|1348th meeting, 4-6 June 2019 (DH)
Supervision of the execution of the European Court’s judgments
- recalling that these cases concern the degrading treatment of the applicants (asylum seekers or irregular migrants, including unaccompanied minors) on account of their conditions of detention; the degrading treatment of asylum-seeking applicants due to their living conditions; the lack of an effective remedy against expulsion, due to deficiencies in the asylum procedure; and the lack of an effective remedy to complain about the conditions of detention;
As regards individual measures
- noted that no further individual measures need to be taken as regards the cases A.F., B.M., Bygylashvili,Chkhartishvili, De los Santos and de la Cruz, Horshill,Kaja, Tatishvili, Al.K., H.H., F.H.,Chazaryan and others, A.Y., Tenko, S.G., Barjamaj andHousein; therefore decided to close their supervision of these cases and to adopt Final Resolution CM/ResDH(2019)154;
As regards general measures
Asylum procedure and absence of an effective remedy against expulsion
- welcomed the ongoing efforts made by the Greek authorities, in concert with the competent EU institutions and the UNHCR, to improve the national asylum system, and the notable increase in the overall rate of granting asylum;
- noting, however, with grave concern the increase of arrivals of third country nationals that could adversely affect the functioning of the asylum system and is the reason for the significant increase in the average time taken to register and process asylum applications, and the deficiencies of the asylum appeal procedure which have been reported by the Greek Ombudsman and expert NGOs; called on the authorities to provide information on the asylum appeal procedure and on further measures envisaged or adopted in order to enhance the efficiency of the overall administrative procedure and the effectiveness of existing administrative remedies;
Living conditions of asylum seekers
- welcomed the concerted efforts made and the measures taken to ensure decent accommodation, provision of welfare and healthcare services, access to the labour market and to education for asylum seekers;
- took into account the continuing and increasing arrival of third country nationals, including asylum seekers; noted, furthermore the concerns expressed by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs that the living conditions of asylum seekers have remained critical, despite the commendable efforts and the achievements of the authorities to date; therefore called on the authorities to continue and step up their efforts;
- also called on the authorities to implement the recommendations of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights on the need to further enhance the provision of health care services to asylum seekers and irregular migrants in detention;
Reception and protection of unaccompanied minors
- welcomed the adoption in 2018 of the law on guardianship and invited the authorities to proceed to its prompt implementation in order to put in place a comprehensive and efficient system of reception and protection of all unaccompanied minors;
- expressed, however, concern about the inadequate number of suitable places available in accommodation facilities for minors and the significant number of minors placed in “protective custody” or in reception centres at the borders, and called on the authorities to intensify their efforts to increase the capacity of accommodation suitable for unaccompanied minors;
Conditions of detention
- noted with satisfaction that domestic case-law has evolved to allow irregular migrants, including unaccompanied minors, to complain about their conditions of detention; noted also the relevant case-law of the Court and decided to close their supervision of this issue;
- while noting with satisfaction that certain immigration detention facilities visited by the CPT in 2018 provided decent conditions, expressed serious concern at the fact that a number of other immigration facilities and police stations seem to be below Convention standards, and that the detention of unaccompanied minors persists;
- recalling the Court’s case-law and recommendations of the CPT, called on the authorities to end the practice of detaining unaccompanied minors and transfer them without delay to a (semi-) open establishment specialised for juveniles;
- invited the authorities to give effect to the recommendations made by the CPT and to improve the conditions in immigration detention facilities, including by providing adequate health-care services;
- invited the authorities to keep the Committee regularly informed about developments on all of the above-mentioned issues;
- decided to resume examination of these cases at their September 2020 DH meeting.
|1348th meeting, 4-6 June 2019 (DH)
Supervision of the execution of the European Court’s judgments
|Application||Case||Judgment of||Final on||Indicator for the classification|
|30696/09||M.S.S.||21/01/2011||Grand Chamber||Structural and complex problem|
|2134/12+||DE LOS SANTOS AND DE LA CRUZ||26/06/2014||26/09/2014|
|76951/12||CHAZARYAN AND OTHERS||16/07/2015||16/07/2015|
These cases concern the degrading treatment of the applicants (asylum seekers or irregular migrants, including unaccompanied minors) on account of their conditions of detention (such as overcrowding, lack of bed/mattress, insufficient ventilation, lack of regular access to toilets or sanitary facilities, lack of outdoor exercise, unsuitable food or inadequate allowances for food, etc.) in various detention facilities (such as police stations, premises of authorities in charge of immigration or foreign nationals, border posts or the special holding facility at the Athens International Airport) (violations of Article 3).
