12 December 2014

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that the detention of an unaccompanied child at Feres and Soufli border post for over five months constituted inhumane treatment as well as a violation of the right to liberty and the right to an effective remedy.

After being arrested for irregular entry into Greece, M. Husein Mohamad, an Iraqi unaccompanied minor, was ordered to leave the Greek territory and was placed in detention at Soufli border post. Erroneously noting that the applicant was over 18, the Greek authorities detained him with adults. During this time he was exposed to unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, leading to psychological distress and physical harm. 

The Court found that there had been a breach of the right to liberty on two accounts. Firstly, the applicant had not been placed in a centre tailored to minors’ needs. In fact, even after medical examinations were conducted and his correct age, 17, was noted he was still returned to Soufli border post and detained with adults. Secondly, after he turned 18, the Greek authorities kept the applicant in detention but nonetheless made no attempt to deport him. This, the court held, was in contravention of one of the grounds for detention under the European Convention of Human Rights, namely detention with a view to deportation. 

Referring to previous case-law concerning treatment at Feres and Soufli, (M.S.S v Belgium and Greece and F.H. v Greece) the Court also found a violation of the prohibition of  inhumane treatment as well as a breach of an effective remedy given that no thorough or effective investigation into the conditions that the applicant had previously raised, notably a lack of exercise and detention with adults, took place. The Court noted ECRE’s and the ICJ’s submissions to the Committee of Ministers on the execution of M.S.S, detailing a lack of judicial oversight in Greece throughout the whole detention period.