4 April 2014

According to an opinion published on 20 March by the Greek State Legal Council, the legal service of the Greek administration, migrants in Greece who refuse to cooperate regarding their deportation can be lawfully detained pending their removal for longer than the maximum of 18 months permitted by the EU Returns Directive.

According to an unofficial translation of the Opinion in the Greek State Legal Council’s view, detention beyond 18 months is justified on grounds of public order and safety. 

“This is a clear violation of Greece’s obligations under the Return Directive. Extreme measures such as this one go beyond the rule of law and present alarming similarities to the unlawful deprivation of liberty as described in art. 325 of the Greek Criminal Code”, Vasilis Kerasiotis from the Greek Council for Refugees told the ECRE Weekly Bulletin.

In 2009, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in the case C-357/09 Kadzoev that the Returns Directive “in no case authorises the maximum period [of 18 months] to be exceeded”, even where ‘the person concerned … is not in possession of valid documents, his conduct is aggressive, and he has no means of supporting himself and no accommodation or means supplied by the Member State for that purpose”.

Kerasiotis stated that “on 2 April 2014 the first decisions on prolongation of detention over 18 months have been transmitted to detainees in detention camps in the north of Greece (Paranesti, Xanthi, Komotini, and Fylakio) and riots have occurred”.

According to the Opinion, around 7,500 migrants are detained in pre-removal centres and other detention facilities around Greece. 300 of them have already completed 18 months in detention. 

This week Médecins Sans Frontières published a report on the “Invisible Suffering of Migrants Detained in Greece”, which concluded that detention has devastating consequences on the health and human dignity of migrants.

The report details that migrants and asylum seekers suffer from respiratory, gastrointestinal, dermatological, and musculoskeletal diseases, as well as anxiety, depression, and extreme acts such as hunger strikes, self-harm, and suicide attempts, as a result of substandard conditions and the lack of adequate medical assistance.

“EU authorities should react against the violations of EU law regarding the use of and the conditions detention in Greece,” stated Spyros Rizakos from the organisation Aitima.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 April 2014
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