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Greece urged to reform immigration detention system and stop migrant pushbacks

A damning report found that migrants were held in conditions that could amount to inhuman treatment.

Refugees in a camp on the Greek island of Samos.
Refugees in a camp on the Greek island of Samos.
Image: DPA/PA Images

GREECE IS BEING urged to change its approach to immigration detention and stop the practice of returning migrants to Turkey in a new report by the Council of Europe.

The report, released today by the European rights body’s anti-torture committee, found that the conditions of detention in which migrants were held in facilities in the Evros region and on the island of Samos could amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

During an ad hoc visit to Greece in March, the committee found that migrants were held in overcrowded detention centres with poor ventilation, broken toilets and insufficient cleaning materials.

The situation was exacerbated by inadequate food supplies and no access to outdoor daily exercise. Migrants were also not provided with clear information about their situation.

The anti-torture committee said that families, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable persons – including pregnant women and people with physical or mental health illnesses – were being detained in “appalling conditions with no appropriate support”.

The report also highlights that the watchdog again received consistent and credible allegations of migrants being pushed back across the border to Turkey. It urged Greek authorities to prevent such pushbacks.

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Concerns were also raised about the Greek Coast Guard preventing boats carrying migrants from reaching any Greek island and it refers to a number of allegations by migrants that they had been ill treated by members of the police and the Coast Guard.

The committee called upon Greek authorities to take vigorous steps to stamp out ill-treatment of detained migrants by the police. It also called for an end to the detention of families and unaccompanied children in police establishments. 

Greece’s national police service said that the alleged practice of pushbacks to Turkey is unsubstantiated and completely wrong. It provided the committee with information on the steps being taken to improve the conditions of detention for migrants. 

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Ceimin Burke

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