8 March 2003

(this information can be freely reproduced provided proper credit is given to the source)


On 15/6/2002 45 international and national rights groups from 21 euro-Mediterranean countries decried[1] frequent and grave violations of the rights of thousands of foreigners who arrive or live in Greece as (potential) asylum seekers or (un)documented migrants and are detained pending judicial or administrative deportation. The appeal was issued within the framework of the General Assembly of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) held in Athens. Amongst others, concern was expressed for an almost systematic absence of competent translators during examination by law enforcement officials or during trials in the courts; for the fact that Greek authorities frequently failed to inform foreigners of their rights, refused their asylum applications or even provided them with misleading information; and that undocumented migrants or asylum seekers were often tried without benefit of legal counsel, and sentenced to imprisonment or deportation after trials lasting only a few minutes.


In their statement, the NGOs welcomed the –then recently made- statement by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, that “Greece should not forget that deportees are human beings, too”, and appealed to the Greek authorities to radically revise their treatment of foreigners under arrest, detention, trial or deportation. They also called upon all inter-governmental organizations (UN, OSCE, CoE, EU) to use all of their mechanisms (expert committees, special rapporteurs, commissioners, etc.) to review this situation regularly and to urge Greece to honor its human rights commitments, in this as well as in many other areas.


More specifically, as far as asylum seekers are concerned, despite the continuous appeals made by human rights NGOs in Greece and the recommendations made by the Greek Ombudsman[2], the Greek authorities repeatedly refuse to apply relevant national and international legislation, thus violating their rights. On the contrary, they persist in obstructing them from accessing the asylum procedure, and they show widespread disrespect towards their rights and specific needs when they finally access the asylum procedure.


A great number of persons enter Greece illegally from the eastern sea borders and the north-eastern border of Greece (Evros area). The majority of them come from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and from African countries such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and others, countries known for the high record of human rights violations, and they wish to apply for asylum. A number of them do not necessarily comply with the strict Geneva Convention criteria[3], but still Greek authorities are obliged under international and national legislation[4] to accept every asylum application and then provide the applicant with the special card of an asylum applicant (the “pink card”). Subsequently, they can examine the application thoroughly, using either the fast-track or the regular procedure.


Illegal entrants arrested at the borders or in the sea are taken before the local public prosecutor, who decides whether they will be prosecuted under Law 2910/2001 (Article 50) “on the entry and stay of migrants”, for illegal entry. In most situations they are not prosecuted unless there is indication that they are either involved in the trafficking or that they could assist in discovering the traffickers. Hence they are put under the responsibility of the police, which in turn decides on their deportation (administrative deportation order). Article 44 of Law 2910/2001 provides that aliens, not yet deported, can be detained only up to 3 months, after which they must be automatically released.


Given current practice, however, by the time aliens have the chance to apply for asylum, administrative orders have already been issued against them; they are put in detention, usually up to three months (especially citizens of Iraq, whose deportation is impossible because of the international embargo, or citizens of countries such as Sri Lanka, whose deportation is again impossible due to the lack of diplomatic representatives of the country in Greece) and very often more than three months. Frequently, during the three months of detention or even after the expiry of the three-month limit,  authorities purport that the asylum seekers are not “detained” but hosted in a reception areas for refugees; GHM, however, has noted in a number of cases that the people staying in such places do not have freedom of movement, so it can only be concluded that they are being detained.


When authorities do accept the asylum applications, upon their release asylum applicants are provided with the pink card, which gives access to free health care and allows them to work. It is renewable every six months[5], if necessary while waiting for the first instance decision of the Ministry of Public Order. If the Ministry rejects the application, the asylum seeker has a right to appeal.


Nevertheless, authorities very often refuse to accept asylum applications. When the asylum seekers are detained, the outright refusal cannot be documented unless NGOs or lawyers get access to the application. Following such cases, Hellenic Police (ELAS) has decided to restrict or ban access of lawyers to detention areas, despite the Ombudsman’s repeated reports urging ELAS to stop this undemocratic practice. When asylum seekers are free and go to the aliens’ police departments, GHM has documented that the refusal to formally accept the applications takes two forms: either on the application they put a stamp and add a date for a future appointment to submit it; or, they accept the application and give a notice to the applicant with a future appointment, without giving him/her the pink card –in that case GHM suspects that in reality the application is not processed at all, and if the applicant goes to the future appointment, s/he will then file anew an application. In both cases (stamp or notice) the asylum seeker is not recognized as such, as s/he is not given the pink card and thus does not enjoy the protection of the law. Moreover, the future dates are many months away, and GHM has documented cases where, when the applicants go to the police on the appointed date, they are refused access or given a new appointment date, a few more months away. During all that period of wait, the asylum seeker is without protection and, in fact, is not counted as such in the official statistics. GHM estimates that, besides the ca. 5,000 officially registered asylum seekers per year, there are at least as many who are refused the application and thus are not counted, with one consequence being that the anyway very low application acceptance rate be inflated. We document below also the case of ELAS refusal to register asylum applications submitted through bailiffs, as a (costly) method of last resort.


In many occasions human rights NGOs or the Greek Ombudsman had to intervene so that authorities accepted applications. Besides, authorities often adopt a rather insulting and degrading behavior towards representatives of the NGOs who try to assist the asylum seekers.


A further serious problem faced by asylum seekers and applicants is the lack of accommodation, as the limited number of reception areas for refugees have a small capacity in comparison to the number of asylum seekers and priority is given to women and children or to persons with health problems. Most of the above problems are highlighted by the cases presented below, which have either been brought to the attention of GHM, or GHM has directly dealt with.



Asylum seekers in Rhodes


On 9/12/2002 the representative of the Rehabilitation Centre of Torture Victims in Rhodes (RCTV) in Rhodes NR complained to the Ministry of Public Order for the illegal procedures followed by the Aliens Department of Rhodes, which had for months been refusing to accept asylum applications directly from asylum seekers. So first a representative of Amnesty International, and then the representative of RCTV herself, had to intervene for the applications to be accepted. Later on, even applications submitted through NGOs were refused. In fact, on 3/11/2002 this police department had informed the local NGO representatives that, following an order of the Ministry, NGO representatives were to be denied access to the reception areas for the refugees or the detention centers where they were held. It is crucial to underline here that such practices had been reported to the Ombudsman through a complaint of the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) at the beginning of 2002. The Ombudsman, in his letter of 5/8/2002 to the police (5776α/02/2.2), clearly established –and criticized the fact- that 33 aliens could submit their application, not when they met with the GCR (19/3/02), but two months later (20/5/2002), and only because the UNHCR representative in Greece was visiting Rhodes while in the meantime (on 10/5/2002) the Ombudsman had written to the police about the refusal. The fact that the same problem arose again in the fall of 2002, indicates clearly that local police officers have the backing of their hierarchy in these improper if not illegal practices, and, as GHM discovered later on, even of the local (if not the national) prosecution authorities. It appears that only when outside pressure (by NGOs and/or the Ombudsman, and/or the media) is felt to be unbearable, ELAS upholds the law and its obligations.


From December 2002 on, GHM, in cooperation with the representative of RCTV in Rhodes, who was also acting under her capacity as a GHM representative, coordinated the reporting of the illegal procedures followed by the police in relation to the asylum seekers and lobbied for the release of a number of them that were detained illegally after the expiry of three months.


On 23/12/2002 GHM submitted a complaint Greek Ombudsman;[6] on 24/12/2002 GHM filed a complaint to the Public Prosecutor’s office in Rhodes.[7] Therein GHM urged the authorities to release immediately 12 asylum seekers detained illegally past the three-month upper limit, and the pressing of charges for their illegal detention. Amongst them, there was an Iranian citizen, AP, an alleged serious torture victim, who was in need of immediate medical treatment: a journalist from Denmark had also come to Rhodes in order to interview him for Danish state television about his previous deportation from Denmark to Iran which resulted in his torture by the Iranian authorities.


The group included citizens of Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan who had entered Greece unlawfully on 22/9/2002 via the island of Simi. On 10/10/2002, they were transferred to Rhodes and immediately filed their asylum applications. They were detained for over three months by ELAS in the same facility, instead of being provided with the necessary pink cards and released, as should be the case with asylum seekers. ELAS claimed that following the end of the three-month period, they were regarded as being “under supervision” rather than in detention, and that the whole procedure was known to and approved by the local prosecutor. Yet, when AP requested to leave the premises he was not allowed to do so. Furthermore, an alien who left without permission was reportedly arrested.


Right after the prosecutor had been contacted by GHM, he gave an oral order to ELAS in Rhodes to terminate the unlawful detention of aliens held for more than three months, as he told both GHM and RCTV. The Public Persecutor’s order was followed, on the same morning of 24/12/2002 (Christmas eve), by repeated phone calls of GHM and of RCTV to ELAS officers in Rhodes, as well as police officers at the Headquarters of ELAS in Athens. The purpose of the aforementioned calls was to indicate the need to immediately release the 12 aliens, and AP in particular, due to the imminent departure at 3pm of a boat to Salonica (members of Medical Rehabilitation Center in Salonica had  undertaken to host and treat AP; the relevant document was at ELAS’ disposal). All that in vain.


On 26/12/2002 GHM filed a complaint report to the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeal, the Prosecutor of First Instance in Athens[8] and the Prosecutor of Rhodes[9], informing them that the 12 asylum seekers were still in detention; it was also noted that a group of 12 more asylum seekers that had been arrested at Simi on 6/9/2002 and a group of 18 arrested on 8/9/2002 in Rhodes - as reported in a press release of the Ministry of Merchant Marine[10] - were finally released on 26/12/2002, in the most unacceptable of ways after having been illegally detained for 20 and 18 days respectively .


On 29/12/2002 GHM informed the Minister of Public Order[11] of the situation and asked for an administrative sworn inquiry to take place, especially since the local police authorities had ignored the order of the public prosecutor. No such action was ever taken, which indicated that the Ministry was approving of, if not ordering, the illegal detention of those asylum seekers. With a press release issued on 30/12/2002, GHM[12] publicly denounced the systematic and possibly widespread unlawful detention and unlawful or irregular treatment of asylum seekers by the ELAS.


