Detention conditions in the Greek « hotspots » under scrutiny before the European Court of Human Rights

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The European Court of Human Rights has announced in september 2017 it would examine the complaint lodged over a year ago by 51 Afghani, Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers (including many children) who were at the time forcibly retained on the island of Chios (Aegean Sea, Greece) in the so-called « hotspots » camps in extremely desperate situations. [1]

The victims, who were denied the right to leave Chios Island, which had de facto become an open-air prison, argued that their fundamental rights had been violated by the insufficient and inadequate provision of food, the inhuman, degrading and hazardous material conditions of living, the great difficulty to access medical help, and the authorities’ failure to address special needs for the most vulnerable –pregnant women, infants, unaccompanied minors. They also challenged the lack of due process and the arbitrariness of their administrative situation, which generated unbearable uncertainty as to their fate, leading to despair. All this was clearly evidenced during a mission that Gisti carried out in Lesvos and Chios in May 2016, during which all 51 claimants were interviewed. A French version of the Gisti mission report was then published. It is now available in English, “EU-Turkey statement: the great deception”.

The Court decision to examine the case coincides with the September 26, 2017 report of the Council of Europe Committee for the prevention of torture (CPT), the conclusions of which converge with the ones of the Gisti report: a severe criticism of ill treatments of migrants in the Greek hotspots of the Aegean Sea Islands. The CPT particularly denounces: “overcrowding, combined with increased levels of violence amongst the people retained in the camps, insufficient basic healthcare, inappropriate help for vulnerable people and deficient legal guaranties”, thus “generating a highly explosive situation”.

The European Court of Human Rights decision to take on the case also coincides with the end date of the “relocation” scheme of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other European Union member states, launched in September 2015 and presented as a counterpart for the EU-Turkey deal. The blatant failure of this operation (less than a quarter of the objective was actually achieved) is to blame on the lack of political will. Instead of relieving them as initially promised, it leaves Greece and Italy with the dirty job of guarding European borders, with its dramatic human consequences on the innocent persons blocked in those two countries or trying to reach them.

In its official release about the Chios 51 asylum seekers case, the European Court of Human Rights questions the conformity of the claimants’ material conditions and the legality of their detention in Greece, with respect to the fundamental rights protected by the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (which forbid arbitrary detention and guarantee the right to be informed on the motives of any deprivation of liberty and to seek remedy before a court). The court however refused to examine the claimants arguments that their right to life had been infringed since their lives had willingly or negligently been put at serious risk. The Court considered that their personal right to life was not sufficiently violated at the time of their claim, since they did not die. But over the past year history sadly proved them right: several people died of illness, of cold, in fires, or because they committed suicide in those same Greek hotspots as a consequence of the hazardous and poor reception conditions. Those deaths are not to blame on bad luck or fatality; they are the direct, albeit invisible, consequences of inhuman policies.

September 27, 2017.

Mission report in the Greek hotspots in Lesvos and Chios « EU-Turkey statement : the great deception », july 2016

Mission report in Lesvos and Chios, July 2016 (ENG)

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Latest update : Wednesday 11 March 2020, 14:40
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