Remedies for detained migrants were not in accordance with Convention

In the case of Kaak and Others v. Greece (application no. 34215/16, 03.10.19) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: 

  • no violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights; 
  • no violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security); and 
  • a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention). 

The case concerned the conditions of detention of Syrian, Afghan and Palestinian nationals in the “hotspots” of Vial and Souda (Greece), and the lawfulness of their detention in those camps. The applicants, 49 adults, teenagers and children of Syrian, Afghan and Palestinian nationalities, unlawfully entered Greece, landing on the island of Chios by boat between 20 March and 15 April 2016.

The Court considered that the authorities had done all that could reasonably be expected of them in the Vial camp to meet the obligation to provide care and protection to unaccompanied minors. The other applicants had been transferred immediately – or within ten days – from the Vial camp to the Souda camp. 

The Court also held that the conditions of detention in the Souda camp did not amount to inhuman or degrading treatment. The Court also reiterated its previous finding that a period of one month’s detention in the Vial camp should not be considered excessive, given the time needed to comply with the relevant administrative formalities. 

In addition, the length of the applicants’ detention once they had expressed their wish to apply for asylum had been relatively short. In contrast, the applicants, who did not have legal assistance, had not been able to understand the content of the information brochure; in particular, they were unable to understand the material relating to the various appeal possibilities available under domestic law. The Court also noted that the information brochure in question referred in a general way to an “administrative court”, without specifying which one. 

However, there was no administrative court on the island of Chios, where the applicants were detained, and the nearest one was on the island of Mytilene. Even assuming that the remedies were effective, the Court did not see how the applicants could have exercised them. Having regard also to the findings of other international bodies, the Court considered that, in the circumstances of the case, the remedies in question had not been accessible to the applicants. There had therefore been a violation of Article 5 § 4.

References from the website of the European Court of Human Rights