The group of the aforementioned 30 aliens (mostly Afghan citizens) were released on 26/12/2002 and forced to board the boat to the Athens port of Piraeus immediately – otherwise they would not have received their pink cards. In the meantime no provision had been made for their hosting in Athens and no means were provided to them in order to help them find accommodation on their own. So when they arrived at the port of Piraeus on the morning of 27/12/02, ELAS informed them that they should find themselves a place to stay.


When GHM contacted the state-authorized Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) on this matter, the latter stated its complete inability to do anything at all and requested that the aliens visited them on 30/12/02, in order to deal with them. GCR also stated that according to the standard procedural guidelines, the Ministry of Public Order should alert the Ministry of Health and then the latter should alert GCR, so that a hosting area can be found. Thanks to the hospitality of Médecins du Monde and the Sisters of Calcutta, women and children were sheltered at their centers. However, 7 men and 2 young boys aged 7-8 remained homeless for many days until they found accommodation on their own. GHM secured the legal representation of the all 42 asylum seekers and requested that authorities seek and attribute disciplinary and criminal responsibilities to all responsible. Nothing of sorts happened.


According to press release of GHM[13] and the complaint it addressed to the Greek Ombudsman on 2/1/2003[14], the remaining 12 asylum-seekers, amongst which was AP, were released from detention on 31/12/2002, but were forced to board the boat departing at 8 pm. from Rhodes to the port of Piraeus, and told to present themselves at the refugee reception area of Médecins du Monde, which, not having been informed of their arrival soon enough, did not have the capacity to host them. ELAS in Rhodes agreed for only three of the aliens to remain in the reception center in Rhodes, but the remaining 9 boarded the ship and arrived in Piraeus at 1:30 in the morning on 2/1/2003 (they spent New Year’s eve and day in freezing weather aboard the ship which because of bad weather stopped for many hours in another island) with the prospect of spending at least the first few days of 2003 homeless in Athens. The three persons who had been allowed to stay in Rhodes were reportedly shipped to Piraeus without a place to stay on 2/1/2003. Before their departure, each one was served a two-page document in Greek, without being explained its content, a familiar problem in Greece which contravenes Greek legislation and international standards. GHM established that the document was a decision[15] of the General Secretariat of the South Aegean Region, granting the 12 asylum-seekers temporary residence permits in Greece with a six-month duration, starting on 22/12/2002 (when their three-month detention period was completed). Therefore, ELAS, by detaining them 10 additional days over the three-month period, was not only breaching the law but was also in contempt of the Secretariat’s decision which ELAS itself had asked for[16].


Following these developments, GHM requested again (and again in vain) the launch of disciplinary and criminal investigation procedures, asking for all the above issues to be included, since there was an obvious unlawful detention exceeding the three-month period and a breach of duty, in contravention to Articles 44(3) of Law number 2910/2001, and Articles 259, 325 and 326 of Criminal Code, 13 of Criminal Procedure Code, 6 of the Constitution, and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as probable violation of the law concerning asylum-seekers, in the case of 42 aliens, illegally detained for more than three months in Rhodes under the orders of ELAS Headquarters in Athens. As similar offences may have occurred in other detention centers around Greece, GHM has requested the investigation of the situation throughout the country.


As was explained, particular reference to the responsibilities of ELAS officials in Rhodes was made because, according to the law, every police officer is under the obligation not to execute any unlawful orders given by their leadership. Nonetheless, GHM recognized that, under the current status of ELAS operation, this was not feasible, since police officers are trained in the spirit that obedience to the orders of their superiors takes priority over obedience to laws, in case of a conflict between them. In the Rhodes case, GHM was aware that all actions or lack thereof, were due to the orders received from ELAS Headquarters; compliance to these orders obliged ELAS officials in Rhodes, who nonetheless demonstrated sensitivity towards the issue, to breach the law.


At the same time, the realization that the law concerning the maximum detention period, i.e. three months (Article 44(3) of Law number 2910/2001), was breached to a similar extent in Rhodes, as well as the realization that the asylum seekers detained at the same time are not provided with the necessary pink cards (a practice followed selectively, despite the relevant law, incurring the criticism of the Greek Ombudsman[17]) led GHM to re-examine closely recent reports on the detention conditions in the area of Thrace, hosting around 1,000 aliens in despicable conditions[18], many of whom were probably detained there over the three-month period due to the irresolution of Turkish authorities to accept their “refoulement”[19]. In this context, GHM had asked on 29/12/2002 the Minister of Public Order to also provide GHM relevant information on the detention period of those 1,000 aliens in the centers of Thrace.[20] No answer was ever received.


On 11/1/2003 GHM reported to the Greek Ombudsman[21] that police authorities in Rhodes - ignoring relevant recommendations previously made by the Ombudsman[22] and claiming to be acting on an official order from the Ministry of Public Order[23] - denied access to the detention area to the aforementioned representative of RCTV on 7/1/2003, although four detainees had specifically asked her to visit them, as she spoke their mother-tongues. One of the asylum seekers had kidney pain, which increased considerably after he had allegedly been ill-treated by a drunken policeman during his detention on the island of Simi, while another had reported blood in his urine. Furthermore it was reported that the representative of RCTV had in her hands the asylum applications of three groups of 6, 13, and 24 asylum seekers that had arrived in Rhodes on 14/10, 16/10, and 26/10/2002 respectively, but the police obstructed them from filing their applications.


So, the groups of 6 and 13 were given notes which ordered them leave the country soon after their release. Furthermore, upon release the police made them sign notes stating that they had no complaints from the police, as of the date they were released, that during those three months they were fed by the police and that once they arrive in Athens they have no right afterwards to leave the capital. On the contrary, as mentioned below, the group of 24 was luckier as their asylum applications were handed over to police by the Ombudsman’s office, hence they were given pink cards upon their release, besides the decision of the General Secretariat of the South Aegean Region[24], granting them temporary residence permits in Greece with a six-month duration.


On 21/1/2003 GHM distributed in Greek the appeal of the International Secretariat of OMCT[25] on the situation which called upon the Greek authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights of all aliens and asylum-seekers, in particular by providing the currently homeless individuals in question with appropriate shelter. Particularly it requested that the authorities ensure that unlawful detention exceeding the three-month period in all of Greece’s reception centers, such as that found in Rhodes, be immediately halted, as this represents violations of both Greek law and European and International human rights laws and standards. It recalled that Greece currently holds the EU Presidency and has announced that amongst its priorities is the issue of refugees and immigrants. In light of this, OMCT called upon the Greek authorities and the Greek Ombudsman to launch an immediate investigation into the afore-mentioned violations and that the authorities immediately release all aliens being detained illegally throughout Greece.


Following the complaints made to the Ombudsman, an Ombudsman’s staff researcher was sent to Rhodes on 22/1/2003 for an on-site inspection, whose report will be issued in the future. In fact, as the English-language weekly Athens News reported The office of Greek Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamantouros has been reportedly inundated with complaints lodged by local human rights groups against officials handling the asylum claims. His aides say the ombudsman is currently hammering out a rather harsh report calling on the government to clean up its act. The report, critical of Greece’s heavy-handed treatment of asylum-seekers, will be sent to key ministers by mid-March.”[26] In the Rhodes case, moreover, the Ombudsman intervened, so that authorities accept the applications of the above remaining 24 asylum seekers on 23/1/2003. This group was released finally on 1/3/2003, as the police claimed, unlawfully, that the three-month limit starts from the moment the police issue the decision of administrative deportation and not from the date of the arrest (26/10/2002 in this case). For a clarification of this issue GHM addressed a question to the Ombudsman on 25/2/2003.


Moreover, some from the group of 24, upon their arrest, had surrendered to the police personal documents like military identity cards, giving some information on their background which could potentially support their asylum application. In an telephone communication GHM had with the head officer of the asylum office in Rhodes on 27/2/2003, the latter said that according to an internal and confidential order of the Ministry those documents are kept by the police and attached to the applicants’ files and, in reply to the relevant question of GHM, said that notarized photocopies would not be sufficient.


In contrast, the RCTV and GHM representative in Rhodes was told by the Head of the Aliens Department that the original documents are not kept by the police; instead they are photocopied and returned to their owners as there is a possibility of their being lost. Also, in a telephone communication of GHM with the Ombudsman on 28/2/2002, the latter confirmed that referring to provisions of an internal and confidential order could not justify the retaining of those documents by the police and that a more detailed justification should be given. The same day GHM contacted the port police, who originally searched the illegal entrants and, according to the latter, the ones that initially took possession of their documents, and who claimed that never were any documents taken from the aliens in question. Nevertheless, GHM has noted that in some other occasions, such as in the cases of RT, NZ, and SO[27], that the Port Authority do retain the documents of the aliens.


The same day GHM reported to the Chief of ELAS the offending behavior of an officer at the Aliens Department of Rhodes towards it’s the local GHM and RCTV volunteer. In an irritable manner, he said: “you are a person of quality, don’t make me call you something else…, stop getting involved with these issues and let us police do the job the way we know…”, when she tried to help the group of the 24 refugees by renewing and issuing their tickets. He also commented that he “is not very well” as there are many faxes “circulating in Switzerland” (referring to the OMCT press release appealing for the situation in Rhodes). Considering that the officer was in violation of the administration procedure code[28] which provides for the courteous behavior of representatives of the state and public authorities towards the citizens, the international standards that provide for the respectful behavior towards representatives of NGOs, GHM asked for the an administrative inquiry taking place for the incident.



Asylum seekers in Volos


Another example of illegal procedures followed by the authorities in the asylum procedure is the case of Volos (Central Eastern Port of Greece). There, the local Bar Association has set up a human rights committee which defends the rights of the illegal entrants that wish to apply for asylum. The representative of the committee informed GHM of the illegal procedures followed by the authorities in the case of 31 refugees (Kurds from Iraq, 29 men and two women that arrived there on 15/11/2002[29]). More specifically the refugees had filed asylum applications with the help of the committee on 20/11/2002.


