Over 4000 Asylum Seekers Unlawfully Detained on Samos and Lesvos
Photo: Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum
In a deeply concerning development, asylum seekers on the Aegean islands of Samos and Lesvos are being placed en mass into unlawful detention in appalling conditions in the EU-funded Closed Controlled Access Centers (CCACs) while awaiting registration of their asylum requests. Following a sharp increase in arriving asylum seekers from Türkiye since July 2023, over 4,000 individuals have been detained inside the CCACs.
The escalating arrival of asylum seekers has exposed the authorities’ inability to effectively manage this influx. As a result, a policy of automatically and de facto detaining all new arrivals has been implemented, leading to mass violations of the right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This practice risks infringing upon Article 3 of the ECHR’s prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and violates both Greek and EU law, which stipulate that detention should only be used as a last resort and be accompanied by an individualized detention order.
Unlawful De Facto Detention
This practice of automatically detaining asylum seekers is unlawful for several reasons:
- It violates the requirement that detention should be used as a measure of last resort.
- People are detained for extended periods (around one month) without the legally required individualised written decision or justification provided for their detention.
- In cases where applicants are provided with written documents justifying their detention, an order for “restriction of freedom” is given instead of a detention order, failing to accurately reflect the reality of confinement.
- The justification for this de facto detention is not individually assessed, and a blanket justification that “the reception and identification procedures are not completed” is consistently given.
Inhumane and Degrading Detention Conditions
Both CCACs have subjected new arrivals to inhuman and degrading conditions:
- On Samos, hundreds of individuals have been restricted to the “Temporary Accommodation Zones” of the CCAC, enclosed areas of accommodation containers surrounded by barbed wire fences. These zones are manned by police, are under 24/7 surveillance, and residents have limited access to urgent medical care. Mobile phones and pass codes are taken by police upon arrival for several days, resulting in a violation of applicants’ privacy and hindering their access to essential support.
- On Lesvos, newly arrived individuals are de facto detained inside large rub-halls, with men, women, children, and vulnerable groups housed together without adequate privacy or safety measures. Conditions in these rub-halls are deplorable, with insufficient bedding, food, and water, leaving people constantly hungry and without proper clothing.
Medical access is severely limited in both CCACs, and the absence of healthcare professionals upon arrival violates both Greek national law and the EU reception conditions directive.
22 organisations, urgently call for an immediate end to the unlawful practice of systematically de facto detaining people upon arrival and awaiting the registration of their asylum requests. The unpreparedness of authorities for the increase in arrivals cannot justify the mass violation of individuals’ right to liberty and freedom from inhuman treatment.
You can read the full statement below.Joint-Statement-Unlawful-detention-and-worsening-conditions