Some of these cases also concern the asylum-seeking applicants’ degrading treatment due to their living conditions in Greece, resulting from the authorities’ inaction in respect of the situation in which they found themselves: living on the street, without access to sanitary facilities and without means of providing for their essential needs (violations of Article 3).
Lastly, some cases in the M.S.S. group concern violations of the applicants’ right to an effective remedy on two grounds (violations of Article 13 taken in conjunction with Article 3):
– lack of an effective remedy against expulsion, due to deficiencies in the examination of the applicants’ asylum applications, notably lack of thorough and timely examination of the merits of asylum applications, and the risks incurred in case of expulsion to countries of origin; or
– lack of an effective remedy to complain about the conditions of detention.
Similar Article 3 issues arise in other cases but are dealt with in a separate group (S.D. group) which also concerns immigration detention issues under Article 5. Details are footnoted below.
Status of execution
M.S.S.: The applicant obtained refugee status in Belgium. Thus the examination of the individual measures in this case was closed in June 2012. According to information provided by the authorities on 29 March 2019, all applicants (23 applicants in 15 cases) in respect of whom violations were found on account of conditions of detention or of lack of an effective remedy to challenge conditions of detention have been released.
As regards the other applicants in respect of whom violations were found on account of their living conditions (AL.K, F.H, S.G and Rahimi):
AL.K.: The applicant’s asylum application was rejected at both instances and on 20 February 2017 he was ordered to leave the country within 90 days.
F.H. and Rahimi: The applicants were granted international protection.
S.G.: The asylum application lodged by the applicant was considered tacitly withdrawn because the applicant did not request the renewal of his asylum-seeker card.
As regards the applicants in respect of whom violations were found due to the lack of an effective remedy to challenge their expulsion, together with the shortcomings of the asylum procedure (A.E.A and A.Y):
A.E.A.: The asylum application lodged by the applicant was considered tacitly withdrawn because the applicant did not request the renewal of his asylum-seeker card.
A.Y.: No application for asylum has been pending in respect of the applicant.
The Committee was informed of the payment of just satisfaction in the case A.E.A on 6 May 2019. Therefore, this payment will be considered final on 6 June 2019. All the applicants in the remaining cases have received the just satisfaction awarded by the Court.
At its latest examination in June 2017, the Committee invited the authorities in particular: a) to elaborate, in cooperation with other stakeholders a plan for the registration and processing of asylum applications, so that they are processed within a reasonable timeframe, b) to develop a strategy securing the full protection of unaccompanied minors on the basis of an effective guardianship system, c) to improve conditions of detention in all detention facilities including by providing adequate health-care services and d) to ensure, as a matter of priority, that alternatives to the detention of minors are found and that where, exceptionally, minors are detained, they are held separately from adults and in conditions adapted to their vulnerable situation.
In reply to the above-mentioned decisions, on 28 March 2019 (DH-DD(2019)372) the Greek authorities provided extensive information that may be summarised as follows:
- Asylum procedures:
The authorities noted that measures to enhance asylum procedures were taken by Law No. 4375/2016 which was amended by Law No. 4540/2018. 12 Regional Asylum Offices and 11 Autonomous Asylum Units are now staffed with 681 employees and operate throughout Greece. 133 further employees are planned to be hired in 2019. Recently-hired personnel were trained by members of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in all issues concerning registration and examination of asylum applications as well as the legislation regulating these issues. All staff undergo continuous training.
