Greece wants to detain migrants now more than 18 months

Detention centres are called “pre-removal centres”; indefinite detention duration is called “protection from the poverty of freedom.

The Legal Council of State on February 11th issued a disgraceful opinion the detention duration of migrants / refugees (No. 44/2014). It pretty much says that after the expiry of the 18-month (maximum) detention of aliens, they can still be held for an indefinite period. This extended detention which is against European Law is called “caveat of compulsory residence in a pre-removal centre” and as such is only ending in case of co-operation for voluntary return.

If an immigrant is detained for more than 18 months in total following the previous deportation decision (Article 30 of Law 3907/2011 or 76 L.3386/2005 respectively), the implementation of which has not been feasible because of a refusal of cooperation of the immigrant himself, the competent authorities may, in a reasonable time before the expiry of the 18 months hand the immigrant a writing deadline for his voluntary departure from the country, according to the provisions of Article 22 of Law 3907/2011 and 76 of Law 3386/2005. If the immigrant still refuses to cooperate for the implementation of the deportation decision, the relevant bodies, when they find him to be reasonably suspect of escape may automatically by Articles 22 paragraph 3 of Law 3907/2011 or Article 78 of Law 3386/2005 impose upon him the measure of “compulsory residence in an area of detention” until he will consent and cooperated in implementing the deportation decision.

By this means the Legal Council tries in the most cruel way to find a solution for what human rights organisations have called to be a huge problem: the extended detention up to 18 months with the aim of deportation is against the law in case the deportation is not feasible.

The ombudsmen recently advised: “The administrative detention has to be reduced to the minimum necessary period as a measure aiming to deportation instead of being a generalised and severe restriction of the personal liberty of migrants with an unclear ending point which in practice today has become the rule.”

The detention in this case is not called detention but still it is, and it is detention in places that have been repeatedly judged by the ECHR as inhuman and degrading. As the Legal Council stated: To release the migrants after 18 months would function as a legalisation of their stay and would lead to an increase in immigration numbers of “illegal migrants” with all the consequences for public security as these people do not even have the means to survive.

This concerns also migrants whose only illegal act is an administrative and might be caused by an employer (who remains free) who did not employ the affected migrant with the legally requested insurance stamps (which is an illegal act of the employer) thus leaving the migrant without means to renew his/her papers.

The Legal Council even goes further by underlining ironically that this measure is for the best of the migrant.

” … and this because with the release of all illegal immigrants whose return (home) or deportation within 18 months with exclusively their own culpability is hindered and made impossible, the public security as well as the purpose of the European and national legislation are put in danger since this leads us to the indirect legalisation of their stay [ … ] while parallel it is estimated with certainty [ … ] that this release will inevitably lead to the rapid population growth of irregular migrants in the country, with the resulting adverse effects on public order and safety. [ … ] While protecting the public interest also their private interest is protected since they are vulnerable persons without permanent residence, undocumented and without opportunity to work and are likely to fall into deep poverty or fall victims to exploitation by criminal networks… “

See the original document here in Greek

Other Sources:
efymerida ton syndakton (in greek)
group of lawyers for the rights of refugees and migrants press release 21.3.14 (in greek)

According to the Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Refugees and Migrants Athens:

(…) In accordance with the provisions of Art. 76 of Law 3386/2005, as amended in the summer of 2009 during the rule of Dendias in the Ministry of Public Order and subsequent Art. 30 of Law 3907/2011, an alien who is subject to deportation / return process to the country of origin may be detained for the enforcement of the removal for a maximum of 6 months. In exceptional cases then this deduction may be extended for another 12 months. The implementation of the as above mentioned option of detention for a total period of up to 18 months was anyway problematic in terms of compliance with international conventions binding the country and in particular with Article 5 ECHR which requires for the legality of the detention the feasibility of the expulsion in a near future. In former times the maximum detention duration was three months, while a plethora of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights had declared detention illegal even if it was only of several weeks when the deportation decision was not planned to be realised in a reasonable time.

Back in August 2012 with the start of police operation “Xenios Zeus” the government, closing one eye to the Golden Dawn, has pursued policies of universal detention of the illegally staying or incoming foreigners typically reaching the maximum period of detention of 18 months. For this purpose launched new detention centers where inaugurated where thousands of foreigners are concentrated for very long periods, many of whose removal is not feasible. A fact which justifies the use of the term “concentration camps”. The ultimate goal is the huge length of detention combined with the consistently internationally recognised degrading detention conditions that have led to repeated uprisings in detention centres which is aimed to force them the ones to be deported to “voluntary return” usually with the issuing of the same the travel documents the diplomatic authorities of their home countries usually refuse to issue. BY this way the increase of the detention duration has been used as as a means of forcing migrants to return to their home countries which they have left without any possibility of return investing in a future that will save them from war or hunger. In February of this year 300 detainees who could not be deported completed 18 months in detention while 7,500 are detained for the same reason in various police cells. On behalf of the police authority Legal Council of State was consulted for the possibility of imposing a period of seven days until the departure and for the possibility of a new detention (for another 18 months!) in case of breach of this obligation so as to circumvent the obligation to grant a postponement of the removal decision of the ones who supplement a maximum period of detention pursuant to Article 24 of Law 3907/2011, which was the only legal imperative.

And here the Legal Council of State made ​​a new legal aberration. Ignoring the previous judgment of the ECtHR (decision by John v. Greece 05.10.2007, p 33), and findings of the Ombudsman (as of September 2006) that had declared the extension or re-detention awaiting deportation after completion of the maximum duration of this as illegal it advised that this deduction may take the form of a restrictive measure of compulsory residence in the area of detention. Unfortunately the above opinion does not withstand any legal or common sense, and obviously lies outside the limits of legality obeying apparently police logics.

With this opinion, the ones to be deported find themselves being detained indefinitely until their deportation is executed. We have to wonder if this measure may be applied also to the ones owing money to the state until they repay their debts, to the addicts until they get rid off their habit, and to all other categories of citizens to which the State imposes an obligation it can not perform, forcing them to perform this themselves. We have to wonder if with the same logic, that released immigrants who lack the means of subsistence would create a risk to public order, they should be gathered in “concentration camps” also all the homeless and paupers who exist in our cities, the victims of the economic crisis. (…)

press release in greek