Samos, 19 April 2024 – Yesterday, in the case of, A.R. and Others v. Greece (Appl. No. Applications nos. 59841/19 and 2 others) the European Court of Human Rights delivered a decisive verdict, condemning the treatment of three asylum seekers in the hotspots of Kos, Samos and Chios. One of the applicants, W.A.(Appl. No. 21997/20) an asylum seeker with a severe chronic illness, was forced to live in degrading conditions on the Greek island of Samos. The Court found that the living conditions and the denial of medical assistance of the applicant amounted to inhumane and degrading treatment, finding a violation of Article 3(1) and Article 3(2) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

W.A., a patient of chronic Hepatitis B, lived in the Samos “hotspot” between August 2019 and July 2020. Despite being aware of his medical condition, his severe symptoms and the high risk of infecting other camp residents, the authorities left the applicant without any meaningful support and accommodated him in a tent in the forest surrounding the Samos R.I.C. The authorities also failed to act on the Samos General Hospital’s indication to immediately transfer the applicant to the mainland for examination and treatment by a liver specialist who was not available on Samos.

The applicant remained subject to a geographical restriction, forcing him to stay on an island where he could not be treated. In addition, the applicant was deemed as highly vulnerable to Covid-19 but was left in the overcrowded R.I.C. during the pandemic. The applicant was only finally transferred to the mainland in July 2020 following a successful application for Interim Measures to the European Court of Human Rights.

In today’s judgement the European Court of Human Rights not only confirms its previous condemnations of living conditions on Samos (A.D. v. Greece,  M.L. v. GreeceM.B. v. Greece and T.K. v. Greece), but for the first time rules on the denial of healthcare to a highly vulnerable applicants on the Greek hotspot islands.

“To this day, the Greek authorities continue to subject asylum seekers to inhuman and degrading treatment due to the chronic lack of access to medical support in the EU-funded Samos Closed Controlled Access Centre”, comments Ella Dodd, Advocacy and Strategy Coordinator at I Have Rights on Samos.

The continued violation of Article 3 is illustrated by the interim measures ordered in the cases of two Hepatitis B patients, a mother and baby with congenital heart disease and recently a new mother and her infant child. Additionally, last week the Samos Closed Controlled Access Centre was condemned by the Greek National Commissioner for Human Rights for ongoing shortages in medical staff which, inter alia, resulted in the structure failing to meet basic standards exposing “residents to completely inappropriate conditions and immediate danger”.

As detailed by Kilian Schayani, member of the team working on the case:

“Despite the consistent rulings from the Strasbourg court, the EU’s migration policy continues to harm the health and dignity of asylum seekers. The deprivation of access to adequate health care is not a Samos-specific problem but a reality at the EU’s external borders.”

The legal representation for the applicant was provided by Jenny Fleischer (Berlin) and Yiota Masouridou (Athens), working with the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin (Germany) and I Have Rights (Samos). The proceedings were supported by PRO ASYL Foundation and the Pro Bono Project of the University College of London.

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I Have Rights

Joanne Krus

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