Migrants or refugees at a camp on Samos, Greece, on October 22, 2021 | Photo: EPA/Michael Svarnias
Migrants or refugees at a camp on Samos, Greece, on October 22, 2021 | Photo: EPA/Michael Svarnias

Migrants and asylum seekers are often detained 'for administrative reasons', even though this practice violates human rights, claims a new report from charity Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees.

British charity Oxfam and the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) published a new report titled "Detention as the Default: How Greece, with the support of the EU, is generalizing administrative detention of migrants" this week.

"In Greece, the detention of migrants is the rule, not the exception," Vasilis Papastergiou from GCR said in statement announcing the release of the report.

According to the two organizations, they found that "putting migrants and asylum seekers into detention for administrative reasons is a common practice in Greece, despite this policy contravening human rights."

Many migrants, refugees detained for months

The report claims that seven out of ten people who arrived in Greece using irregular means were put in administrative detention, and that the majority remaining detained when applying for asylum. 

According to the paper, "as of July 2021, 3,000 migrants were in administrative detention, meaning that they were detained without any criminal charges against them. Of these, nearly half (46%) had been detained for more than six months."

Oxfam and GCR reportedly also found that one in five people were detained for a long period of time in police cells, which are designed to only hold people for just a few hours.

According to the two organizations, pregnant women, children and people with vulnerabilities were placed in detention without the appropriate access to health care and legal aid.

Changes in the law

"The desire to make detention the norm is reflected in recent changes to Greece's policy and practice. This is despite European law saying that administrative detention should only be used as a last resort," Oxfam and GCR said.

"In 2019, the Greek authorities expanded the grounds for administrative detention of asylum seekers to include verification of identity. They also removed the need to examine alternatives to detention in certain circumstances and introduced an amendment to increase the duration of detention up to three years," said Paolo Pezzati, policy advisor for humanitarian emergencies of the Italian branch of Oxfam. "This approach is in clear violation of European and Greek law."

'Another tool to stop people from seeking safety'

"Administrative detention is just another tool to stop people from seeking safety in Europe," claimed GCR's Papastergiou. He also accused other European countries of supporting what Oxfam and GCR perceive to be the mistreatment of migrants and refugees in Greece.

"Europe's hands are also not clean as the EU funds the new 'closed and controlled' quasi-detention centers, places where migrants are left to be forgotten," he said. NGOs have repeatedly criticized Greece's plans to build new, closed camps, which in September, Doctors Without Borders referred to as "prison-like."


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