The authorities had already issued administrative deportation orders by the time the aliens filed their applications, as, reportedly, they obstructed representatives of the committee from filing the applications before the issuing of the deportation decisions; hence, the aliens, although asylum seekers were put in detention and the authorities refused to provide them with the pink cards, saying that the applications would be examined with the fast track process[30]. In relation to the latter it needs to be emphasized that Article 2 of Presidential Decree 61/99, provides that the authorities should give to the special identity card to the asylum applicant (pink card), without making any distinction between the normal procedure[31] and the fast track procedure of examining the applications.


Just 12 days later, on 2/12/2002, 21 of the applicants were notified of the rejection of their applications from the Ministry of Public Order, whereas the committee was informed that the rest of the applications had also been rejected. The committee helped them appeal against the rejections on 11/12/2002. Indicative of the prevailing confusion is that the applicants were given a 30-day deadline for their appeals. But a 30-day deadline for the appeal is given to those whose applications have been examined with the normal procedure, whereas the applicants in this case had been told that their applications would be examined with the fast track, and hence they should have been given only a 10-day deadline.


On 8/1/2003 GHM complained in writing to the Ombudsman[32] for the illegal procedures followed and the violations of the asylum seekers’ rights, as well as for the initial misleading information to the representatives of the committee. The misleading information may have been given intentionally or unintentionally, in case the local officers were not familiar with the legislation and the procedures to be followed. Still though in both cases the reliability and credibility of the authorities is greatly undermined, something which per se compromises the applicants’ rights.


Furthermore GHM emphasized in its complaint that all the rejection decisions had exactly the same wording, were repeating the same arguments and phrases without being sufficiently justified. On the other hand the fact that 31 applications were decided in 12 days pointed strongly to the fact that the procedures had been speeded up so that the merits of each individual case were not examined in detail.



Previous asylum seekers’ cases


In relation to the latter, GHM has complained to the Ombudsman in the past on the occasion of NZ case. NZ is a Turkish citizen who fled from Turkey and entered Greece illegally after having been persecuted and ill-treated systematically by the Turkish authorities, for years. Upon his arrival in Chania of Crete (island of the southern Aegean Sea) with a group of other illegal entrants of various nationalities, he was arrested and detained. Whilst in detention NZ was ill treated and sexually abused by a member of the port police, whereas many of the aliens held there were ill treated. Recently, after the publicity given to the media, the photo material made available by Médecins du Monde as far as the injuries of the ill treated detainees is concerned and the medical certificates further proving ill treatment, as well as the pressure put by GHM for the proper and prompt follow up of the case, a Judicial Council of the Navy Court referred to a trial six responsible officers with the charges of ill-treatment[33]. NZ is legally represented, as a civil claimant, in the case by GHM.


When NZ filed an asylum application in Chania on 15/6/2001, he was given the pink card. Nevertheless, he gave no interview in order to support his case nor was he ever called by the Ministry later on for an interview. Moreover there was no interpreter available to facilitate the communication of the asylum seekers with the authorities, something, which amongst others, resulted in NZ being recorded as a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin.


The Ministry of Public Order rejected NZ’s application on 19/6/2002[34] (the authorities attempted to notify him of this, almost two months later, on 4/10/2002), with a decision that repeated the same words and phrases mentioned in other rejecting decisions[35]. Specifically the decision was saying that the application is rejected because “a) the mere opposition to the official regime but also his Kurdish origin are not sufficient reasons for recognizing him as a political refugee b) there is no evidence or indication that in his country there is a danger of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and c) it is obvious that he fled his country for financial reasons and that he uses the asylum procedure in order to facilitate his stay in an EU country, in order to find an employment and to improve his living conditions.”


The repetition of the same phrases, which are used in other rejection decisions and the fact that the decision contains false information as far as the origin and the reason why NZ sought asylum to Greece, strongly indicates that NZ’s rights as an asylum seeker were violated during the first contact with the authorities, and that his application was not properly examined. NZ, represented by GHM, appealed against the decision, explaining in more detail this time the reason that forced him to leave his country, and clarifying the inaccuracies of the first decision.


Another individual case of an asylum seeker, arrested in the sea for illegal entry is that of the Sudanese RO who arrived at Kos Island on 29/7/2002. Upon the arrival of the illegal boat in Kos, at around 06 00 mm, the boat was seen by the port police, which repeatedly requested from the captain of the boat to stop but to no avail. The port police reportedly started firing warning shots and as a result RO was injured at the back of his right thigh, allegedly by a bullet. He was led to the hospital where he was operated and he remained for the next 4 weeks for further treatment.


After that he was transferred to a police facility, a room of around 15x20 meters, with no separate sections, where also women and children were held. He was given a meal three times a day and had free access to the toilet. Every Tuesday and Friday he was taken to hospital for the change of the bandages but on some occasions, allegedly, the police denied transferring him to the hospital. The persons held there had no freedom of movement; they were essentially detained, whereas strangely enough when the incident was reported by the Minister of Merchant Marine and the media it was referred to as “a reception area for refugees”[36]. RO himself kept referring to it as “a refugee camp”.


RO asked to apply for asylum but he was denied access to the procedure whereas he remained in detention for three months, and was finally released on 29/10/2002. The authorities gave him a note issued by the General Secretary of Southern Aegean, requesting him to leave the country in 90 days. Once in Athens, RO went to the Aliens Department of Athens (TAA) in order to file an asylum application, on 7/11/2002, but he was not allowed to directly file the application. Instead he was told to wait to a small park outside the building at the side street, where every day a great number of aliens wait in order to file their asylum applications, in order to be given a date for actually filing it. RO, who limps, because of his injury, aches when standing up for too long.


On 18/11/2002 a GHM member tried to file his application submitting the relevant authorization form. But she wasn’t allowed to do so as the head of the asylum office of TAA requested that the asylum seeker himself should come and file it. Finally the GHM member brought RO himself to the office but nevertheless again he wasn’t allowed to file the application. Instead he had it stamped and he was given the date 2/2/2003 when he should go back again and file it. After the intervention of the GHM member, who asked for the application of Article 2(7) of PD 61/99 (which provides that the applicant should be provided with the special card of an asylum applicant), RO was finally allowed to file the application and was given the pink card on the spot.


The above case raises two examples of misapplication and non application of the relevant legislation for refugees, Presidential Decree 61/99. The first is that initially, the member of GHM was not allowed to file the application of the asylum seeker even acting as a legal representative because the officer in charge requested that Article 1(3) of PD 61/99 is applied and that the asylum seeker files his application in person. On 28/9/2001 a similar issue had been reported to the Greek Ombudsman by the Greek Council for Refugees, which asked the former’s intervention for the filing of 60 asylum applications by Afghan citizens, which the police authorities had refused to accept. Before the intervention of the Ombudsman, GCR sent the applications to the police authorities by the means of a bailiff. The police argued the applications would not be examined because they had not been filed by the asylum seekers in person. On 25/11/2002, the Ombudsman sent a final report to the relevant department of the Ministry of Public Order[37] explaining that ELAS attitude in this case as well was in breach of the law. Excerpts of this report, translated in English, can be found at the end of the report.


In the light of the same interpretation it is submitted that refusal to accept an asylum application filed by the legal representative of the asylum seeker contravenes the relevant legislation for the application of the administrative procedure code[38] according to which any administrative application, such as an asylum application, can be filed by an authorized representative of the person interested to file it. Furthermore it seems that the police selectively express such a view as it allows in other cases representatives of the asylum seekers to file their applications.



Asylum seekers queuing up in front of the Athens Aliens’ Police Directorate


A large-scale problem is the illegal practice followed by TAA (Athens Aliens’ Directorate), in order to deal with the large number of asylum seekers and, at the same time, discourage them from accessing the asylum procedure. More specifically when aliens go to TAA in order to apply for political asylum they cannot submit their applications right away. One practice is that a police officer stamps the application form, mentioning that “the alien herein submitted an asylum application at the asylum department and a date was set for examining the asylum application” and a future date is mentioned. A second practice is that the alien receives an official note, stating that he “has arrived at the department and he has submitted a political asylum application. The application is scheduled to be examined by our department on …”; even in that case, the pink card granting asylum-seeker status is not given to him. Thus he is not entitled to the legal or medical benefits that an alien with a pink card is entitled to. It is also suspected that the aliens are not considered to be typically asylum-seekers even if they have official notes. In addition, both practices above show a smaller number of asylum applications formally filed and, thus, a greater percentage of applicants granted political asylum.


The first date given in both cases is usually some three to eight months later. For example SSA received such a stamp for the first time on 9/12/2002, which mentions that the examination hearing of his asylum application will be on 20/8/2003, while FΗS received an official note on 16/12/2002, which states that the examination of his application will be done on 6/3/2003. Most of the times, the examination of the asylum applications is not done at the date arranged by police officers; instead they are being repeatedly postponed, sometimes even for two years.


The result of this tactic was aliens queuing up in open air outside Mileon Street every day, and in specific in a small park next to GADA[39] building (where TAA is hosted). These were aliens who waited for their pink cards to be renewed, or to get a date for their first hearing or have the date that was already set for them renewed. Furthermore it was established that some of the aliens took advantage of this situation and demanded 20-25 euros from each alien, in order to secure for them a stamp that would at least tolerate presence in the country in both the aforementioned scenarios. Obviously, these “mediators” were working with the collusion of police officers who were putting the stamps.


More specifically, on 20/1/2003, between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., a member of GHM (AK) and the president of the SAPE- Association for Foreign Refugees in Greece (HP) witnessed three illegal transactions among some aliens. They saw a Punjabi, a Kurd from Iraq and a Pakistani (as they themselves said) collecting the paperwork of some 20 to 30 aliens, and then exit the park using the back door (next to the public basketball court); they re-appeared 20-30 minutes later, at different times and started distributing the documents back to their owners.


AK and HP approached the aliens collecting the documents and asked them why they take money from the other aliens once the stamped forms were returned; however, these “mediators” avoided the GHM and  SAPE monitors and did not answer any of their questions. When they talked to other aliens, there were lots of complaints because they did not have any money to give for their applications to be stamped and because a lot of them have to arrive and wait at the department for hours every day, without managing to submit their applications to the authorities.


