On 19 November 2020, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report on its visit to Greece on 13-17 March 2020. The delegation visited several police and border guard establishments in the Evros and Samos regions as well as three immigration detention facilities: Filakio Reception and Identification Centre, Filakio Pre-removal centre in the Evros region, and Malakasa detention camp in Attica.
In its report, the CPT stated that while it acknowledges the difficult context and significant on-going challenges faced by Greek authorities in dealing with the high number of non-citizens arriving in the country, “systematic detention cannot be the immediate response to this challenge.” The CPT said that the influx of migrants is not new and yet each time numbers surge, improvised places are used to detain them. In consequence, the CPT said, “the time is ripe for Greece to reconsider the approach taken towards the detention of migrants and it would appreciate receiving the comments of the Greek Government on this matter.”
Moreover, the CPT found that detention conditions for migrants in the Evros region and on the island of Samos could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment. For instance, a visit of two cells at the Port of Samos revealed that 93 migrants (58 men, 15 women – three of whom were pregnant – and 20 children, 10 of whom were under five year old) were crammed into the two cells. One of the cells measured 42 square metres and held 43 people (affording each one less than 1 square meter of living space per person). In addition, there was no artificial lighting, no heating, no beds, and no mattresses. The migrants met by the delegation had not had access to a shower for more than two weeks and no soap was given to them to wash their hands.
The CPT also found that appropriate health care—essential during the pandemic—is not available in all facilities in which migrants are detained. Further, the committee noted that families with children and unaccompanied or separated children were being held in inappropriate conditions and reiterated its recommendation that the “Greek authorities fundamentally revise their policy regarding the detention of unaccompanied children both for reception and identification purposes and under ‘protective custody’ in places of deprivation of liberty. … Instead, they should be transferred without delay to a (semi-) open establishment specialised for juveniles”.
In its concluding remarks, the CPT observed other deficiencies in most places of detention such as a general “lack of maintenance of the building (especially the sanitary facilities), poor lighting and ventilation, insufficient personal hygiene products and cleaning materials, inability to obtain a change of clothes, lack of information provided to detained persons, no access to daily outdoor exercise, inadequate food.”
- Council of Europe, “Report to the Greek Government on the visit to Greece carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 13 to 17 March 2020,” CPT/Info (2020) 35, 19 November 2020, https://rm.coe.int/1680a06a86
- European Legal Network on Asylum, “ELENA Weekly Legal Update: 20 November 2020,” 20 November 2020, https://mailchi.mp/ecre/elena-weekly-legal-update-20-november-2020?e=f781c7c7c6
- A Dinghy Carrying Refugees from Gambia and the Republic of the Congo Approaches Lesbos, Greece, February 2020, (Aris Messinis, AFP, “Greece Has a Deadly New Migration Policy – and All of Europe is to Blame,” The Guardian, 27 August 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/27/greece-migration-europe-athens-refugees#img-1)