Greece: Back to Detention
On March 30th a new pre-removal detention center was opened on Kos Island. Similar detention centers are planned on other islands of the Aegean. After the implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal on 20 March 2016, refugees arriving newly to Greece are caught on the islands. News from Refugee Support Aegean (RSA), implementing partner of PRO ASYL.
The first 55 refugees were already transferred to the new center on Kos Island. Up to 150 refugees and migrants will be locked up in this closed camp situated next door to the overcrowded hotspot of Kos, where already more than 810 refugees are stuck.
„Detention centers – we’re finished with them“, former Deputy Interior Minister Giannis Panousis said back in February 2015, when the newly elected government was still planning to improve the conditions for refugees in Greece. In a U‑turn, extensive detention and deportation now seemingly becomes a workable solution for the government. The SYRIZA led government with the support of the EU opens new detention facilities dedicated to deportations on the Greek islands. „Without closed camps second instance decisions cannot be implemented”, was the cynical statement of Migration Minister Giannis Mouzalas only some hours after a refugee in the Hotspot Vial on the island of Chios set himself on fire. Last week refugees in Lesbos Island protested against the feared start of mass deportations.
More than 2,194 refugees and migrants are already detained in the six detention and pre-removal centers currently existing in mainland Greece (Amygdaleza, Corinth, Paranesti/Drana, Xanthi, Fylakio /Orestiada, Petrou Ralli Aliens Directorate) sometimes for more than six months and under inhuman and degrading detention conditions. About 10,000 are being held on the Aegean islands without any possibility to move on to the mainland.
In public discourse representatives of the Ministry of Migration describe the future detainees to be mainly “criminals” or “troublemakers” trying to justify the further expansion of detention measures with security concerns. In fact, in the new detention facilities on the Aegean Islands there will be mainly those detained, whose asylum claims were declared inadmissible, or which are rejected in first and second instance in order to facilitate and secure the planned fast deportations to Turkey. The legal framework defining the grounds for detention of refugees and migrant, leaves many options for arbitrary detention, i.e. under the general grounds that persons who are alleged of “law-breaking conduct” or “considered to apply merely in order to delay or frustrate return“ can be detained. These prerequisites open up the possibility to arbitrarily detain almost every protection seeker on the islands.
Some of these administratively detained protection seekers who are to be transferred to the new pre-removal centres in the near future have already been imprisoned for weeks or even months in the hotspots or the congested police stations on the island under inhumane conditions, most of them without any court decision. At the same time, throughout 2016, more than 1,600 protection seekers were transferred from the islands to pre-removal detention centers on the mainland. After Kos, also on Samos Island a new detention and deportation centre will open soon. Local solidarity groups already report of police raids and many arrests. In the meantime, on Chios Island a pilot project is running in order to fasten up registration, asylum procedures and detention.
“Beyond any reasonable limit and any proportionality”
The new Ombudsmen Andreas Pottakis declared in a recent interview, that the return to a policy of administrative detention is highly problematic in the light of human rights protection. „In fact, in combination with the delay of the examination of asylum applications, we fear that it will lead to an unacceptable extension of detention duration beyond any reasonable limit and any proportionality.“
Detention conditions in Greece have been denounced by international NGOs and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) as inhumane and inadequate. Greece has been condemned dozens of times in the past by the European Court for Human Rights for the inhuman and degrading conditions in detention centers.