The aforementioned FΗS, citizen of Iraq, was trying unsuccessfully to submit his asylum application from 5/9/2002 until 16/12/2002, when he finally paid, as he told GHM, 25 euros to a Pakistani outside GADA to act as a mediator and get him a stamped official note.


On 21/1/2003, HP had an telephone communication with the head of ΤΑΑ, ΝΜ, and then visited him in his office. He informed him of what was happening and asked for his intervention. ΝΜ mentioned that no other aliens’ departments receive so many aliens every day or stamp that many asylum applications, and that “this Monday only the department received 600 applications” (a number too high since the Ministry said that for years 2001 and 2002 the total number of asylum applications was 5,500 per year and for the entire country, which means an average of 20-25 per day nationally…). He also added that he does not endorse bribing other aliens to mediate to authorities, but on the other hand “this is not something he could control”, adding a vague “this should be the last of their concerns”. He also said that authorities are not aware of these things happening and that “not even a lawyer can submit more than two applications for approval”.


The above events show that applications of aliens are stamped en masse, 20 or 30 in one go, and they are not submitted by the interested party, but by a third party, without the interested party being present and without the third party having his authorization. This constitutes, therefore, exploitation of the insufficient presence of the police department in question by aliens, since the department does not have enough personnel to process the applications, making the appearance of such phenomena very easy. Furthermore, even if police officers are not aware of the transactions and more importantly, even if they do not participate, they are still greatly responsible because they accept multiple applications by three specific individuals, without the presence or authorization of those concerned, even if they are lawyers.


In addition, the cases of applications stamped for future examination and official notes, which mention that the alien has submitted an application, without him getting the pink card, are in violation of the Geneva Convention and Presidential Decree 61/99 respectively. GHM reported the above to the Ombudsman on 8/2/2003[40] asking for its intervention and the investigation of matter.


The U.N High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, during his visit to Athens, expressed his support[41] to GHM’s and SAPE’s allegations on the substantial and common practice of obstructing asylum-seekers from accessing Greek public services, thus depriving them the opportunity to submit their asylum applications and in parallel the rights deriving by being awarded the asylum-seeker status. More specifically in as press conference on 14/2/2003, Ruud Lubbers stated that “Asylum-seekers are entitled access to services. We support the allegations.” He also called a “tragedy to reject asylum-seekers applications” and asked the government to be more generous taking well into consideration the relevant international conventions (in 2001, only 0.3% of the asylum applications were approved!)[42].


TAA has since moved to a new building, in 99 Andigonis Street, at the Kolonos area of Athens. On 3/3/2003 AK and HP witnessed that police now make sure to take directly the applications without “mediators” that charge the asylum seekers; nevertheless the illegal practice of not giving access to the asylum procedure immediately but referring applicants to future dates in order to file applications continues. While the NGO activists were there and took pictures outside the police building, police seized HP’s camera so as to confiscate the film, without giving him a document for the seizure. The police officer doing all that also spoke in an insulting way to HP. The following day the camera and the film were returned. This illegal action will be reported to the Ombudsman.  



Grave consequences of illegal police practices towards asylum seekers


The following two cases are indicative of the consequences of such an illegal practice followed by the police. HW, a 17-year old Iraqi citizen, was born on 28/8/1985. A Christian Catholic, he and his family had to flee from Iraq in fear of their lives. They crossed Turkey and on 5/7/2002 and they entered Greece illegally from the northern Greek Turkish borders in Evros and then came to Athens where they have been residing at the suburb of Peristeri at an address known to the authorities.


On 4/11/2002, HW went to the Aliens’ Department of West Attica in order to submit his application for political asylum. He filled in the required form, but was not allowed to submit it. Instead, a police officer stamped his application and added, in hand writing, the date of 20/12/2002, 8.00 a.m., for a new appointment when HW should proceed with his application and have his fingerprints taken. He came to the Aliens’ Department on that date but again he was not allowed to submit his application and was not given a renewal of his appointment in writing. The following weeks, he tried unsuccessfully to submit again his application but he was constantly prevented from doing so.


On 10/2/2003, while waiting at a bus stop, HW was arrested by a police officer for lack of legal documents. His request for application still dated 20/12/2002, was invalid and seemed to indicate that he had not appeared before the Aliens Department as he was supposed to. He was tried in flagrante delicto before the Second Misdemeanors Court of Athens the same day, without legal representation by a defense lawyer. The court sentenced him to 4 months imprisonment for illegal entry in the country, and suspended the sentence ordering his deportation. He was then held at the detention facilities of the Police Station of Peristeri area, awaiting deportation, although deportation to Iraq is impossible because of the international embargo. Upon realizing the impossibility to deport him, the deportation order was suspended and, on 19/2/2003 he was transferred to a special section to minors’ prison of Avlona to serve his 5-month sentence. Here it should be mentioned that such minor sentences for a person without priors, as in the case of HW, are routinely suspended by the courts and those punished walk free. But as in the case of HW the sentence was suspended for deportation, there was no provision to also suspended should the person punished eventually stay in the country. So HW, and so many other foreigners in that category, was discriminated in his sentencing.


HW’s rights as a minor were also violated, as due to inconsistencies in the definitions of a child within the Greek legislation, including that under civil law a minor is a person who has not reached age 18 while under penal law a minor is a person who has not reached 17, HW has reportedly been arrested, tried, sentenced and detained as an adult. On the contrary, the prosecutor ordered his transfer to Avlona prisons for minors in order to serve his sentence.


GHM reported the case of HW to the Greek Ombudsman, on 17/2/2003[43] following the letter it had previously submitted on 8/2/2003, and to the International Secretariat of OMCT. OMCT, strongly preoccupied by the attitude of the authorities of Greece concerning asylum-seekers, and in particular children, condemned[44] the Greek authorities’ for the obstruction to the submission of HW’s asylum application as well as the violation of his judicial guarantees and arbitrary detention and it recalled that Greece is a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes amongst others that children refugees must receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance[45].


In addition, OMCT recalled the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child following its consideration of the Greek report in January 2002[46], which had recommended that Greece: “Par. 30 (a) Clarify the age of majority, with particular regard to penal law and the international practice that juvenile justice standards are extended to children up until age 18; Par. 79 (a) Develop laws, policies and mechanisms for all children under 18 and provide adequate resources to ensure the full implementation of juvenile justice standards (…); (d) Ensure respect for all juvenile justice standards including the rights of children during arrest and detention procedures, minimum conditions of detention, the non-restricted rights of appeal and to legal representation, free interpretation where needed and other relevant assistance; (e) Ensure that detention, including pre-trial detention, is used only as a measure of last resort and with due consideration for the seriousness of the crime, and that greater efforts be made to provide alternatives to detention; Par. 69: (a) Consider means to reduce delays in the consideration of asylum requests and in subsequent administrative and judicial proceedings, which affect children, and to avoid the detention of children; (b) Ensure that child asylum-seekers or refugees, and their families, have access to legal aid.”


On the other hand the cases of two Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin, BH and KL, demonstrate the problems created for those asylum seekers who are in need of immediate treatment, but cannot have access to health services as they are obstructed from filing their asylum application. BH and KL entered Greece illegally in November 2002. The first faces serious health problems after a long term hunger strike in Turkish prisons, and an attempt to set fire to himself and the second has been persecuted in Turkey for his political ideas. Since November 2002 they have been trying to file their applications queuing outside the building of GADA. Finally they paid an Afghan 30 euro for both, so that the latter served as a mediator to the police and have their applications not filed but merely stamped. They were also given the date 21/7/2003 when they should come back.



Accommodation of asylum seekers


Another serious problem faced by the asylum seekers both those with the pink cards and those with the police notes is accommodation. Currently available reception centers operated mostly by NGOs can fit only a small number of asylum seekers. Priority is given to children and persons with health problems or pregnant women. Thus, most asylum seekers either stay in small overcrowded apartments or they squat deserted buildings. UNHCR-Athens director R. White reportedly said “Reception facilities in Greece, with the well-known conditions, suffice for at most 1,400 persons. Last year we had 5,600 asylum applications. You understand the situation, with 75% of asylum seekers being homeless, while asylum procedures last for more than two years.”[47] 


On 29/1/2003 GHM was informed by the media that, in a deserted half finished building squatted by asylum seekers, Kurds from Iraq, there was a fire when they tried to light a fire for heat. When police arrived they asked them to leave the place. GHM made a visit on the spot on 3 and 4 February 2003 and interviewed 10 of the aliens the first day and 4 the next; some had pink cards, some had  police notes, while others had a stamped forms giving them a future date for the filing of their application. Also the living conditions were recorded. The interviewees also informed GHM that on 30/1/2003 at around 16 00 pm around 25 armed policemen arrived at the place, forcefully pulled out the aliens, kicked them, beat them with truncheons, and swore at them, demanding they leave the place. One of the aliens was allegedly seriously injured and had to be transferred to the hospital. The police did not show any court or administrative decision asking them to leave; they just claimed that they were stealing electric power although they did not provide any relevant claim of the Public Power Company (DEH). Furthermore in a subsequent telephone communication GHM had with the Police Station of Kolonos area, the officer in charge was unable to quote the decision according to which they police asked the aliens to leave. After that many left the place without having somewhere specifically to go.


On 4/2/2003 GHM reported the situation to the Ombudsman[48], asking its immediate intervention for the prevention of the illegal eviction of the asylum seekers. GHM sent a further complaint on 6/2/2003[49], after a new illegal and violent attempt of the police to evict them during the night between the 4 and 5 of February, by violating their private homes, something which at that time of hour can only happen with the in flagrante cases. The above case reveals a further aspect of the violations of the right of asylum seekers, who are in most cases unassisted by the Greek state and ill treated by its representatives. The living conditions on the other were disturbing and inhuman and degrading for human nature.


