European Court Of Human Rights

We regularly represent applicants before the European Court of Human Rights. The applicants claim a violation of their human rights due to the living conditions in the EU hotspot camps. In particular in cases of unaccompanied minors (UAM) and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), we file interim measures aiming at evacuation from the EU hotspots.

Evacuation from EU Hotspots

Application No. 19614/20 - A.B. v. Greece, 14/04/2020

Pyli evacuation COVID-19

The European Court Of Human Rights (ECHR) again commented on the situation in the Greek hotspots, this time ordering Greece to provide a very pregnant woman and her family with adequate living conditions and healthcare. The family lives in a tiny tent in the Pyli hotspot on Kos, and as a result of their poor living conditions the applicant has experienced pregnancy complications. For her, the court decided that the conditions in Pyli amount to degrading treatment and violate Art 3 ECHR.

Covid-19 has caused states to take unprecedented measures to protect its populations and stop the virus’ spread. While most of us are staying home, for refugees and asylum seekers living in the Greek hotspots measures like frequent hand washing and social distancing remain out of reach. Yesterday’s decision shows once again that the Court doubts that Greece has done enough to protect those living in the hotspots.

Find the full decision here.

Application No. 15782/20 - M.A. v. Greece, 07/04/2020

Vial evacuation COVID-19

The European Court of Human Rights in an interim measures proceeding ordered the Greek authorities to transfer an old man with underlying health conditions out of the Vial Hotspot and provide him with adequate healthcare and assistance that is not amounting in an inhumane or degrading treatment – a violation of Art 3 ECHR is ongoing. The claim, submitted by Equal Rights Beyond Borders, argued that the egregious conditions in Vial violated the applicant’s rights from Art 3 and Art 2 (right to life) ECHR, particularly in light of a potential outbreak of COVID-19 in the camp.

The applicant is an old man who has been living in Vial since October 2019. He lives in a small, cramped tent that he shares with several other members of his family. As an older adult with underlying health conditions, he is particularly vulnerable to developing complications from COVID-19. Equal Rights interviewed the applicant regarding his health and measures taken in Vial in response to the COVID-19 emergency. He reported that he has not noticed any significant changes in the camp and that he continues to have limited access to sanitary facilities, running water, and soap. Despite WHO guidelines advising elderly people to self-isolate and practice social distancing, there is no practical way of doing so in Vial, exacerbating the risk that the virus will spread in the camp and he will be infected.

In its 7 April 2020 decision, the Court ruled in favor of the applicant and requested that the Greek authorities “transfer the applicant, or at least guarantee for the applicant an accommodation with reception conditions which are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention and the applicant’s age and to provide to the applicant adequate healthcare and assistance compatible with his state of health.”

The Court’s decision reflects what advocates and aid workers already knew: the measures taken by the Greek government to prepare the Hotspots for COVID-19 are inadequate and put the lives of everyone living in them at grave risk.

Find the full decision here.

Application No. 15192/20 - M.A. v. Greece, 26/03/2020

Vial evacuation COVID-19

On 26/03/2020, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Greek Authorities to provide adequate healthcare to a severely vulnerable applicant living in the Vial Hotspot in interim measures proceedings. The applicant has a pre-existing illness and is particularly vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. He has been trying to see a doctor for months, but has not been able to. The applicants argued that for him, the conditions in Vial amount to degrading or inhumane treatment in the sense of Article 3 ECHR, also because he lives in constant uncertainty and the fear to die from COVID-19 as the conditions put him at a real risk of dying (violating the right to life, Art 2 ECHR).

The Court agreed that the State must provide him with adequate medical care. Additionally, the court asked Greece to explain “which measures have been taken or are planned to be put in place at the hotspots in relation to the COVID-19 risk, in particular for vulnerable people like the applicant?” This clearly shows that the Court doubts that Greece has taken adequate steps to protect people from the virus.

Find the full decision here.

