The Administrative Court of Mytilene restricted automatic detention of asylum seekers on the Eastern Aegean islands with a view of their return to Turkey under the EU Turkey deal. In three decisions from October, the court found that the applicants’ detention was unlawful, on insufficiently justified grounds in two cases and on wrong grounds in a third case.
The decisions uphold the appeals of three Syrian applicants for international protection against orders prolonging their detention on Lesvos prior to their removal to Turkey. In two cases, the allegation was based on recommendations from the Regional Asylum Office stating that the applicants claimed asylum in order to delay or frustrate the return procedure. In the third case, the prolongation of detention was recommended for the purpose of verifying the applicant’s identity or nationality, though he held a Syrian passport which had been submitted to the authorities.
Detention on the ground that an asylum application has been made to delay or frustrate return has been an issue of concern among asylum seekers subject to the EU-Turkey deal and was already condemned by other Administrative Courts.
“This decision reinforces the fundamental rights of asylum seekers to challenge their detention by Greek authorities, we will continue to hold the government accountable to their legal obligations when it comes to protecting individuals feeling war and persecution,” said Vassilis Kerasiotis, country director for HIAS Greece on their website. The organization supported the legal action.
Further, one of the cases raised the persisting issue of inhuman or degrading conditions in pre-removal detention. In last week’s press release, the Non-Governmental Organisation Aitima highlights the consisting lack of compliance with most of the European Committee’s repeated concerns, as the detention of unaccompanied minors, inappropriate facilities as well as significant deficiencies regarding medical care, urging authorities to use findings and recommendations as guiding tools to align detention conditions with relevant legislation and international standards.