More specifically the squatted building in Kolonos is a deserted, half built construction, with only a two level concrete structure. The place is covered with mud and surrounded by garbage piles. Once entering the yard, a narrow long dark corridor opens up, with hand made small huts on side and the other, made out of carton and some wooden structures. The concrete floor of the abandoned building is covered by mud and water from a preceding rainfall.[50]


The hygienic conditions do not correspond to the minimum standards for decent living. Stepping between the huts one can see people coming out through their improvised doors. Old, used shoes lie or hang on the roofs of those huts probably to keep them dry. All the people in the settlement were in the worst conditions. They looked exhausted, one of them was wearing two different shoes and another was wearing wet trousers when he came to see what the conversation is about. The clothing was minimal, only a few of them were wearing warm winter clothing; others are just wearing t-shirts. The floor was wet and muddy. There was garbage thrown everywhere around and broken pieces of wood that have turned black from the fire. The small-improvised “huts” are all in the first and in the second floor, around 40 downstairs and fewer upstairs.


At the end of the corridor, on the left, there was one toilet, a hand made wooden structure with a hole in the ground that is used by all the people that live here. There was no running water, nor any sewer system, and people improvised a place for a shower. Water was carried in plastic barrows from the factories that are in the neighborhood. It seems that their neighbors understand what the residents from Kolonos are going through, and help them.


A shaky wooden ladder has to be climbed in order to reach the upper floor of the building. There is no roof above it, just the plane sky, and therefore the huts built there are more exposed to cold and rain. According to the aliens the fire started in the second floor. They said that it was because they were using candles for lighting. Their life was tremendously endangered because the carton constructions could burn easily and they were lucky to be saved without any serious health damage. As they said, people in the neighborhood were terrified. That was why they tried to build a primitive construction to link with an adjacent public post, so that they would not be endangered by another fire. The settlement is very close to a police station and also stands in the middle of a populated area close to the center of Athens and the neglect is not justified.



Slow administrative processing of asylum applications


A further issue raised in the asylum procedure is that procedures move rather slowly, as mentioned above quoting the UNHCR-Athens head. This is partly due to the fact, as authorities often claim to GHM, that there is an overload of work due to the large number of asylum seekers but also to the fact that services are understaffed and the employees overtired. It is submitted that for this only the relevant Ministries can be held responsible but the fact itself cannot allow the compromise of the asylum seekers rights as it cannot compromise any human beings rights.


An example of the slow procedures followed even is “simple cases” is that of the aforementioned Iranian citizen AP. AP was, allegedly, severely tortured by the Iranian authorities after he had been deported from Denmark to Iran when his asylum application had been rejected by the Danish authorities. After his release from Iranian custody in Teheran, he found his way back to Europe; he entered Greece illegally on 22/9/2002. When he filed his asylum application in Rhodes, on 10/10/2002, he asked for his application to be examined by Denmark, as his mother and sister were staying there with a humanitarian residence permit. AP was kept nevertheless along with other asylum seekers for over three months in Rhodes.


After he arrived to Athens GHM took over his representation in Greece and, in cooperation with the lawyer representing his family in Denmark, requested from the Greek Ministry of Public Order to use Article 9 of the Dublin Convention and request from Denmark to examine his asylum application. According to information given to GHM by his lawyer in Denmark and representatives of the Danish Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims, the Danish government in a demonstration of goodwill after AR’s case was largely debated in the Danish media, had unofficially agreed to approve the application of Greece under Dublin Convention and examine AP’s asylum application, as it was estimated that his reunification with his family would help towards his recovery.


From the moment the asylum seeker requests the first country of entrance to use article 9, there is a time limit of 6 months for his request to be satisfied. Although AP had submitted his asylum application in Rhodes on 10/10/2002, it was only on 11/2/2003 that it finally reached the competent directorate of the Ministry of Public Order in Athens, in order for the Dublin procedure to start, more than forty days after AP left the detention facility in Rhodes, and four months after he had filed the application. This for a case that had taken wide publicity in Denmark and also in Greece, and with Greek NGOs pressing on…



Chechen asylum seekers


Also great delay has been repeatedly noted when waiting for the first instance decision of the Ministry of Public Order on the asylum application. Characteristic is the case of the B family from Chechnya (two adults and their five children) who applied for asylum in Greece in 1999; the first instance decision was delivered on 25/6/2002[51] and was served to them on 30/8/2002. They appealed on 30/9/2002 and up to early March 2003 have not heard if there has been any decision. During the years waiting for the first instance decision, the family had no support from the Greek state of any kind and lived with money earned by the father and the older boys of the family, in odd jobs. Furthermore, the family reportedly had serious problems between May and July 2002, because every time they were attempting to renew their pink cards at the local police station they were chased away.


Furthermore in relation to the Dublin Convention there have been several cases of Chechen asylum seekers transferred from Norway to Greece under the Dublin procedure as they had valid Greek visas. At the beginning, despite the fact that they were known to Greek authorities to be asylum seekers, they were illegally detained, and upon arrival to Greece were not informed of their rights, but were instead induced into signing resignation documents from their right to asylum in a language they did not understand.


The case of the Chechnyan ZB, was the first case that was reported to the Ombudsman by GHM on the violation of the rights asylum seekers that come to Greece through the Dublin Convention and it triggered a further monitoring of the situation as far as Chechen asylum seekers coming for Norway are concerned.


GHM was informed about the arrival of ZB and her three minor children of 6, 7 and 10 years old, by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. On 25/10/2001 GHM reported to the Ombudsman their illegal detention and the repeated violations of her rights. Although authorities knew already that an asylum seeker is coming from Norway under the Dublin Convention, they induced her to sign a document with which she was resigning from her right to asylum: the document was in Greek, a language she could not understand. Then, an administrative deportation order was issued against her and her children, and she was detained with her minor children up to three months. The authorities later on argued that since she resigned from the right to asylum she had not the right to apply for asylum again, something which is not provided by the relevant legislation. Article 1(7) of the Presidential Decree does mention that the asylum seekers has a right to resign from the right to asylum but it doesn’t exclude the possibility to make use of this right in the future.


The Ombudsman asked for clarification from the police authorities on 5/11/2001[52] which in its turn denied all the allegations made by ZB[53]. Interestingly enough the police claimed that the paper was in both Greek and English and that ZB could speak English fluently; GHM established that ZB spoke extremely little English. ELAS moreover did not attach the document to the answer to the Ombudsman, nor did the latter subsequently ask for it… Given that in the meantime a new application was filed, the Ombudsman closed the examination of the complaint.


Finally after pressure put by GHM, GCR went to visit her in detention and help her file an asylum application. GCR though on 15/11/2002 recommended that she should not be granted asylum as there was no indication that she fulfilled any of the Geneva Convention criteria. Her application was rejected 9/12/2001[54]; ZB appealed against the decision on 24/12/2001 and after the intervention of the Norwegian Embassy ZB and her children were granted asylum. As an asylum applicant she had free access to health care and a small financial assistance (of around 300 euro a month) which wasn’t sufficient for the expenses of the family. For example, it was established in June 2002 by GHM that she was living with her children in a three bedroom apartment with 15 more persons.


Another case, also reported to the Ombudsman by GHM on 5/7/2002[55] was that of the D family from Chechnya -two adults and two children of 10 and 16 years- who were illegally detained at the Athens Airport after their transfer from Norway and they were obstructed from having access to the asylum procedure. They claimed that the father had been abducted by intoxicated Russian soldiers and physically abused before being released for a ransom. For this and for other reason that cannot be made known in public they fled Chechnya. Their house in Groznyy had been destroyed. The family was transferred to Greece on 16/5/2002 and up until 28/7/2002 they were in detention at the airport police facility; throughout this period neither the adults nor the children had been allowed outside to breathe fresh air.


The family members claimed that after their arrival in Athens they were informed by the Greek police that they could not get asylum in Greece. They were then asked to sign a paper declaring that they do not wish to seek asylum in Greece. Hence, they signed this paper. The family further told a visiting Norwegian NGO (Norwegian Helsinki Committee - NHC and Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers - NOAS) delegation that the Greek police on several occasions had tried to deport them to Russia. On the first occasion the father was handcuffed but resisted so much that they did not manage to go through check-in procedures on time. The asylum application of the family was rejected on first instance and on appeal and they were finally granted residence with humanitarian status, which though provides them with absolutely no right. Humanitarian status in Greece means being tolerated in Greek territory undocumented.


The monitoring of such cases in Greece by GHM, after information received from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, led to a visit by representatives of NHC and NOAS, between 5-9 June 2002, in order to look into the situation of Chechen asylum seekers; both against the background of the transfers that took place in October 2001 and May 2002 and in view possible transfer of other Chechens in the future. The visit resulted in the issuing of a report by the above two NGOs “The Transfer of Chechen Asylum Seekers from Norway to Greece in Accordance with the Dublin Convention”[56].


The Greek Ombudsman, having been informed of the D case by GHM, addressed on 5/7/2002[57] a letter to both the Ministry of Public Order (Aliens’ Department) and the Aliens’ Department of Northeast Attica that was responsible for the detention of the family, whilst held in the detention facilities of Athens airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”. The Ombudsman had also received the report prepared by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, which stated that according to the D family’s claims, they were given to sign a document stating that they resign their right to asylum without knowing what it was, as well as the report of the of UNHCR “Protection of Refugees in Greece in 2001”, in which concerns were also expressed for the application of Dublin convention in Greece.


Hence the Ombudsman asked for further explanation from the above responsible authorities on the conditions under which the family resigned from its right to asylum (whether a translator was present, whether a document explaining the consequences of such a decision signed by the family in a language it understands was given, and requested a copy of it to be handed to the Ombudsman, plus copies of any documents containing further measures taken against the family after they signed the resignation as well information on their asylum application they submitted later on). Furthermore the Ombudsman asked for a reaction and comments on the report of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the UNCHR report.


