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23 July 2020 – Greece

Refugees and Migrants Wearing Masks Wait to Get on a Bus After Their Arrival at the Port of Piraeus on 4 May 2020, (Petros Giannakouris, AP Photo,
Refugees and Migrants Wearing Masks Wait to Get on a Bus After Their Arrival at the Port of Piraeus on 4 May 2020, (Petros Giannakouris, AP Photo, "Two Migrants Test Positive for Covid-19 in Overcrowded Greek Camp," EuroNews, 14 May 2020,

Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, an official from an international organisation said that in Greece no moratorium on new immigration detention orders had been established but that new arrests and detention orders were reduced beginning from late March to mid-May. Since the end of May, the issuing of detention orders has gradually increased, reaching pre-lockdown numbers.

The official also reported that limited numbers of persons were gradually released from pre-removal detention centres (PRDCs) and police stations on the basis of age and vulnerability as well as their overall health condition (see 18 June Greece update on this platform). Yet, the legal basis of the release decisions did not make direct reference to Covid-19, nor were “alternatives to detention” programmes (ATD) employed. No specific measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the infection or to ensure appropriate care for persons released from detention.

According to the source, information on preventive measures against Covid-19 was gradually provided to detainees in PRDCs, with a significant number of released persons having received such information while in detention. But there has not been generalised Covid-19 testing for immigration detainees, despite police authorities in some locations having expressed their intention to do so.

As of 19 March, police authorities gradually restricted access to PRDCs. Transfer to these centres from police stations or other PRDCs have also been gradually reduced. According to the police, emergency cases, including those with Covid-19 symptoms, were exceptionally transferred to the hospital upon communication with the Hellenic National Public Health Organisation (EODY). Although Greece lifted some lockdown measures in May, other measures were still imposed in reception and identification centres as of June (see 18 June Greece update on this platform). While specific areas were made available for infected detainees, the capacity of medical staff in PRDCs remained very limited. Gradually, information on Covid-19 (including EODY material) was provided to detainees through Medical Units S.A., the actor providing medical services in PRDCs where available. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has donated to the police authorities (primarily to PRDCs and certain police facilities), cleaning and hygiene material.

The official stated that returns had been suspended to all countries from mid-March to May 2020. Returns on the basis of the EU-Turkey agreement have still not resumed as of July 2020, but returns of Turkish nationals under the EU-Turkey readmission agreement have gradually resumed since mid-May.

Apart from the suspension of returns from mid-March to May, the Asylum Service and Appeals’ Authority was suspended, and thus all administrative procedures were postponed, including asylum interviews (see 18 June Greece update on this platform). The authorities’ functions resumed in May. In addition, new arrivals were placed in 14 day quarantine, while the restriction of movement of third country nationals residing in all types of reception facilities throughout the country, was extended (for the seventh time) until 2 August 2020, from 21 March, on the basis of the protection of public health, despite the fact that the last restrictions of movement for the general population were lifted on 25 May.

As previously reported on this platform (18 June Greece update), facilities on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos, and Leros have been criticised for their overcrowding, poor material living conditions, and insufficient service provision. Despite 3,000 people being transferred out of the camps in mid-April, the facilities remain severely overcrowded, with 31,203 persons registered as living in the camps, as of 9 June, sharing only some 6,095 places.