European Court of Human Rights asks Greece to transfer two unaccompanied boys detained in police station to suitable shelter

On 4 November 2019, the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision under Rule 39 indicating to the Greek Government to transfer two unaccompanied brothers to an accommodation with reception conditions which are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention and the minors’ particular status.

The two unaccompanied minors have been detained for almost 15 days in police station cells in implementation of the authorities’ policy of ‘protective custody’. Their detention takes place until today in degrading conditions detrimental to their mental health ; in cells that are completely inappropriate for detention longer than few hours, in premises where adults, including detainees under criminal law procedures/provisions are held, with no yarding, no natural light and fresh air, no access to doctor and proper hygiene conditions, no outdoor or indoor activities, no access to the outside world, no way to communicate with their family members and no information about the duration of their detention.

Since their arrival in Greece, the authorities have failed to provide the minors with the protection prescribed by national, European and international legislation. The minors had previously been detained for about 12 days upon arrival and have not received any guarantees during the time they underwent reception and identification procedures. A few weeks after their release from their initial detention, and after appearing before the competent asylum authorities to complete their asylum registration and family reunification procedure, they found themselves detained again in a police station behind bars.

RSA notes that it is the second time in less than a month, and at least the third time during this year, that the Court indicates to the Greek authorities to transfer unaccompanied minors from detention to safe accommodation.

The Court’s decision to grant interim measures in this case highlights once more the authorities’ unlawful practice to hold unaccompanied minors in degrading conditions, in implementation of their so-called ‘protective custody’ policy, as well as the absence of an effective protection policy for unaccompanied children in Greece.

RSA reiterates its condemnation about the widespread use of the so called ‘protective custody’ in general and in particular in police cells that are not designed even for detention for adults for more than a few hours. RSA notes that detention is not the only violation of their rights, refugee children face in Greece. Inefficient identification of minor children, gaps in the age assessment procedures, inadequate or absent reception conditions, insufficient appropriate shelters, the lack of an effective guardianship system for unaccompanied children, lack of consistent guarantees in the asylum procedure and not ensured access to education further endanger their rights and deprive them of effective protection.

RSA stresses that the lack of a coherent protection policy for refugee children does not relieve the state from its obligations to ensure their rights and protection.

RSA further emphasizes that apart from the minors represented by our organization, many more unaccompanied children remain detained in police stations, and Pre-Removal Centers in similar conditions. In particular, according to statistics of the National Centre for Social Solidarity, as of 30 September, there were 238 unaccompanied children in protective custody. Not to mention that, in the same police station concerning the application before the Court, more children remain in detention at the time of the publication of this statement.

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