On 26/7/2002, ELAS answered the Ombudsman[58] again denying any wrong doing and claiming all proper procedures were followed, but did not provide any convincing evidence to that effect.[59] ELAS’ answer, without the attachments, was faxed to GHM only on 1/10/2002. Therein police claimed that upon the family’s arrival, the whole asylum procedure was explained to them in English, a language ELAS claimed they all understood fully well. Yet they asked to forfeit their right to asylum. ELAS then explained the procedure of issuing deportation orders and subsequent filing anew of asylum applications that followed, which was not contested. On 7 March 2003, the Ombudsman informed orally GHM that it had closed the issue. GHM intends to send a critical letter to the Ombudsman, asking for the attachments, and pointing out that the Ombudsman could have checked for themselves the discrepancies between the two versions of the events, and especially the inability of all but one members of the D family to understand English, alongside the only partial ability of one child to understand it, as GHM witnessed. Hence ELAS’ argument that their fluent English was sufficient was unfounded, as it was in the previous ZB case. The Ombudsman could have also interviewed the family or, as in other cases, asked GHM whether the family’s claims were reiterated. The fact that, in both cases, ELAS’ false claims were not challenged only helps perpetuate police officers’ practice to misinform asylum seekers and then claim with impunity that everything was done correctly. A tendency that, in cases of alleged ill-treatment by police officers, the Ombudsman himself has denounced.     


One more serious problem has emerged. The D family, following the administrative deportation order, has reportedly been put in the Schengen list of undesirable persons which is illegal as the family did not enter illegally the country. GHM will pursue the issue with the Greek authorities. Finally, GHM was refused access to the D family’s file, even though authorized by the family, as it was denied access, illegally, to files of other aliens (see below), thus making it difficult to properly defend their rights.


Yet, the Norwegian NGO report and possibly the intervention of the Ombudsman following GHM complaints resulted in Greek authorities treating better those Chechens that were transferred from Norway to Greece under the Dublin Convention, after the process resumed in fall 2002. Still, though, procedures were not followed properly. GHM was informed about the arrival of the Chechen DK from Norway on 12/10/2002, many days later, on 23/10/2002, from a Norwegian lawyer in Norway. He was trying to find her whereabouts and informed GHM that the woman was in post traumatic shock, as the transfer and the alleged ill-treatment she suffered from the Norwegian authorities -during the transfer to which she strongly resisted- had triggered memories from her rape in Chechnya by Russian soldiers. GHM established that DK had applied for asylum upon her arrival to the Athens airport, and that, on 24/10/2002 she would be given the pink and released.


No arrangements had been made though for her transportation to Athens and her accommodation so a member of GHM had to go to the airport and pick her up and then take her to GCR. GCR on the other hand had not been informed of her arrival and of the sensitive state she was in so when they arrived there 20 minutes before its office closed (at around 15 30 pm) the GHM member had to explain to them the urgency of her situation in order for her to be accommodated. Indeed GCR booked her a room at the center of Athens for the night and the next day she was accommodated to new reception area for refugees, at Pikermi (some 20-30 kilometers outside Athens) a place though built on the mountain, with no access to public transportation, so a private bus had to be arranged in order to pick up the newcomers. DK was very upset and she was very often crying. When she was transferred to Pikermi she felt very isolated because of the location of the place and the fact that none there spoke Russian. So after a few days she moved to the house of the B family mentioned above that live outside Athens. DK gave an interview to GCR on 12/11/2002.


Similarly a pink card was given to the DZ family from Chechnya, in four days after they had been transferred from Norway to Greece under Dublin on 8/11/2002; GHM was informed about it by NHC and was also informed of the fact that the 10-year old boy of the family had serious psychological problems; GCR was immediately contacted. Again it had not been informed of their arrival and could not arrange their transportation and accommodation on the same day (Friday). The authorities as well were meant to detain them for the weekend and Monday, until the pink card was issued and the procedure was completed.


In comparison with the previous cases of Chechens being transferred to Greece, the procedures in the last two cases seemed legal and quicker; still though considering the state of DK but also of the 10-year old boy of the DZ family, even the slightest delay and difficulty was crucial. On the other hand still the authorities did not follow the procedural guidelines (as mentioned above the Ministry of Public Order should have contacted the Ministry of Health and the latter in turn should have contacted GCR and similar NGOs) nor did they facilitate the transportation of the newcomers, who where in a particularly vulnerable state. It is submitted that the authorities, knowing that asylum seekers are arriving from Norway under Dublin Convention, can have the pink cards issued before their arrival, so when the asylum seekers arrive they are immediately freed and transported to their accommodation.



Obstruction of the work of NGOs and lawyers


Another aspect of potential violation of asylum seekers’ rights is the obstruction of NGOs’ work when they attempt to assist them. GHM as a human rights NGO has been in a number of times denied access to detention centers even when it has received phone calls from the detainees themselves asking to be visited and be represented by it.


On 12/6/2002, two members of GHM visited the detention centre of the Athens Airport Police Station in order to visit the D family. On the occasion, a number of other detainees expressed their wish to talk with the GHM representatives as allegedly their rights had been violated. In fact, two of which had been prevented from filing asylum applications, and finally did so with the intervention of GHM. GHM asked for the copies of their administrative files after the detainees agreed to sign relevant authorization forms to GHM.


Whilst interviewing the detainees and some files having been photocopied, the Head of the Aliens Department of the Ministry of Public Order, Brigadier Mitropoulos, gave an oral order for the visit to be interrupted and no copies of the files to be given, although he knew from the day before about the visit and had not brought any objection. As it was noted in the complaint made to the Ombudsman, the same officer along with the Head of TAA, had, on 6/6/2002, arbitrarily interrupted the visit of GHM members to the women’s detention center in Amygdaleza, near Athens, although the specific visit had already been approved by the same authority a month before[60].


On 9/7/2002, 23 aliens detained at the New Holding Center of Hellenikon contacted GHM claiming violations of their rights, and ignorance of any developments in their cases, and asked to be represented by GHM. On 10/7/2002 a member of GHM was allowed to visit some of the detainees, based on previous practice. But when on 11/7/2002, 4 members of GHM and an interpreter went to visit the detainees, they were immediately denied access. More specifically the officer in charge of the holding centre informed the GHM representatives that the Head of the Aliens Department of Northern East Attica, responsible for the holding centre in question, requested specific permission from the Minister himself or other responsible officer order for them to allow the visit.


In a telephone communication that the GHM spokesperson had on 11/7/2002 with the Brigadier Mitropoulos, the latter said that it was he who ordered the interruption of the visit and also talked in a diminutive and insulting way for NGOs by saying “if just anyone could have access to the detainees, then they could just easily call for their girlfriends as well to come and see them”. And all that despite the fact that during 2001-2002 GHM had repeatedly visited and interviewed detainees, both at the New and Old Hellenikon Holding Centre, at the Detention Center of Markopoulo and Artemida, as well as the detention facilities of Piraeus police station and the detention facilities of GADA.


By denying access to GHM, authorities violated important commitments of Greece made by signing international human rights agreements and opposing international statements of representatives of the Greek government. The Ministry of Public Order wrote in the 4th Periodic Report of Greece to UN CAT that “recognizing the valuable contribution of NGOs to the welfare conditions of persons requesting asylum and refugees during reception, they were given the right of unhindered access to detention facilities.” [61] Furthermore Professor Dionisios Spinelis, head of the Greek delegation to UN CAT, and Police Officer Panopoulos from the Ministry of Public Order, member of the delegation, stated on 2/5/2001 before the UN Committee that “there is free access to members of the UN High Commissioner and NGO representatives to all detention centers[62].


On 22/7/2002, GHM applied to the Ministry of Public Order and the Head of ELA.S to be given permission to visit detention centers in Thrace in order to record living conditions and interview the detainees as it had been reported that detainees live in inhuman conditions, more than three months and the authorities deny access to the asylum procedures. On 23/9/2002 ELAS rejected the above application as well as a similar one GHM had made to visit the women’s detention centre of Amygdaleza, allowing only meetings with a small number of detainees in the visitation room of Amygdaleza.


The authorities have also repeatedly denied to GHM access to the administrative files of those that it legally represents something which is necessary for the informed defence of their rights. Amongst number of requests that GHM that submitted to the authorities for copies of the files of the detainees it represents, there is also the case of two Kurd women from Iraq, TU and her two minors children, and GM who were able to file their asylum application only when GHM visited in the women’s detention centre of Amygdaleza in 15/06/2002 GHM on 4/7/2002 requested copies of their administrative file as authorized legal representatives but the copies were refused.


Furthermore on 16/6/2002, GHM asked for copies of the files of the detainees it had met in the Athens airport pilice facility in 12/6/2002, amongst which was the file of the D family. On 27/6/2002 a member of GHM went to the Aliens Department responsible for the detainees but there she was refused direct access to the file. She was told to name what exactly she wanted from in the file in order to photocopy it.


On 26/7/2002 GHM requested copies of the administrative files of the two asylum applicants SO and RT, whom it legally represents in the case of Chania, and in the appeal against the first rejecting decision of the Ministry of Public Order of their asylum application.


All relevant requests were rejected by the authorities on the basis of Article 5 (3) of Law 2690/99 which allows to the authorities to deny access to the administrative documents that if it is considered that such access can cause difficulties to the investigation of the judicial, police, military or administrative authorities judicial police or military.


In the meantime, with many complaints, GHM informed the Ombudsman, both on prevention by the authorities to access the detention centers, where also asylum seekers were detained[63], and on refusal of the authorities to provide copies of the administrative files of asylum seekers and detainees that it legally represents.[64]


The Ombudsman issued its final conclusions on access of NGOs and lawyers to detention centers on 28/11/2002[65] and 5/11/2002[66] -recommending to the police to change its attitude- and on the refusal of access to the administrative files of the detainees on 10/2/2003[67] -calling the refusal unlawful- and submitted them to the Ministry of Public Order. The main excerpts from them, as well as from a letter on accepting asylum applications submitted through a bailiff, follow. It is noteworthy that ELAS’ hostile attitude towards NGOs goes as far as implying that the reasons for the refusal of access were that NGO visit were threatening the detention facilities security and that ELAS suspected that NGOs were involved in the trafficking of illegal entrants in Greece! While the Ombudsman pointed out to ELAS that treating NGOs with excessive suspicion or even worse as opponents indicates a closed, non-transparent, and potentially authoritarian administration.” The Ombudsman’s reports have been ignored by the Ministry of Public Order…



Athens, 28 November 2002

Protocol Number: 12393.02.2.1







TOPIC: Access of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to holding facilities for aliens.


