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.