gcr.gr | 19 September 2023
Unlawful detention and worsening conditions: Over 4,000 asylum seekers unlawfully detained onSamos and Lesvos
Since July 2023, the Aegean islands have experienced a sharp increase in arriving asylum seekers crossing by boat from Türkiye. Between 1 July – 31 August 2023, over 4,000 people were brought to the Closed Controlled Access Centres (CCACs) on Samos and Lesvos and placed into unlawful detention while awaiting registration of their asylum requests.
The registered arrival of asylum seekers continues to increase. The undersigned organisations have observed the authorities’ (including the Reception and Identification Service, the Greek Asylum Service and European Agency for Asylum) inability to manage this influx. A policy of automatically de facto detaining all new arrivals has been implemented. The result is the mass violations of the right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), risking infringement of Article 3 ECHR’s prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and violating Greek and EU law, requiring that detention be a matter of last resort and be accompanied by an individualised detention order.
Unlawful ‘de facto’ detention
This practice of automatically detaining asylum seekers is unlawful as:
1. It infringes the requirement that detention is only used as a measure of last resort.
2.People are detained for extended periods (two weeks to one month) without the legally required individualised written decision or justification provided for their detention.
3.In cases where applicants are provided with written documents justifying their detention, an order for “restriction of freedom”, not an order for detention is given, failing to reflect the reality of the confinement.
4.Moreover, the justification for this de facto detention is not individually assessed and the blanket justification that ‘the reception and identification procedures are not completed’ is consistently given. 5.Legal actors on Samos have observed that the provision of these 5 and 20 day “restriction of freedom” orders, frequently occurs after the detention period has already begun. For example, on Samos, legal actors have recorded that the 5-day restriction of freedom orders were retroactively provided to applicants on the same day that they were given the 20-day restriction order. Applicants reported being forced to sign orders that were back-dated, masking the reality that they had been detained for several days without documents. Other applicants were not given the restriction of freedom order but draft translations of another type of restriction orders, without any date or name. 6.Legal actors on Lesvos have observed that newly arrived asylum seekers are de facto detained in the Lesvos CCAC without the issuance of any specific decision ordering detention or restriction of their freedom. They are issued with neither a detention order within 5 days of arrival, nor an extension for up to 25 days, as required by Article 40(a) of Law 4939/2022. Asylum seekers are issued only a piece of paper documenting the simple registration of their will to seek asylum, containing only their basic biographic data. After their asylum claims have been fully registered, asylum seekers are free to leave the Lesvos CCAC, but this process is unacceptably delayed, in some cases for more than three weeks, in violation of Article 69(2) of Law 4939/2022.
7. In both Lesvos and Samos, accompanied and unaccompanied children are detained alongside adults in this detention setting.