Greek Ombudsman: Detention of Survivors of Shipwreck is unlawful


Individuals who survived a shipwreck were detained in Pre-Removal Detention Center in Corinth immediately after being rescued. The Greek Ombudsman has now found that this was unlawful.
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Oscar Keys - Unsplash. Our Visual Policy

Recently, there have been several shipwrecks in Greek waters that have resulted in numerous losses of life. Those who have been rescued have survived terrible suffering and have looked into the eyes of death.

A group of people was rescued by the Greek Coastguard on October 21, 2022. While some members of the group were taken to camps, others ended up directly in pre-removal detention – even though they had submitted a request for asylum in writing. This is clearly unlawful. Among them were 6 Afghan nationals who had fled the Taliban regime. After they capsized on open waters they were brought straight away to the notorious pre-removal detention centre in Corinth where they are still detained today.

After our intervention, the Greek Ombudsman in late December issued an opinion finding that the persons concerned must be transferred to the competent registration authority, as this is foreseen by the law governing the procedure for newly arrived asylum seekers in Greece (cf. Article 38 of Law 4939/2022).

Based on our intervention, the Ombudsman pointed out that as the group had applied for asylum, they should not be detained as the so-called Reception and Identification Service is the competent authority, not the police.

Further, the Ombudsman notes, that the persons were detained with a view to return to Afghanistan – even though there is no prospect of removal so that “it is obvious that the Administration should take an appropriately tailored approach, at least by issuing a suspension of removal decision”.

This group of asylum seekers that nearly died at the shores of Europe and was then “welcomed with barbed wire” and detained by the EU must now be released.

The decision of the Ombudsman can be found here.