The Greek Ombudsman received the complaints of Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM), under Protocol Numbers: 12393/14.06.2002, 14447/15.07.2002, 14793/18.07.2002, 17493/10.09.2002 and 17533/10.09.2002, regarding the access of that NGO to holding facilities for aliens. GHM claims that the competent police authorities have repeatedly denied access to holding facilities for aliens, that quite often they delay significantly to respond to their relevant requests, and finally that for no reason they interrupted GHM’s visit to the holding facilities of Eleftherios Venizelos Airport that took place last June.

GHM, on the basis of the aforementioned disputed issues, finally asked for the Greek Ombudsman’s intervention in order to clarifyhow the state perceives the unhindered access of NGOs to holding facilities”, pointing out that in the 4th Periodic Report to the UN Committee Against Torture, Greece stated that the Ministry of Public Order attributes great importance to the rights of detainees, including their right to receive visits of and communicate with their relatives, organizations and authorities (see page 10 of the Report). 

The Greek Ombudsman, within the framework of investigating the report, contacted orally the Aliens Directorate of the Ministry of Public Order and was informed of Hellenic Police’s (EL.AS.) intention – in view of its reply to a GHM request to visit the holding facilities – to clarify the framework of NGO access rights to holding facilities for aliens.

Indeed, the Aliens Directorate replied with a document under Protocol Number: 6634/1-529583/23.09.2002 to a GHM request to visit four holding facilities for aliens. This document was communicated to the Greek Ombudsman. According to the Aliens Directorate:

α)  the access of human rights protection organizations to holding facilities for aliens, apart from any other problems, poses great risks to the security of the holding facilities,

β)  unrestricted access to holding facilities for aliens or asylum-seekers is allowed to organizations that are set up based on international conventions or function within the framework of international organizations and

γ)  even if there is no relevant legal obligation, police satisfies NGO requests to visit holding facilities for aliens or asylum-seekers, to the extent this is possible, after weighing between the rights of detainees and public order and safety.

Finally, under the same document, permission was given to GHM to visit one of the four holding facilities for aliens that GHM had requested access for (women’s holding facilities in Amygdalesa, report 14749/18-7-02). (…)

The Ombudsman (…) considers it necessary to note the following: (…)

1. (…) Treating NGOs with excessive suspicion or even worse as opponents indicates a closed, non-transparent, and potentially authoritarian administration, which for this reason is afraid and attempts to restrict publicity about its functioning. (…).

4. In principle, the possibility of NGOs to access holding facilities for aliens is based on the Greek legislation in force. (…).

5. (..) It is noted that when invoking safety reasons with regards to holding facilities, this should be specific and explicit.

6. The request should be examined within reasonable time. Given the fact that the situations justifying such a visit are usually urgent, a reasonable time could be 10 days. Rejection of the request should be in written form and fully justified. An unjustified or partly justified rejection of the request is abusive.

In view of the aforementioned observations, the Greek Ombudsman deems as necessary the formulation of a regulatory framework addressing the issue of alien detainees in order for them to be able to communicate with the wider social environment; such a framework will be based on the commensurate implementation of the relevant provisions in the Penitentiary Code.

Therefore, we ask you to take such an initiative and to communicate your views to us.

We thank you for your cooperation.   


      Yours Sincerely,


       Giorgos Kaminis



5 November 2002

Protocol Number 11895/02/2.1




To the Director

Aliens Directorate

Ministry of Public Order



TOPIC: Lawyers’ access to holding facilities for aliens who have entered Greece unlawfully



The Greek Ombudsman has received complaints by lawyers (Th.S., 11895/10-6-2002) and human rights organizations (Amnesty International, 16822/27-8-2002), referring to the obstruction of lawyers accessing holding facilities for aliens who have entered Greece unlawfully.

More specifically, according to the first complaint, the Police Directorate of Lakonia did not allow a lawyer from Athens to get in touch with 6 Indian detainees, who were in a 350-strong group that arrived by boat to Gytheion last April. Their relatives in India had authorized an Indian civilian residing in Greece to contact a lawyer for legal aid. The competent Police Directorate requested a notarized authorization by the relatives of the detainees in order to grant permission to the lawyer.

In the second case, Amnesty International, on 24-7-02, requested from the Bar Association of Samos to visit 4 Iranian detainees as they had been informed by their relatives of their wish to file an asylum application, since they were being prosecuted by the Iranian government because of their political beliefs. The Police Directorate of Samos, claiming that they were acting under instructions of the Ministry, refused to grant access to the local Bar Association representatives. The Asylum Department confirmed that lawyers had to obtain the detainees’ prior authorization before they could actually visit them. Amnesty International expressed fears that possibly, out of the four Iranians, two who did not file for asylum stated that they arrived in Greece looking for work and signed a relevant document, thus hiding the fact that they were being politically prosecuted, possibly because they were afraid or because they were ignorant (E.H. son of A. and N. B. son of M.). On this issue, the Greek Ombudsman cannot assume that the aliens’ applications were not sincere nor question the credibility of the procedure for recording their statements by the competent police officers. Nonetheless, we note the opinion expressed by Amnesty International in the relevant report: “No matter what, it is their inalienable right to get in touch with counsels and with representatives or members of non-governmental organizations dealing with refugees”.

The general issue deriving from the reports above is whether aliens who enter Greece unlawfully have the right to contact a counsel and under which circumstances. (…)

In a document to the National Commission for Human Rights (Protocol number 4591/13-558437/13-5-2002), you confirm that Hellenic Police facilitates the provision of legal aid to asylum-seekers in Greece, mainly through UNHCR. You also invoke Article 10 of the Athens Bar Association Ethics Code which forbids counsels to get clients by resorting to actions that are incompatible with the dignity of the legal profession, to visit individuals in police detention facilities and prisons without being invited and to resort to any measures without the client's prior mandate.

You also mention the following:However, we observe the phenomenon that some lawyers or NGOs interfere in our agencies, under the excuse that aliens are in need of legal aid, sometimes even if these aliens have not expressed any intention to file for an asylum application, or when they are still in a neighbouring country. Unfortunately, in these cases, this event in combination with the above, forces us to reject any requests for providing legal aid with regards to asylum procedures because that way we create asylum-seekers and in parallel we violate the relevant provisions of Penal Law 61/99”. (…)

The Greek Ombudsman had the opportunity to note in other cases (to OAED, complaints 8772,8592/2001) The de facto distrust towards the visiting lawyer, not only does it contravene the presumed existence of authorization for attempted actions before the Authorities and Courts, but also ends up insulting the professional dignity of lawyers, by questioning the pursuit of safeguarding all lawful interests of their principals, as it derives from that same nature of the legal profession. (…)

So when for the entire duration of the preliminary procedure of a criminal trial, a counsel visits an accused without being asked whether he has been authorized to do so or not, then why should police put obstacles to the free access of counsels in the case where there is a mere administrative violation (when the prosecutor abstains from the criminal procedure and the administrative deportation of illegal aliens is pending)? The potential abuse exercise of rights from the part of the detainees is a very precarious excuse for a State of Law, especially when the relevant provisions of the Penitentiary Code safeguard free communication and access to a counsel (Article 51 Par.1, 53 Par.2 Law 2776/1999). In this case, it is necessary  to implement the latter accordingly, also because – as mentioned in your above document and pointed out by the Greek Ombudsman numerous timesthe mass influx of refugees has transformed police detention facilities (or other areas found in emergency situations from those available, for as long as the relevant provision of Article 48 Law 2910/01 for creating special reception centers is not activated) into holding facilities where a large number of aliens are being detained for up to three months, without even having the necessary infrastructure and organization of correctional institutions, with consequences on the living conditions and human rights of the detainees.

            When weighing the legal provisions at stake in the Code of Penal Procedure Law and in the Penitentiary Code, one concludes in favor of safeguarding the free access of counsels and the provision of legal aid to detainees, especially in the case of administrative detention pending deportation. (…)

The condition of obtaining the detainees’ prior authorization would probably end up to an absurd result, since the competent port and police authorities that detain illegal aliens should actually grant access to those counsels in order for them to obtain the detainees’ authorizations. (…)

One cannot not be impressed also when you mention these cases along with requests for visiting or providing legal aid by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The Greek Ombudsman believes that Hellenic Police should not create the slightest impression that it treats in the same way the rings of illegal immigration and the lawful action of NGOs. The NGOs that are active in the issues of human rights have a lawful interest, exactly because of their cause, to intervene in holding facilities for aliens whenever it is reported to them (by whomever) that there is a problem with the detention conditions or an issue related to the protection of political refugees etc. (…)

In the current letter, however, which treats the issue of counselsaccess to these areas, it should be pointed out that according to our opinion, lawyers who are chosen by NGOs and who are mandated with providing legal aid to specified detainees should be granted access. (…) In these cases, the concern of NGOs is not to substitute but to secure the personal asylum application for those whose honest intention is such. (…)

            Nonetheless, the delay observed, sometimes for up to two months (Rhodes, complaint 5776/20-3-02; Siros, complaint 10798/27-5-02; Kos, complaint 16023/16-5-02), with regards to the submission of asylum applications in similar holding facilities, raises the question of whether the interested aliens are informed about or understand the process for granting asylum. From our experience, the contribution of lawyers, individual aliens or NGOs lawyers is very constructive when it comes to aliens wishing to submit an asylum application; therefore, this should be considered by the competent authorities as being positive and in accordance with the relevant international, European and Greek laws that safeguard access to asylum procedures.

