Greece toughens its detention law for asylum seekers to a maximum of 18 months

by zoejardiniere

02.11.2012 From now on, asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application in Greece might be detained for up to 18 months. The provisions governing the maximum length of time by-which asylum seekers’ detention can be extended has recently been changed. It used to be the case that, in accordance with article 13 in Presidential Decree 114/2010, the maximum duration of asylum seekers’ detention was of up to 90 days and, “If the applicant has been detained earlier in view of an administrative deportation order, the total detention time can not exceed 180 days”. According to the new amendment, detention can be further prolonged by up to 12 months, by a police administrative decision. This change was brought about by the new Presidential Decree 116/2012, published in the Greek Government Gazette on 19 October 2012.

The preamble of the new Presidential Decree states that this piece of legislation aims to harmonize the Greek legislation with the Council Directive 2005/85/EC on minimum standards for procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

Greece has repeatedly been condemned for its treatment of asylum seekers and migrants in detention. Just this September, in the case of Ahmade v. Greece, the European Court of Human Rights found that Greece violated the human rights of an asylum seeker by wrongfully detaining him in a police station. In particular, the Court found that there was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), taken separately and in conjunction with Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) in respect of the conditions of the applicant’s detention; a violation of article 13 in respect of the risk of the applicant’s removal; a violation of article 5§1(right to liberty and security) and a violation of article 5§4 (procedural guarantees review). The Court noted that the applicant’s detention had caused him considerable suffering and no effective remedy had been made available to him. The Court also found that, on account of the shortcomings of the Greek asylum system, the applicant risked being deported before his asylum appeal had been examined.

Last April, the Greek Government announced the building of 30 new detention centres with a capacity to hold 30,000 people.

For further information:

  1. E-Themis.gr: P.D. 116/2012: Up until twelve months detention for seekers of political asylum

–                     May 2012, Joint Submission of the International Commission of Jurists and ECRE to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece

–                     ProAsyl, GCR, Infomobile, Walls of Shame. Accounts from the inside: the detention centres of Evros.

–                     ECRE, Amnesty International, 166 NGOs call on the EU institutions to respect asylum seekers’ right to liberty in EU asylum legislation

–                     May 2012, ECRE Interview with Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

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