Furthermore, the authorities noted that third-country nationals and asylum applicants are informed about access to asylum procedures and their rights, and are provided with free interpretation services.
Between 7 June 2013, when the Asylum Service started operating, and 31 December 2018, 204,097 asylum applications were registered, out of which 58,642 were submitted in 2017 and 66,969 in 2018. There was a 14.9% increase of applications lodged in 2017 and a 14.2% increase in 2018.
In 2017, 51,599 decisions were issued at first instance. Of these, 22,450 rejected applications as inadmissible and 6,668 terminated the procedure because of explicit or implicit withdrawal of applications. 46% of the 22,481 decisions on the merits granted international protection.
In 2018, 46,198 decisions were issued at first instance. Of these, 4,834 rejected asylum applications as inadmissible and 10,616 terminated the procedure because of explicit or implicit withdrawal of applications. 49.4% of the 30,748 decisions on the merits granted international protection.
The average time between pre -registration and full registration of asylum applications was 122.46 days in 2017 and 59.72 days in 2018. The average time from full registration to delivery of a decision at first instance was 153.27 days in 2017 and 235.41 days in 2018. As regards the special border zone procedure, the average time between pre-registration and full registration was 23.9 days in 2017 and 27.66 days in 2018.
In 2017, 4,542 asylum applications were lodged by persons in detention while in 2018 the number was 7,009. For this category, the average time from pre-registration to delivery of a decision was 125.25 days in 2017 and 145.41 days in 2018.
As regards asylum applications by unaccompanied minors, 2,640 applications were lodged in 2017 and 2,639 in 2018; the average time from pre-registration to delivery of a decision was 258.14 days in 2017 and 403.36 days in 2018. In 2017, 1,672 decisions concerning applications lodged by minors were issued at first instance, of which 738 rejected applications as inadmissible and 251 terminated the procedure because of explicit or implicit withdrawal of the applications. Out of the 683 decisions on the merits, 188 granted international protection. In 2018, 1,839 decisions concerning applications lodged by minors were issued at first instance, of which 350 rejected applications as inadmissible and 581 terminated the procedure because of explicit or implicit withdrawal of the applications. Out of the 908 decisions on the merits, 345 granted international protection.
At second instance, during 2017-2018, 26,999 appeals were lodged, of which 847 were granted. Interpretation and free legal assistance are also provided at second instance. As regards backlog cases (asylum applications lodged before 7 June 2013 at second instance), 83,002 of the backlog cases have been processed while 430 cases remain to be examined. 42,595 decisions were issued rejecting applications, 27,914 were issued discontinuing the asylum and 12,493 were issued granting international protection.
The Greek authorities stressed that the unprecedented increase in migration flows during 2015-2016 exerted tremendous pressure on the national asylum system, resulting in longer periods for registration and processing of asylum applications.
Lastly, the Greek authorities underlined that, despite the significant progress made in living conditions of asylum seekers, in particular those concerning minors, conditions of detention and the asylum procedure, the country remains under extreme migratory pressure. According to the authorities, the continuing increase of asylum applications which increases the average processing time and therefore prolongs inevitably the provision of accommodation and other services to asylum seekers, are present challenges that are constantly changing randomly and make the magnitude of needs unpredictable. . Hence, there is a need for revision of the EU asylum system, to ensure that the responsibilities are shared by all EU member States.
- Living conditions of asylum seekers:
According to the aforementioned communication from the Greek authorities, the situation concerning asylum seekers has completely changed since January 2011 when the M.S.S. judgment was delivered. Consequently, the examination of the living conditions of asylum seekers should be limited to those asylum seekers whose situation is similar to the situation examined by the Court in the M.S.S. group of cases, while the situation of third country nationals residing in Reception and Identification Centres (RICs – see below) cannot be examined from the point of view of the living conditions of asylum seekers as assessed in the M.S.S. judgment.
