Greece: Court curtails detention policy for Syrians on the islands

The Administrative Court of Mytilene has delivered three rulings upholding Syrian asylum seekers’ objections against detention, against the backdrop of a policy to detain Syrians on the Eastern Aegean islands with a view to their return to Turkey.

 

Administrative Court of Mytilene, Decision 218/2017

The applicant was referred to the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) of Lesvos on 11 October 2017 and applied for asylum on the following day. On 13 October, he was issued a detention order by the Lesvos Police Director with a view to his removal to Turkey, motivated based on the existence of a risk of absconding. The Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos recommended on 19 October the prolongation of his detention on the ground that his asylum application was made in order to delay or frustrate the return procedure. Two days later, the Lesvos Police Director issued a new detention order.

The court held that the applicant’s detention on the alleged ground was insufficiently motivated, as the detention order provided no objective criteria leading to the conclusion that his asylum claim had the sole purpose of delaying or frustrating return proceedings. In that light, the applicant was unlawfully detained.

The Administrative Court of Mytilene reached a similar conclusion in Decision 219/2017 concerning an applicant detained on the same grounds. It should be noted that the problematic interpretation of the detention ground relating to applications made for the purpose of delaying or frustrating return has been a systematic issue of concern vis-à-vis asylum seekers subject to the EU-Turkey statement, and condemned by other Administrative Courts as well.

 

Administrative Court of Mytilene, Decision 217/2017

In the case of a Syrian national who also applied for asylum on 12 October 2017 after being referred to the RIC of Lesvos, the Regional Asylum Office of Lesvos recommended the prolongation of his detention for the purpose of verifying his identity or nationality. On 19 October 2017, the Lesvos Police Director issued a new detention order stating the existence of a risk of absconding of the applicant due to a lack of travel documents or other documents certifying his identity.

However, the applicant held a Syrian passport which had been surrendered to the authorities in the pre-removal detention centre of Lesvos on 11 October 2017 and the authenticity of which had not been doubted. The court therefore deemed the detention order unlawful.

Finally, one of the cases raised the persisting issue of inhuman or degrading conditions in pre-removal detention. Beyond the islands, recent observations by the Greek Council for Refugees from Western Greece, as well as Aitima findings from Athens and Thessaloniki, reiterate strong concerns against the use of wholly unsuitable places for the detention of third-country nationals in Greece.

 

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