Human Rights Reports on Detention Conditions in Greece up to May 2012

Various organisations have published reports on the detention conditions in Greece. In a report from July 2010, titled Greece: IRREGULAR MIGRANTS AND ASYLUM-SEEKERS ROUTINELY DETAINED IN SUBSTANDARD CONDITIONS, Amnesty International wrote:

Amnesty International’s research over the last year has led to the conclusion that asylum-seekers and irregular migrants in Greece are detained as a matter of course, rather than as a last resort. […] Furthermore, the detainees are denied or have limited access to various forms of basic assistance, including legal assistance, interpreters and medical support. Lack of legal assistance denies detainees the opportunity to challenge their detention before a judicial authority and can result in prolonged detention in poor conditions.

In October 2010, the UNHCR calls the asylum situation in Greece a humanitarian crisis – a first for a European country, and recommended urgent measures to address humanitarian needs in the Evros region.


In January 2011 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rules Belgian authorities should not have expelled asylum seeker to Greece:


A violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights by Greece both because of the applicant’s detention conditions and because of his living conditions in Greece;
A violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) taken together with Article 3 by Greece because of the deficiencies in the asylum procedure followed in the applicant’s case;
A violation of Article 3 by Belgium both because of having exposed the applicant to risks linked to the deficiencies in the asylum procedure in Greece and because of having exposed him to detention and living conditions in Greece that were in breach of Article 3;
A violation of Article 13 taken together with Article 3 by Belgium because of the lack of an effective remedy against the applicant’s expulsion order.

At the same time, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are calling for immediate action, and for the Greek authorities to respond to the emergency medical and humanitarian needs of the detained migrants and asylum seekers in Evros and ensure the physical and mental health of migrants.


In March the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) issues a public statement on their visit to Greece earlier that year, an unusual step.

Since 1993, the CPT has carried out ten visits to Greece. […] the persistent lack of action to improve the situation […] as regards the detention of irregular migrants and the state of the prison system, has left the Committee with no other choice but to resort to the exceptional measure of issuing this public statement. […]
Regrettably, the findings made during the CPT’s most recent visit to Greece, in January 2011, demonstrated that the information provided by the authorities was not reliable. […]
irregular migrants, including juveniles and families with young children, were kept locked up for weeks and months in filthy, overcrowded, unhygienic cage-like conditions, with no daily access to outdoor exercise.

MSF report on their Emergency Intervention in Migrants’ Detention Facilities in Evros:

According to MSF medical data the seven most frequent diagnosed health problems were Upper Respiratory Track Infections, musculoskeletal system problems, non- bloody diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders, Lower Respiratory Track Infections, psychological complaints and skin diseases. These seven most common diagnoses accounted for the 63% of the total consultations. It is important to note that all seven of them are caused by and/or linked to the inhumane detention conditions: overcrowding, the lack of hygiene, water and sanitation problems, lack of ventilation and no possibility to spend some time outdoors and quality food.


Human Rights Watch report The EU’s Dirty Hands – Frontex Involvement in Ill-Treatment of Migrant Detainees in Greece.


December 2011: The Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg rules that EU Member States may not transfer asylum seekers to another EU Member State responsible for determining their asylum claim under the Dublin II Regulation where there are systemic flaws in the asylum procedure and reception conditions for asylum applicants that may result in inhuman or degrading treatment, according Article 4 of the EU Charter. The case particularly refers to deportations from UK to Greece. UNHCR summary of the decision.

In April 2012 ProAsyl publishes Walls of Shame – Accounts from the Inside: The Detention Centres of Evros. The report includes first hand descriptions of detention conditions. Refugees report common insults by police, including “monkey”, as well as physical violence, including kicks, slaps, punches. They cite at least one case were the extend of violence amounted to torture. One detainee describes how a warden responds to the request for water: “Drink my pee!”

If you know of other or newer reports, please share them in the comments section.

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