Accommodation, food, clothing and healthcare services are provided to asylum seekers under three basic schemes: a) RICs at the entry points, b) hospitality centres managed by non-profit organisations or international organisations, and c) houses, apartments or hotels leased in the framework of housing programmes. Following the influx of one million third-country nationals since 2015, the Greek authorities, in cooperation with the European Commission and UNHCR, managed to set up six RICs on the Eastern Aegean islands and in the Evros region, 26 temporary accommodation facilities on the mainland and to lease a number of apartments and hotels to accommodate a large number of asylum seekers. By the end of 2018, 18,369 persons lived in the above 26 accommodation facilities while 29 4799 persons lived in apartments and hotel rooms.
Lastly the authorities indicated that by the end of 2018, 11,683 persons lived in the RICs on the Eastern Aegean islands while in September 2018 18,107 persons lived there. The decrease in the number of asylum seekers living in RICs was due to the relocation of 29,090 persons belonging to vulnerable groups from the islands to the mainland. On February 2019, the progress achieved in providing accommodation and other services to asylum seekers was pointed out by the UNCHR Representative in Greece who stressed that since 2014 the accommodation capacity increased from 1,000 to 27,000 accommodation places in apartments and 20,000 places in hosting centres. Financial support is provided to asylum seekers subject to whether accommodation or other services are available to them.
As regards health care in particular, it is noted that asylum seekers are considered members of a vulnerable group having access to health care either in accommodation facilities or in public hospitals. All asylum seekers are vaccinated.
The Greek authorities have ensured access to education for refugee and migrant children by launching since the school year 2016-2017 a special educational programme which established “Reception /Preparatory Classes for the Education of Refugees” in certain public schools in areas accessible from the various accommodation facilities where asylum seekers reside. The programme aims at facilitating all refugee and migrant children in joining mainstream classes in Greek schools. At the same time, a number of refugee and migrant children were enrolled in Greek schools offering “reception” preparatory classes or in mainstream Greek schools. During the 2017-2018 school year, 7,316 refugee and migrant children were enrolled in the above educational units.
As regards access to labour market, according to legislation promulgated in 2016 and 2018, asylum seekers have access to labour and vocational training programmes under the same conditions as Greek citizens. By the end of 2018, 6,150 beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers were registered in unemployment registers.
III. Reception and protection of unaccompanied minors:
The authorities indicated that providing adequate accommodation and decent living conditions to unaccompanied minors arriving in Greece is one of their priorities. Unaccompanied minors are referred to accommodation centres for minors or to other accommodation centres where there are areas suitably adapted for this purpose, for as long as they stay in the country or until they are placed with a foster family or in supervised lodgings.
In December 2018, the overall capacity of accommodation facilities for minors amounted to 1,959 places, whereas the number of unaccompanied minors amounted to 3,741 (7.2% of whom were under 14). Priority is given to minors under 15 or with health problems. At accommodation centres, minors are provided with food and clothing as well as with healthcare services and the assistance of psychologists and lawyers.
New guardianship system: Under Law No. 4554/2018, a guardian is appointed for every third country or stateless person under the age of 18 who arrives in Greece without being accompanied by a relative or non-relative exercising parental guardianship or custody. The law sets out the terms for the appointment and replacement of a guardian for unaccompanied minors as well as the creation and functions of a Supervisory Guardianship Board.
The guardian has responsibilities which include ensuring decent accommodation, representing and assisting the minor in all judicial and administrative procedures, accompanying the minor to clinics or hospitals and providing access to psychological support, guaranteeing that the minor is safe during his/her their stay in the country and taking care of the minor’s education. The Supervisory Guardianship Board has the competence to assess and define the interest of the unaccompanied minor, where an important decision for the future of the unaccompanied minor is to be taken in the near future (for example, on a non-urgent medical problem, a possible disability, issues related to religious beliefs). The Council will decide upon a reasoned proposal from the tutor. Additionally, the Department for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors at the National Centre for Social Solidarity will have the responsibility of guaranteeing safe accommodation for unaccompanied minors and evaluating the quality of services provided in those accommodations. The above guardianship system is planned to be fully operational during 2019.
