European Court of Human Rights: Pregnant asylum seekers claim inhuman or degrading treatment in Samos ‘hotspot’ in legal proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights 

In the case N.E. and others v. Greece, currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights, the applicants submitted their response to the observations of the Greek government in April 2021. They claim that the living conditions in which they have found themselves as pregnant asylum seekers in the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) on the island of Samos constitute inhuman and degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and further, violate the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 ECHR). The women are represented by the lawyers Jenny Fleischer (Berlin) and Yiota Masouridou (Athens), working with the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin. The proceedings are supported by PRO ASYL Foundation.

The four women arrived on Samos between August 2019 and January 2020. They were between one and seven months pregnant at the time of their application for asylum in Greece. Ms A.D. from Ghana was forced to live in a tent in the so-called ‘jungle’, the forest area surrounding the RIC, until the day of birth of her baby. Ms M.L. from Sierra Leone, heavily pregnant at the time of her arrival, was detained for three days and subsequently lived in the ‘jungle’. Both Ms M.L. and Ms M.B. from Cameroon were placed in an overcrowded container inside the RIC after a prolonged stay in the ‘jungle’. Ms Y.B. from Syria lost her belongings and the shack that they were living in in the ‘jungle’, due to the fire of 14 October 2019. Ms Y.B. and her family were homeless in the town of Vathy for two weeks and subsequently returned to the ‘jungle’. They were transferred to the camp of Nea Kavala on the mainland in the 8th month of Ms Y.B.’s pregnancy. At that time, the Samos RIC, which has a capacity of 650 persons, was severely overcrowded, hosting up to 7,000 persons. The women had limited access to healthcare, and no access to adequate housing, sanitary facilities and nutrition.

Lea Rösner, member of the IHaveRights-Team, expressed her observations on the case N.E. and others v. Greece: “Taking into account the women’s multiple vulnerabilities, we are convinced that both the conditions in the ‘jungle’ as well as in the containers inside the Samos RIC reach the threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment. The Greek government is under a legal obligation to refrain from such treatment and provide basic services and dignified living conditions. So far, we are witnessing deliberate national and European policies of containment of asylum seekers on the Aegean islands and encampment under appalling conditions. This must change.”

While the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin is awaiting judgment by the Court, the team continues to work on additional applications to the European Court of Human Rights related to reception conditions in the Samos RIC (F.A. v. Greece, Appl. No. 63297/19; D.F. and others v. Greece, Appl. No. 65267/19 ; and A.R. and others v. Greece, Appl. No. 59841/19).

Refugee Law Clinic Berlin e.V., Rhea Kummer, (German/English),

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