            Just as the Greek Ombudsman in the past had the opportunity to point out to the Ministry of Public Order, the danger of abusive submission of irrelevant applications should not be prevented by rejecting relevant applications (or by not recording the relevant oral requests) because it is not possible for a State of Law to accept the responsibility of deporting any refugees on the grounds that they are economic migrants when in fact their lives and personal safety are in danger in their own country because of their political beliefs. In principle, the law has taken care so that a potential abusive invocation of asylum reasons is treated in a different way, and more specifically (Penal Law.61/99, Article 2) with the fast-track process of examining asylum requests in the points of entrance in the country, where, in our opinion, it could be activated automatically in the case of a mass influx of refuges amidst whom there may be political refugees, by experienced police personnel familiar with issues of aliens and asylum applications. It should also be noted here the determining contribution of NGO lawyers who, because of their experience, often assist local police authorities in identifying genuine cases of individuals who are in need of being protected under the status of political refugees. (…)

            For the above reasons, we believe that the access of counsels will be a catalyst for fulfilling the target of the relevant laws concerning access to asylum. The precondition of obtaining prior authorization so as to have access to holding facilities for aliens does not seem to have any basis under the current legislation, and exceeds the reasonable measures necessary to upholding those laws in a lawful way.  

Therefore, I ask you to review the issue of lawyers’ access to holding facilities for aliens who have entered the country unlawfully, according to all the above and I thank you for your cooperation.


Yours sincerely


                                                                                                Giorgos Kaminis

Deputy Ombudsman



Athens, 25 November 2002

Protocol Number 14216.01.2.2





Asylum Department


The Greek Ombudsman, within the framework of the responsibilities set out in Law 2477/97, received a complaint by the Greek Council for Refugees (Protocol Number 14216/28.9.2001), asking our Agency to intervene in order for sixty (60) aliens, all citizens of Afghanistan and of Hazara origin, who had gathered to the Council’s offices requesting that they were granted asylum, to be allowed access to the asylum application procedure since, as they claimed, their asylum applications had been rejected by the competent authorities. (…) When our Service contacted a member of the GCR Legal Service at a later stage, we were informed that, following the denial of the Ministry of Public Order to accept the asylum applications, these were finally handed through a bailiff. (…)

Since the GCR document under Protocol Number 49/23.2.2002 addressed to the Aylum Department of the Ministry of Public Order and copied to the Greek Ombudsman as well, indicates that authorities have questioned the legality of submitting asylum applications through a bailiff – under the light of Presidential Decree provisions 61/1999 – with regards to the cases of the aforementioned aliens and in general, the Greek Ombudsman wishes to return to this issue and observes the following: (…)

On one hand, an asylum application submitted through a bailiff does not fulfill the precondition of submitting the application in person, according to article 1, par 3, of Presidential Decree 61/1999. It constitutes, however, a statement of the specified individual’s will to request political asylum; this is then vested the quality of a public document accompanied by the increased power of proof that legislation provides for this sort of documents. From the moment the competent Agency is notified of this statement, in the way specified above, it is obliged to call promptly the asylum-seeker to sign the asylum application before the Agency. A possible refusal of the authorities to take into consideration an asylum application or the rejection of such an application with the justification that the application hasn’t been submitted according to the law, as it was not submitted in person, would be abusive, and would contravene the principles of good administration, as it would violate in this way the very essence of the provisions of the Geneva Convention. (…)

All the points mentioned above are valid in all cases of submission of an asylum application to a bailiff with an order to deliver it to the competent Agency, and especially if authorities refuse accepting the asylum applications, as in the case of the sixty (60) Afghans under examination. In this case, submitting the applications through a bailiff seems to be the only possible way for them to exercise their right to file for an asylum application, therefore, they should be considered carefully and all such applications should be examined.

In view of the above, the Greek Ombudsman asks you to take into consideration his observations in relation to the issues currently under examination concerning the legality of asylum applications through a bailiff, and to make known to him your views as well as the measures you are planning to take.


Yours sincerely


                                                                                                Giorgos Kaminis

Deputy Ombudsman



Athens, 10 February 2003

Protocol Number 12390.02.2.5





Concluding the investigation related to the complaints 12390/13.6.2002 & 15349/30.7.2002 of the legal entity Greek Helsinki Monitor, the Ombudsman prepared and addresses to the competent Minister of Public Order this report, according to article 4 para 6 Law 3094/2003. (…)


            With a series of letters (dated 25.6.2002, 10.7.2002, 18.7.2002, 31.7.2002, 26.9.2002) to the Ministry of Public Order, the Ombudsman presented its views on the matter, views that are, in any way, concordant with the content of the order number 7011/10/50/29.5.2002 of the Chief of ELAS (para 2, section 13), calling the Ministry’s sections concerned to either allow access to the specific documents, or justify in a legal way their refusal. (…) These letters have received absolutely no response.   


            Following all that, the Ombudsman considers as final (and, for the reasons explained above, unlawful) the refusal of the agencies of the Minister of Public Order, establishes that its ability to mediate has been exhausted (in this case unsuccessfully), and addresses this report to the competent Minister, according to art. 4 para 6 Law 3094/2003.


                                                                                                                        Giorgos Kaminis

                                                                                                                        Deputy Ombudsman





[3] Article 1 of Geneva Convention 1951: “... owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

[4] Presidential Decree 61/1999 title on asylum procedures.

[5] Article 2(7) of PD 61/99

[6] Protocol No 24486-30/12/2002

[7] Protocol No 2351-30/12/2002

[8] Protocol No 105-13/1/2003

[9] Protocol No 2315-30/12/2002


[11] Protocol No 28192-31/12/2002

[12] GHM denounces to Public Prosecutors, the Greek Ombudsman and the Minister of Public Order the unlawful detention and unlawful or irregular treatment of asylum seekers by the Hellenic Police”


[14] Protocol No 62-3/1/2003

[15] Protocol No. 21267/19-12-2002

[16] With its document No 5401/2/796ι/16-12-02 addressed to the General Secretariat.

[17] “The standard practice among police officers in relation to aliens, who have filed an asylum application and have obtained the necessary Pass (“pink card”), is that they are detained, even in the case no prosecution has started against them for unlawful entry to the country nor are they the subjects of deportation procedures. Their detention is extended until they are transferred to a refugee reception center, and this can take several days if there are no available openings in these centers. On one hand, this practise prolongs the already serious problem of detention centers overcrowding, and on the other hand, it contravenes the provisions under Greek and international legislation on the detention of asylum-seekers. In specific, the Presidential Decree number 61/1999 (Article 2(8)) makes reference to “accommodation areas” and not to detention areas; in addition, the Geneva Convention (Article 31), and the Guidelines for the Detention of Asylum Seekers (UNCHR, February 1999), state that the detention of asylum seekers is not allowed with the exception of certain limited circumstances and if it is individually justified. In addition, within the context of EU legislation, the explicit provision for forbidding the detention of an asylum seeker solely on the grounds that his application for asylum needs to be examined is proposed (see the European Commission’s Draft Directive “on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status.” Doc. 500PC578, 03.11.2000).” On-site inspection report on the detention areas in Kos, 12 November 2001,, Prot. Num. 12280/01/2.2).

[18]“Freezing Christmas for Hundreds of Illegal Aliens”, Macedonian News Agency,, 24/12/2002)

[19] see“Unfortunately Winter Caught Up with Us”, interview of Demetres Efstathiades, General Secretary of the Ministry of Public Order to the daily Paratiritis tis Thrakis (Thrace Observer) 12/12/2002.

[20] Protocol No 28192-31/12/2002

[21] Protocol No 539-13/1/2003


[23] For which RCTV protested on 9/11/2002, see at p.1.

[24] Protocol number 851-20/2/2003


[26] Kathy Tzilivakis “Asylum in disarray” Athens News (28 February 2003)

[27] Civil claimants in the Chania case (see below), legally represented by the lawyers of GHM.

[28] Law 2690/1999

[29] the names are available upon request

[30] Article 4 of PD 61/99.

[31] Article 3 of PD 61/99.

[32] Protocol No 313-9/1/2003

[33] Article 137A of the Penal Code.

[34] Protocol No 95/39643

[35] Similar decisions are available upon request.

[36] Avgi,ΠΑΠΑΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ_&-V=hpress_int&-P

[37] Protocol number 14216.01.2.2

[38] Law 2690/1999

[39] Abbreviation for General Police Directorate of Attica.

[40] Protocol No 2394-10/2/2003


[42] See articles published on 15/2/2003 in the Greek dailies Avghi (Nikos Papadimitriou “Fears for over 600,000 Iraqi refugees” and Eleftherotypia (Joanna Sotirhou “Ruud Lubbers: Greece should be more generous to refugees”; and by the state Macedonian News Agency (“Fears for over 600,000 Iraqi refugees”

[43] Protocol No 2871-18/2/2003


[45] Art. 22 par. 1: States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee in accordance with applicable international or domestic law and procedures shall, (…) receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights set forth in the present Convention and in other international human rights or humanitarian instruments to which the said States are Parties. Art. 37: States Parties shall ensure that: (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; (d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action. Art. 40 par. 2 (b): States Parties shall, in particular, ensure that every child alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law has at least the following guarantees: (iii) To have the matter determined without delay by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing according to law, in the presence of legal or other appropriate assistance and, unless it is considered not to be in the best interest of the child, in particular, taking into account his or her age or situation, his or her parents or legal guardians.

[46] CRC/C/15/Add.170

[47] Nadia Yanniri “Ziteitai evaisthisia” (“Sensitivity is sought”) Eleftherotypia 8/3/2003

[48] Protocol No 2176-5/2/2003

[49] Protocol No 2346-7/2/2003

[50] GHM has pictures of the place which will at some future point be uploaded in its website

[51] Decisions’ Protocol No 9135/038440, 9135/038443, 3/938293, 3/979584

[52] Protocol No 16585.01.2.2.

[53] The answer was sent to GHM by the Ombudsman on 22/12/2001 with the letter Protocol No 16585.01.2.2

[54] Protocol No 4/37481

[55] Protocol Number 12392.02.2.1


[57] Protocol Number 12392.02.2.1

[58] 5401/1/553067/26-7-2002

[59] Protocol Number 5401/1/26-7-2002

[60] Protocol No 6634/1-528280.

[61] p. 10 of the report.

[62] Unpublished complete transcript of Greece’s review by UN CAT, made by GHM on the basis of tapes given by UN CAT.

[63] For example, Protocol No 17493-10/9/2002

[64] Protocol No 17494- 10/9/2002



[67] Protocol No 12390.02.2.5 and 15349.02.2.3