Detention and Reception Conditions

In the past year, Greece has announced plans to convert Reception and Identification Centres (hotspots) into closed controlled facilities on the Eastern Aegean islands, causing intense reactions by the local populations. Increase of detention periods in law and systematic detention of new arrivals are additional features of a persistently problematic asylum detention policy.

At the same time, living conditions in the overcrowded hotspots are consistently documented as incompatible with human dignity, while conditions in mainland camps remain substandard.

Greece has been condemned several times by the European Court of Human Rights for its inhuman and degrading detention conditions in cases concerning asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied children. Immigration and asylum detention has steadily increased since 2017, while recent legislative reforms render more asylum-seekers detainable, for longer periods (up to 36 months), and with less procedural guarantees. The Greek authorities also move towards the establishment of closed centres on the Aegean islands that will replace the existing hotspots.

RSA supports cases of asylum-seekers before the Greek authorities and in litigation before the European Court of Human Rights and challenges the lawfulness of their detention, focusing especially on victims of torture and persons suffering with mental health problems as well as their conditions of detention.

Living conditions on the Eastern Aegean islands’ overcrowded hotspots are consistently documented as critical and incompatible with human dignity posing a serious risk for the mental and physical wellbeing of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers confined there. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted yet again the risks faced by people exposed to these conditions.

RSA continues systematically to document and highlight the impact of such conditions upon refugees and asylum seekers living in hotspots and has brought before the European Court of Human Rights a number of cases requesting the immediate transfers of extremely vulnerable asylum-seekers outside Moria. In spring 2020, the Court ordered the immediate transfer of the individuals concerned out of Moria to protect them from treatment contrary to Article 3 ECHR.

Since the beginning of large scale refugee arrivals in 2015 and the closure of the Balkan route in 2016, the Greek authorities have established in total 32 refugee camps in mainland Greece. Until March 2020, the vast majority of these camps lacked a legal basis. Poor conditions including sleeping in tents exposed to the weather elements, severe lack of safety and violence, remoteness of location and limited access to health care are among the deficiencies in these camps. Due to the increase in persons arriving via North-Eastern Greece over the past year, a substantial number of asylum seekers have not officially undergone a referral from the authorities for the purpose of reception and remain as unofficial residents of mainland camps such as Malakasa under wholly substandard conditions. RSA regularly documents conditions in mainland camps and supports cases of vulnerable individuals living there.

  • All
  • Detention
  • Hotspots
  • Mainland camps
  • Quality of the asylum procedure

09 Jun: Persisting systematic detention of asylum seekers in Greece

This note analyses current detention practice based on the latest available statistics on immigration detention and judicial review thereof, as well as on testimonies from refugees detained in Greece.

03 Jun: One more acquittal shows the dramatic consequences of the criminalisation of refugees entering in EU territory


28 Jan: Massive protests by islanders are challenging the government’s narrative on new prison structures in the Aegean

Two years after the violent crackdown on citizens in Chios and Lesvos who oppose the transformation of the islands into prisons for refugees and migrants, dissatisfaction with the refugee response is growing.

28 Jan: Michalis Psimitis: “The anti-immigration policy makes the islands an arena of conflicts and tensions”

Michalis Psimitis, Professor of Sociology at the University of the Aegean and Coordinator of the Anti-Racist Observatory of the University of the Aegean, explains the goals served by the escalation of control and surveillance regimes for refugees

23 Dec: Refugees in Greece experience third month of humanitarian crisis and hunger

Despite constant appeals from humanitarian organisations and dozens of media reports regarding the economic impasse faced by thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece in recent months, the problem has not been solved.

30 Jul: Immigration detention in the first half of 2021: Systematic deprivation of liberty and inaccessibility of remedies

Official data demonstrate that the Greek authorities continue to systematically detain asylum seekers and irregular migrants. The figures reveal a severe violation of the duty of the state to use deprivation of liberty only as a last resort, when necessity and proportionality so require.

22 Jun: Administrative detention: A human rights “black hole”

Greece is intensifying its detention policy under the hypocritical and tolerating gaze of the EU. More specifically, on Kos and – during the operation of the pre-removal centre – in Evros the authorities apply a policy of generalised and systematic detention of newly arrived asylum seekers subject to a few exceptions, whereas even vulnerable people are detained for prolonged periods.

24 Apr: Another dignified reception facility shut down

Another dignified reception facility shut down Another dignified reception facility shut down Photo: Elias Marcou The refugee reception facility run…

13 Apr: Excluded and Segregated | The vanishing education of refugee children in Greece

Excluded and Segregated The vanishing education of refugee children in Greece​ Excluded and Segregated The vanishing education of refugee children…

13 Apr: Executive summary: Excluded and Segregated. The vanishing education of refugee children in Greece

In a report titled “Excluded and Segregated. The vanishing education of refugee children in Greece”, Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) tracks…

24 Nov: Rejection of 28 asylum seekers from African countries due to the lack of interpreters

Legal aid organizations express concerns regarding the unprecedented administrative practice of the Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos, which goes against…

06 Dec: Greece, EU: Move Asylum Seekers to Safety. End Containment Policy, Organize Transfers Now

(Athens, December 6, 2018) – The Greek government and its European Union partners should urgently ensure that all asylum seekers…

22 Nov: Surviving in Moria

The situation in the Aegean hotspots remains very critical despite persistent calls from NGOs and international organizations to end the…

09 Oct: The “hotspots” experiment: removing human rights from the equation

Gradually, hotspots on the Greek islands have acquired more characteristics far different to those initially announced in terms of their…

15 Mar: #StopTheToxicDeal DETENTION

In the framework of their campaign #StopTheToxicDeal RSA and PRO ASYL publish today the fourth topic that concerns Detention. #StopTheToxicDeal

07 Mar: #StopTheToxicDeal Reception Conditions

In the framework of their campaign #StopTheToxicdeal RSA and PRO ASYL publish today the first topic that concerns reception conditions…

16 Feb: Majority of refugee children in the Aegean Islands Hot Spots are excluded from education

Despite the Government announcements that it will ensure access to education for all refugee children living in Greece, the majority…

25 Oct: WINTER HAS ARRIVED: Thousands left at the mercy of winter in Greek hot-spots

Despite repeated warnings from numerous organisations thousands of refugees will be in danger as weather deteriorates. The Greek government has…

04 Oct: Vulnerable protection seekers who arrived in Crete end up detained in Kos

Despite facilities in Kos have already reached maximum capacity due to increased arrivals from Turkey, the few last weeks authorities…

04 Oct: Winter threat looms over the forgotten refugees in Derveni camp

Despite repeated promises by the Migration Policy Minister, Giannis Mouzalas, Derveni (Alexil) camp has not been closed in spring 2017[i]….

20 Jul: Voices of the refugees stuck in “Moria” hotspot

Violence and tensions currently tend to become routine at the Reception and Identification Center (RIC) – the so-called hotspot in…

17 Jul: Serious gaps in the care of refugees in Greek hotspots; Vulnerability assessment system is breaking down

Following the departure of Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), medical and social services have seriously been minimised in the Registration and Identification…

15 Jun: Greek Hotspots: Deaths Not to Be Forgotten

(a joint PRO ASYL / Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) Policy Note) 14th June 2017 Greek Hotspots: Deaths Not to Be…

13 Apr: Greece: Back to Detention

On March 30th a new pre-removal detention center was opened on Kos Island. Similar detention centers are planned on other…