Indefinite detention of migrants in Greece is unlawful, rules the Athens Administrative Court of First instance

The Athens Administrative Court of First Instance ruled on May 23rd that indefinite detention of migrants violates national, European and International Law. The decision was taken following an application, lodged by ECRE member organisation Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), against the prolongation of detention for an indefinite period of an Afghan citizen after he had already been detained for 18 months, under the pretext of “an obligation to stay in a detention centre”.

The judgement 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.

In practice, a number of cases of migrants detained for more than 18 months have been reported, including more than 150 in the province of Attica alone.

As highlighted also by the soon to be updated AIDA report on Greece, 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, migrants detained do not have effective access to justice, due to the lack of free legal aid.


For more information:

Xronos, Detention above 18 months in the Centre for Migrants (Κράτηση άνω του 18μηνου στα Κέντρα Μεταναστών), 26 June 2014

Avgi, Detainees become numbers in Amygdaleza (Αριθμοί οι κρατούμενοι στην Αμυγδαλέζα), 6 June 2014

ECRE, GCR and Aitima, Letters to Commissioner Malmstrom and the Greek Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection, 6 May 2014

GCR Press Release, Indefinite administrative detention is unlawful, rules the Administrative Court of First instance, 28 May 2014

GCR Press Release, Indefinite detention: a direct infringement of national, European and international law, 8 April 2014

ECRE Weekly Bulletin, Greek State Legal Council justifies detention pending removal beyond 18-month limit set by EU Returns Directive, 4 April 2014

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention across 20 countries.