- Conditions of detention:
The authorities noted that 68,112 third-country nationals were arrested on Greek territory during 2017 (66.75% less than in 2016) while 93,367 third-country nationals were arrested during 2018. In 2017, 25,810 return/deportation orders were issued while 32,718 such orders were issued in 2018. Furthermore, the number of new arrivals of third-country nationals who entered in Greece through the land borders with Turkey increased by 170.15% in 2018. Third-country nationals subject to deportation, namely those who did not apply for asylum or whose applications have been definitively rejected, can, under the applicable legislation, be detained.
During 2017-2018, eight pre-return detention centres operated (six of them on the mainland (Amygdaleza, Tavros, Xanthi, Drama, Orestiada and Korinthos) and two on the Eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos and Kos. The authorities indicated that since 2016 asylum seekers arriving on the Eastern Aegean islands are not detained though they are not allowed to leave the islands. However, in order to detain offenders and migrants subject to deportation on Eastern Aegean islands, the two above-mentioned pre-return centres were created on Lesvos and Kos. The overall capacity of the eight pre-return detention centres amounts to 6,417 places, their operational capacity to 3,477 places while the number of detainees on 31 December 2018 was 2,098. The occupancy of the said detention facilities never exceeded their operational capacity.
Pre-return detention centres are tasked with providing detainees with food, clothing and health-care services; the latter is provided by public medical and nursing personnel, or other organisations or agencies. Cases which cannot be handled in the above centres are referred to state-run hospitals. The personal space available to each detainee corresponds at least to four sq. metres, there is outdoor space for activities, three meals are offered per day and direct access to telephones is ensured; areas are set aside for religious worship. All detainees can submit requests to the centre’s director and communicate with lawyers, members of NGOs and other agencies. Information is systematically provided to detainees about their rights and obligations, including their right to communicate with representatives of NGOs or other organisations or agencies. Representatives of NGOs and other agencies have daily access to the centres to communicate with detainees and provide legal assistance, so that detainees have access to the asylum procedure during detention.
Activities related to migrant detention centres are funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union for the period 2014-2020 (National Programme of the area of Home Affairs for the period 2014-2020). In the framework of the implementation of this programme, doctors, nurses, psychologists have been hired and detention facilities have been refurbished.
As regards detention of unaccompanied minors: 571 were detained in 2017 and 608 in 2018 in the above -mentioned pre-return detention centres. They were detained separately from adults in specially designated areas. The detention of minors is decided for as short a period as possible (and not longer than 25 days or in exceptional situations not longer than 45 days) when it is established that alternatives to detention cannot be applied. Unaccompanied minors are kept in detention facilities supervised by the police until they are subsequently transferred to hostel accommodation. While every possible effort is made to trace the minor’s family, a guardian is appointed to ensure the protection of the minor and his/her interests.
As regards the lack of an effective remedy for conditions of detention: The authorities indicated that the Court has held that the remedy provided for by Article 76 of Law No. 3386/2005, as amended in 2010, is an effective remedy to complain about conditions of administrative detention.
Analysis by the Secretariat
It follows from the information provided by the authorities that there are no further individual measures that need to be taken. Therefore, since the implementation of the general measures will continue to be monitored in the remaining cases of the M.S.S. and Rahimi groups, it is proposed that the Committee close the monitoring of the following cases: A.F, B.M, Bygylashvili, Chkhartishvili, De los Santos and De la Cruz, F.H, Horshill, Kaja, Tattishvili, Al.K, H.H, Chazaryan and others, A.Y, Tenko, S.G, Barjamiaj and Housein.
- Asylum procedures
During 2015-2016 Greece received an unprecedented number of third-country nationals, the majority of whom lodged asylum applications. Action was taken by the Greek authorities to respond to this situation, in cooperation with the European Commission and competent agencies of the EU, UNHCR and NGOs. The national asylum system has developed, the number of regional asylum offices and autonomous asylum units has increased, as did the staff of the Asylum Service. The first-instance asylum-granting rate in 2017 was 46% while in 2018 it rose to 49.4%.
