023 and 27 March 2023.

[54]  Ibid.

[55] Doctors Without Borders, ‘in Greek reception centers, asylum seekers are stranded in prison-like conditions’, 30 November 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3qeYNL1.

[56] Fenix ‘One year since Greece opened new ‘prison-like’refugee camps, NGOs call for a more humane approach, September 20, 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3WAQZiZ.

[57] The Guardian, ‘A scene out of the middle ages’: Dead refugee found surrounded by rats at Greek camp’, 7 May 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3NnNMy1.

[58] Avgi, ‘Guardian / «Scenes out of the middle ages in Greece with a dead refugee surrounded by rats’, 7 May 2021, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/35e2ars.

[59] Doctors Without Borders, ‘in Greek reception centers, asylum seekers are stranded in prison-like conditions’, 30 November 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3qeYNL1.

[60] Fenix ‘One year since Greece opened new ‘prison-like’refugee camps, NGOs call for a more humane approach, September 20, 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3WAQZiZ.

[61] Doctors Without Borders, ‘in Greek reception centers, asylum seekers are stranded in prison-like conditions’, 30 November 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3qeYNL1.

[62] Oxfam International, ‘New Oxfam report uncovers stories from the ‘prison-like’ EU funded refugee center’, March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/439Mf6r.

[63] 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: https://bit.ly/2GYQY2p.

[64] 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.

[65] 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: https://bit.ly/3fbQdDi.

[66] METAdrasi, ‘The European Court of Human Rights grants interim measures in favour of a family from Syria’, 28 May 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/2S18uvu.

[67] RSA, ‘European Court of Human Rights orders Greece to safeguard asylum seekers’ life and limb on Lesvos’, 24 September 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3uXUp0D.

[68] ECtHR, Application no. 32683/22, C.N. v. Greece & Application no. 32755/22, R.M. v. Greece, 10 August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/44318s0.

[69] IHR, ‘Interim measure granted in case concerning denial of emergency medical treatment for two of IHR’s beneficiaries’, August 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3L3Asic.

[70] European Committee of Social Rights, Idem.

[71] UNHCR, Aegean Islands Weekly Snapshot, 9-15 August 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3JUG78d.

[72] General Secretariat for Information and Communication, ‘National Situational Picture Regarding the Islands at Eastern Aegean Sea (31/12/2020)’, 1 January 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3bAvSXG.

[73] Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 1 January 2023, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/43sXXss.

[74] AIDA, Country Report: Greece, 2021 Update, May 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3MRVkLf.

[75] GCR / OXFAM / SCI, Bimonthly bulletin on refugees and migrants on Greece, July 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/45DRD36.

[76] GCR / OXFAM / SCI, Bimonthly bulletin on refugees and migrants on Greece, October 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3WEk9xy.

[77] 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.

[78] Annex II of JMD Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 5432/2023.

[79] Annex II, JMD Δ1α/ΓΠ.οικ. 17567, Gov. Gazette 1454/B/25-03-2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3NxeOmL.

[80] MsF, ‘Constructing Crisis at Europe’s Borders: The EU plan to intensify its dangerous hotspot approach on Greek islands’, June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3tVzwFg, 2.

[81] GCR & Oxfam, Lesbos Bulletin: April 2021, 21 April 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/2SUxV29, 3, refers to Aegean Boat Report, ‘Small Children Left Drifting In Life Rafts In The Aegean Sea!’, 22 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3wzapHi; EU Observer, ‘Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea’, 25 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3dAA1ew; The Guardian, ‘’We were left in the sea’: asylum seekers forced off Lesbos’, 19 March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3mq5JyM.

[82] MsF, Constructing Crisis at Europe’s Borders: The EU plan to intensify its dangerous hotspot approach on Greek islands, June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3tVzwFg, 2.

[83] GCR / OXFAM / SCI, Bimonthly bulletin on refugees and migrants on Greece, July 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/45DRD36.

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

[85] GCR, ‘Evictions, homeless and setbacks to integration’, 30 November 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3HGKftw.

[86] Popaganda, ‘What I’m living is the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my entire life’, 11 May 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3AXE7te.

[87] Tsadirakis G., ‘Refugee men, survivors of gender-based violence and torture’, 22 June 2022, Popaganda, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3LE58a5.

[88] See ETHOS – European Typology of Homelessness and housing exclusion, available at: https://bit.ly/3N1vuV3.

[89] MoMA, Reply to parliamentary question, 156079/2022, 16 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3Lid1ln.

[90] See UNHCR, ‘Inter-Agency Protection Monitoring for Refugees in Greece: Key findings’, available at: https://bit.ly/43dZsuK.

[91] Amongst others, news 247, ‘The government threw mothers with children in the streets’, 10 December 2022, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/426nB68.

[92] Amongst others, see Joint Press Release of 74 organisations, ‘Refugees in Greece: risk of homelessness and destitution for thousands during winter’, December 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/33TXZwE; IRC, ‘Over two thousand refugees in Greece at risk of homelessness as support programme closes, warns IRC’, 5 March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3oqF1Hu.

[93] Euronews, ‘Thousands of migrants face eviction in Greece sparking fears over homelessness’, 2 June 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2SZa6Xb.

[94] For more on the relevant data see Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, Verslag feitenonderzoek naar statushouders in Griekenland, June 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/43OPuAJ, 34.

[95] EKKA, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 30 April 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3tZxCjo.

[96] Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors, Situation Update: Unaccompanied Children (UAC) in Greece, 1st January 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/43sXXss.

[97] MoMA, Reply to parliamentary question, 156079/2022, 16 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3Lid1ln.

[98] RSA, Submission in Sakir v. Greece, July 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/331Tmkh.

[99] RVRN, ‘Racist Violence Recording Network expresses concern over xenophobic reactions against refugees’, 11 November 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/3963YPt.

[100] RVRN, Annual Report 2021, 26 May 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3IKZnGI.

[101] Ibid.

[102] UNHCR, ‘Racist Violence Recording Network: Presentation of the Annual Report for 2022’, April 6 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/42HG2xz.

[103] RVRN, Annual Report 2021, 26 May 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3IKZnGI, 6-7.

[104] RVRN, ‘Presentation of the Annual Report for 2022’, 6 April 2022, written in Greek available at https://bit.ly/3OSKKVA.

[105] RVRN, ‘Presentation of the Annual Report for 2022’, 6 April 2022, written in Greek available at https://bit.ly/3OSKKVA.

[106] RVRN, ‘Presentation of the Annual Report for 2022’, 6 April 2022, written in Greek available at https://bit.ly/3OSKKVA.

[107] US Department of State, ‘2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Greece’, available at: https://bit.ly/3L7A9Tq.

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