The European Court of Human Rights again condemns the living conditions of asylum seekers in the Greek “hotspot” on Samos as inhumane and degrading treatment. 

Press Release

Samos, 24th November 2023 – Yesterday, in the cases of M.L. v. Greece (Application No. 8386/20) and M.B. v. Greece (Application No. 8389/20), the European Court of Human Rights again found that the conditions in the Samos ‘hotspot’ amounted to inhumane and degrading treatment. The applicants were two women who were forced to live in degrading conditions in Samos for 3 and 4 months while being in an advanced stage of pregnancy. In addition to the ruling the Court awarded the applicants 5000 Euro each in non-pecuniary damages.

The applicants arrived in Samos in 2019 and 2020 while five and seven months pregnant, both suffering from underlying medical conditions. They were placed under geographical restriction forcing them to stay on Samos and were both forced to sleep in tents outside the severely overcrowded reception facility. After interim measures were ordered by the Court for both applicants, M.B. was only offered to share a single bed in a container with a pregnant woman resulting in her sleeping on the floor. She was only offered housing one month before she gave birth. M.L. was placed in an overcrowded container for two months and was only offered housing three days before giving birth.

The facts of the cases and the Court’s assessment are similar to the case of A.D. v. Greece (55363/19), which was communicated jointly with the cases of M.L. and M.B and where in April this year the Court already found a violation of Article 3. Despite this series of rulings that condemn the inhumane conditions of the hotspots, the EU has not stepped away from containing asylum seekers to Samos. Instead, the EU spent €43 million to build the Samos Closed Controlled Access Centre (CCAC). Opened in September 2021, the CCAC has been criticised by civil society for being a site of unlawful detention as well as other human rights abuses. As detailed by Ella Dodd, Project Coordinator at I Have Rights on Samos:

Far from being a humane approach to people seeking safety, the CCAC is a securitised and degrading environment, where people on the move are default de facto detained in overcrowded and degrading conditions, are cut off from wider society and denied access to essential services

Meanwhile, CCACs are likely to be replicated across Europe as the EU legislature negotiates the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. To date the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament are in the final phase of negotiating the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Part of this comprehensive legislative proposal are de facto detention centres at Europe’s outer borders. Experts fear that these centres will be overcrowded and asylum seekers in remote centres will have no realistic access to qualified lawyers without whom access to legal remedies will exist on paper only. As concluded by Andreas Eibelshäuser of the legal team that brought the cases:

If the EU follows through with the current reform of the Common European Asylum System, the conditions the Court has so clearly reprimanded Greece for yesterday will be with us all around Europe soon.

The judgements in M.B. v. Greece and M.L. v. Greece are the second and third in a series of cases currently pending at the Court that denounce the treatment of asylum seekers in Greek “hotspots” (e.g. D.F. and others v. Greece, Appl. No. 65267/19). The cases were supported by the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin (Germany), I Have Rights (Samos) and PRO ASYL Foundation.

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I Have Rights

Joanne Krus

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