It is noted that at second instance the number of appeals granted has been very limited. Out of the total substantive decisions issued in 2018, 2.8% granted refugee status, 1.5% subsidiary protection, 4.5% referred the case for humanitarian protection, and 91% of the decisions were negative.
Also, the Greek Ombudsman in his 2018 report noted that in 2018, the examination of asylum appeals lodged under the earlier asylum legislation (Presidential Decree 114/2010) and still pending continued to be delayed. This was due to the cessation of the Interior Ministry appeal committees which did not operate in 2018 even if this was provided for by Law 4540/2018. The Ombudsman expressed his concern at this situation which places asylum seekers in a precarious legal situation.
As regards legal aid, it is noted that a state-funded legal aid scheme in the appeal procedure, based on a list managed by the Asylum Service, exists in Greece since September 2017. An expert NGO report indicates that the capacity of the second-instance legal aid scheme remains limited. Out of a total of 15,355 appeals lodged in 2018, only 3,351 (21.8%) asylum seekers benefited from the state-funded legal aid scheme. In this respect, however, it should be noted that the Court referred to legal aid for irregular migrants and/or asylum seekers to reject their applications relating to the asylum procedure or their conditions of detention (see inter alia Moras et al, No. 20/13, § 34, decision of 20/10/2015; Josef and Others, No. 76854/11, §§ 27-28, decision of 24/01/2017).
In its “Recommendations for Greece in 2017” (February 2017), UNHCR stated that progress had been made but significant challenges relating to, in particular, registration and asylum processing, still had to be addressed. More specifically, six months after arrival on the Greek islands, many asylum seekers were still waiting for the full registration and processing of their asylum applications. On the mainland, first-instance decisions for those pre-registered during the summer of 2016 would take approximately two years. Therefore, according to UNHCR, the pace of registration and the lack of capacity fully to process asylum claims within a reasonable timeframe needed to be resolved. It follows from the information provided by the authorities in March 2019 that the average time to register and process an asylum application at first instance has in fact significantly increased.
Furthermore, given that no statistical data have been provided by the authorities concerning the examination of asylum applications on appeal, or about the reasoning of decisions given at second instance rejecting appeals, either on admissibility grounds or on the merits, the authorities could be requested to provide such information so that the Committee may evaluate also the effectiveness of the existing remedy against rejection decisions and the asylum procedure as a whole.
In conclusion, it transpires from the above-mentioned information that, despite the significant efforts made by Greece in the context of very pressing migration flows during the recent years, asylum procedures still show a number of significant challenges that require the adaptation of the measures taken to the new data.
- Living conditions of asylum seekers
As noted by the Court at § 250 of the M.S.S. judgment, the obligation of the State to provide accommodation and decent material conditions to impoverished asylum-seekers has now entered into positive law, namely the EU “Reception Directive” 2003/09 which has been transposed to Greek law. According to the Reception Directive (now Directive 2013/33) living conditions of asylum seekers include: a) material reception conditions, namely housing, food, and clothing, provided in kind, or as financial allowances or in vouchers, and a daily expenses allowance; b) health care; and c) access to the labour market.
It emerges from the information provided by the Greek authorities that in December 2018, 47,848 asylum seekers were provided with accommodation, welfare and healthcare services on the mainland. It is also noted that under the EU funded ESTIA programme managed by UNHCR, as of March 2019 approximately 69,000 eligible refugee and asylum seekers had received cash assistance in 111 locations in Greece, amounting to €6.9 million. Nevertheless, the number of available places for accommodation is not clarified in the updated action plan. It can be deduced from the reference made to the statement by the UNHCR Representative in Greece that in January 2019 the accommodation places available amounted to 47,000. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (‘the Commissioner’) noted in her report published in November 2018 that, in respect of living conditions of asylum seekers on the mainland, despite certain positive developments, the situation remained critical and might deteriorate rapidly if transfers of asylum seekers from the Aegean islands were not combined with both further significant increase in the capacities of the mainland’s reception facilities and an improvement of their conditions. In the same report, the Commissioner noted the need to further enhance migrants’ health care system, migrant children’s education attendance and to facilitate migrants’ access to the labour market.
