On 28 October 2022, the Greek Ombudsman called for the release of 6 Egyptian citizens unlawfully detained in the Kos Pre-Removal Detention Centre for more than five months, after an intervention from Equal Rights Beyond Borders. The Greek authorities claimed that the individuals were detained for the purpose of their removal to either Türkiye or Egypt; however, not only had the authorities taken no action to prepare the individuals' return, there is no possibility of return to either country. Equal Rights submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman, who intervened and requested that the authorities lift the administrative detention of the six individuals immediately. Despite their request, the police refuse to comply with the law and release the six Egyptian detainees.
In September 2022, Equal Rights Beyond Borders (Equal Rights) communicated with the Greek authorities regarding the unlawful detention of the Egyptian citizens. Although the authorities acknowledged that removal to either Türkiye or Egypt would not be possible or pursued, the police continued to unlawfully uphold the detention.
On 26 October 2022, after Equal Rights’ complained to the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman requested that the police immediately lift the administrative detention as no reasonable prospect of removal for the Egyptian citizens existed. The Ombudsman explained that the Greek authorities – not the detainees – had the burden of proving that removal to Türkiye or Egypt was possible. Not only had the authorities failed to submit proof that returns to Türkiye or Egypt would become likely in the near future, readmissions to Türkiye had not taken place for more than two years when the six individuals were first detained. Therefore, the Ombudsman emphasised that the authorities knew from the outset that removal was not possible.
Moreover, although the police justified the detention of the six individuals by arguing that their lack of permanent accommodation meant they posed a risk of absconding, the Ombudsman agreed with Equal Rights’ submission that a lack of permanent accommodation is not among the criteria the law requires to establish that a person subject to a return procedure may abscond. Instead, the Ombudsman explained that administrative detention imposed as a result of risk of absconding must be linked to a removal that is likely to take place in the near future and is technically possible.
The police have so far refused to comply with the Ombudsman’s request to immediately lift the administrative detention and release the six individuals. The police maintain that although readmissions to Türkiye remain suspended, it is possible that they could resume at some point before the six month detention period. However, as the Ombudsman also emphasised, the law does not work this way – law clearly states that detention should be lifted as soon as it becomes clear that there is no reasonable prospect of return.
The police also ignored the Ombudsman’s view that a lack of housing or financial resources is not a reason to keep rejected asylum seekers in detention. Even though there is no legal basis for it, the police continue to rely on the fact that the six individuals have not found stable accommodation, arguing that detention is the only way to ensure the six individuals will not attempt to escape their forced removal from the country.
Lastly, although the Ombudsman explained that detention based on the prospect of removal must be immediately lifted when there is no reasonable prospect of removal, the police explained that they would not release the individuals as their detention had not exceeded six months, the maximum period allowed under the law. As a result, the police continue to unlawfully detain the six Egyptian nationals, despite the fact that they have no reasonable prospect of being returned to Türkiye or Egypt.
To comply with the Ombudsman’s recommendations and Greek law, the Greek authorities must immediately lift the detention of the six Egyptian detainees and release them.