11 July 2014

Although the Athens Administrative Court of First Instance ruled on 23 May that indefinite detention of migrants violates national, European and International Law, migrants in detention centres and police stations across the country, including in the pre-removal centres in Amygdaleza, Corinth and Xanthi, continue to receive decisions prolonging their detention beyond 18 months.It has been reported that since March more than 150 people in the region of Attica alone have been issued decisions prolonging their detention for more than 18 months.

The decision of the Athens Court was taken following an application lodged by Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), member organisation of ECRE, against the prolongation of detention for an indefinite period of an Afghan citizen after he had already been detained for 18 months.

The judgment confirms the severe criticism previously expressed by GCR, ECRE and other national, European and International Organisations regarding Opinion 44/2014 of the Greek State Legal Council and approved by the Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection authorising the prolongation of detention beyond the 18-month time limit set by the EU Returns Directive. In particular, according to the Court, “the restrictive measure imposed on the defendant – i.e. the obligation to stay in a detention centre – effectively is in fact equivalent to the extension of his detention”, where detention beyond 18 months “does not have any base in the relevant legislation” and thus the detainee must be released.

The living conditions of detained migrants in Greece are appalling and have been found inhumane and degrading by the European Court of Human Rights in several cases. Moreover, as shown by the AIDA Report on Greece published today, migrants detained do not have effective access to justice, due to the lack of free legal aid.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 July 2014.
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