Despite the positive information provided by the authorities indicating that the number of third-country nationals in RICs has been reduced due to transfers from the Eastern Aegean islands to the mainland, in a communication received on 16 April 2019 (DH-DD(2019)467), the Greek Helsinki Monitor and Refugee Rights Europe indicated a number of serious shortcomings notably on the RICs of the islands of Chios and Lesvos. The shortcomings concern, inter alia, overcrowding in camps, unsanitary living conditions therein and very inadequate access to health services. In a communication received on 24 April 2019 (DH-DD(2019)515), the Greek Refugee Council expressed similar concerns and noted that as regards the mainland, although the capacity has increased, the country-wide shortage of accommodation is leading to the overcrowding of many mainland camps while sexual and gender based violence is a major risk in some mainland sites.
It is noted that the Court has not examined the living conditions in the reception centres of the Aegean islands. In the O.S.A. and Others and J.R. and Others, the Court dismissed the applicants’ complaints concerning their conditions of detention in the reception center Vial, in Chios (hotspot) between March and May 2016.
It transpires from the above information that the Greek authorities, in cooperation with the European Commission, UNHCR and other stakeholders, have achieved significant progress in ensuring decent accommodation as well as welfare and healthcare services to asylum seekers. The measures taken to safeguard access to education for migrant children and to the labour market for asylum seekers are also important. However, the authorities could be invited to keep the Committee regularly updated on developments concerning living conditions of asylum seekers and be encouraged to take further steps in line with the recommendations made notably by UNHCR and the Commissioner to ensure adequate accommodation and decent living conditions for asylum seekers.
III. Reception and protection of unaccompanied minors
UNHCR noted in the factsheet published in March 2019 that although there are 3,773 unaccompanied minors in Greece, only 1,085 places are available in shelters and apartments. As a result, many minors spend lengthy periods in “protective custody” (in police stations) or in reception centres at the borders waiting for a place in a shelter appropriate to their age, while others have limited options but to stay in informal housing or risk becoming homeless.
The Commissioner noted in her above-mentioned report that, as of 15 August 2018, there were 3,290 unaccompanied minors in Greece, while there were only 1,191 available places in dedicated shelters or supported, independent-living apartments. Among the 2,241 children registered on the waiting list, 127 were deprived of liberty under the regime of ‘’protective custody’’, 296 were hosted in RICs, 161 in open temporary accommodation facilities, 254 in “safe zones’’, 413 in hotels, 437 were reported as homeless and 254 lived in informal housing arrangements. For almost 300 of these minors no location was reported.
The Commissioner expressed her concern about the reported poor shelter conditions and the lack of social support that most unaccompanied migrant children experience in Greece as well as about the deprivation of liberty of those detained under the “protective custody” regime. The Commissioner recommended that the Greek authorities immediately stop the detention of unaccompanied migrant children and take further measures to improve the living conditions of unaccompanied minors and ensure their full access to education.
The adoption in 2018 of the law on guardianship is a positive measure. The authorities could be invited to proceed to its prompt implementation and inform the Committee accordingly. Bearing in mind the significant discrepancy between the places available in accommodation facilities suitable for minors and the number of minors living in “protective custody” (police stations) or in reception centres at the borders waiting for a place in a shelter appropriate for their age, the authorities could be invited to address the issue by increasing the accommodation capacity in shelters and apartments suitable for minors and provide them with necessary and adequate welfare and health services.
- Conditions of detention
According to the CPT 2018 visit report which was published in February 2019, conditions of detention in the pre-departure centres in Amygdaleza and Pyli were good and an open-door-regime was applied at these two centres. On the contrary, conditions of detention remained very poor at the centre in Moria (Lesbos) where repair works were required and persons detained there were locked in their rooms for around 22 hours per day. At the Fylakio (Evros region) pre-departure centre, the cells were overcrowded and material conditions were found to be unacceptable. Furthermore, the CPT considered decent the conditions of detention at Feres and Soufli (Evros region) Police and Border Guard Stations, including the provision of daily outdoor exercise. However, all other police stations visited were not suitable places to hold asylum seekers and irregular migrants and conditions of detention remained totally inadequate for stays exceeding 24 hours. Despite this, according to the CPT report, police stations throughout Greece were used for holding irregular migrants, including women and young children for prolonged periods.
As regards the provision of health-care in the pre-departure centres visited, the CPT found that the available resources were totally inadequate compared to the needs observed. As regards the detention of minors, the CPT noted that unaccompanied children were still held under the so-called “protective custody” for up to several weeks until their transfer to a dedicated open shelter facility, which is mainly due to the totally insufficient number of open shelters available.
The authorities indicated that 571 unaccompanied minors were detained in 2017 and 608 in 2018. According to the above-mentioned 2017 UNHCR recommendations to Greece and the aforementioned CPT report, accompanied and unaccompanied children are in some circumstances detained in closed reception or police facilities, sometimes with adults. In this context it is noted that in a judgment delivered on 28 February 2019 (H.A. and Others v. Greece), the Court found, inter alia, a violation of Article 3 due to the detention of nine unaccompanied minors in police stations in northern Greece for periods ranging from 21 to 33 days.
In view of the above-mentioned developments, the Greek authorities need to provide information on the measures taken and/or envisaged to: a) improve conditions of detention in all detention facilities where irregular migrants and asylum seekers are detained, including providing adequate health-care services, and b) ensure, as a matter of priority, that alternatives to the detention of minors are found and that, in the exceptional event that they are detained, they are held separately from adults and in suitable conditions corresponding to their vulnerability.
As regards the remedy concerning conditions of detention, as indicated in Memorandum
H/Exec(2014)4-rev, the position of the Greek authorities has been that conditions of detention were part of the lawfulness of detention and could be challenged through Article 76 of Law No. 3386/2005. The European Court has held that this provision constitutes an effective remedy, which must be exhausted before lodging a complaint to the European Court (admissibility decision of 27 January 2017, Paul Josef and Others (Application No. 76854/11)). Therefore, the Committee could consider closing the monitoring of cases involving this violation.
|Financing assured: YES|
 M.S.S., A.F, AL.K, A.Y, B.M, Bygylashvili, Chazaryan and Others, Chkhartishvili, de Los Santos and de La Cruz, F.H, H.H, Horshill, Kaja, Tatishvili and Rahimi.
 M.S.S, AL.K, F.H, S.G, Rahimi.
 M.S.S, A.E.A, A.Y.
 M.S.S and B.M.
 The S.D. and Rahimi groups of cases concern violations of the applicants’ right to liberty on account of their unlawful deprivation of liberty (violations of Article 5 § 1) and absence of judicial review of the lawfulness of their detention (violations of Article 5 § 4).
 ECRE – AIDA, Country Report: Greece, March 2019, https://www.asylumineurope.org/sites/default/files/report-download/aida_gr_2018update.pdf, p.16.
 Greek Ombudsman, Annual Report 2018, March 2019, https://www.synigoros.gr/resources/docs/ee2018-p04-119-214-eid-them-enot.pdf, p. 213 (in Greek).
 ECRE-AIDA, idem.
 UNHCR, Cash Assistance Update, March 2019, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/68816.
 Report of the Commissioner following her visit to Greece from 25 to 29 June 2018, 6 November 2018.
 UNCHR Fact Sheet Greece 1-31 March 2019, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/69017.
 Report on the visit to Greece carried out by CPT from 10 to 19 April 2018, 19 February 2019.
Reports submitted for MMS – Rahimi referred to in the analysis
Greek Helsinki Monitor – Refugee Rights Europe https://search.coe.int/cm/pages/result_details.aspx?objectid=090000168094238b
Greek Council for Refugees https://search.coe.int/cm/pages/result_details.aspx?objectid=0900001680945e4e
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees https://search.coe.int/cm/pages/result_details.aspx?objectid=090000168094238b