Vulnerable Persons

Application No. 63074/19 – Z.H. v. Greece, 10/12/2020

Homeless Pregnant Woman with minor child

The ECHR ordered the Greek Authorities to guarantee appropriate living conditions to a pregnant asylum seeker and her very young minor daughter who were homeless in Greece for more than two months.

The mother was completely desperate and could not stand the situation anymore in that she felt she could not take care of her daughter. For almost two months they did not have a place to sleep. They were 'sleeping' on benches, squatted houses or just on the streets, exposing themselves to rain, cold and violence. While receiving food only by donations, the basic needs, also those of the young child, could not be met. Every day they were living with the fear an the stress to find a place in which they would be – somehow – safe.

The situation caused severe stress, made them feel helpless and desperate. It caused mental problems to the minor child in an amount, that she stopped speaking at some point.

The interim measure’s decision obliged the Greek government guarantee appropriate accommodation to the applicants according to their state of health. They have been placed in a shelter.

Find the full decision here.

Application No. 59841/19 - A.R. v. Greece, 21/11/2019

SGBV-evacuation Kos – Lifting of Geographical Restriction

The European Court of Human Rights ordered the Greek Authorities to guarantee appropriate living conditions to an asylum seeker who was legally not allowed to leave the island of Kos (so called geographical restriction) and had moved to the mainland without permission. As a result of the court’s decision, the person must be accommodated in Greece in a way does not amount to inhuman or degrading treatment within the meaning of Art. 3 ECHR.

The applicant was held unlawfully for more than four months in the Pre-Removal Detention Centre (PRDC) in Kos. She was brought handcuffed to the PRDC and was never given a reason for her detention. She survived gender-based violence in her country of origin, causing her serious gynaecological problems. On Kos, she repeatedly asked to see a doctor, a psychologist, and a lawyer, but the authorities denied her request. The only thing she received to help her with her medical issues were a few painkillers to help her sleep at night. Her situation was so dire and she became so desperate that she ultimately tried to commit suicide. In the PRDC the door that separated the room where the women slept from the men was broken, as well was the door to the shower, causing her severe stress.

When she was eventually released, she ended up homeless with no place to sleep. She attempted to stay in the camp in Kos, but authorities there told her it was full and did not let her enter. Instead, she started living in a tent. Even after being released from detention she was still not able to see a doctor or psychologist despite desperately needing both.

To try to escape the dangerous conditions on Kos she decided to leave the island without permission and came to the mainland. In accordance with our requests the applicant is accommodated now in a house and her geographical restriction to Kos was finally lifted.

Find the full decision here.

Unaccompanied Minor Refugees

Application No. 5931/19 - N.N. v. Greece, 19/11/2019

Unaccompanied Minor – Homeless and Duty to register underage

The ECHR ordered to treat an unaccompanied minor as such in accordance with the principle of doubt – a person is to be considered underage as long as it is not proven that she or he is overage. Therefor, the person concerned has to be accommodated accordingly in a way that is not amounting in an inhuman or degrading treatment in the sense of Art. 3 ECHR.

The applicant was 15 years old. He was registered overage in a police station in Northern Greece without in interpreter and was arrested for one night. After, he remained homeless. He got an appointment to formally lodge his asylum application in the middle of December of 2019 (decision from 19/11/2019). Until then, he would have had to live on the streets. He after the decision, in accordance with our requests, had to be registered and accommodated immediately. The court ordered:

  1. treat the applicant as an unaccompanied minor until an age assessment has been,performed (if
    deemed necessary and doubts exist as regards his actual age); and
  2. transfer the applicant to an accommodation with reception conditions which are compatible with Articie 3 of the Convention and the applicant's particular status.

On 28/11/2020, 10 days after the decision, the applicant was still not accommodated, but taken in Protective custody under dire conditions. After a letter of non-compliance the court reacted underlining:

“The Court would also like to draw the parties’ attention to the Court’s recent judgments H.A. and others v. Greece, 19951/16, 28 February 2019 and Sh.D. and Others v. Greece, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, no. 14165/16, 13 June 2019, as regards its conclusions on the practice of protective custody of unaccompanied minors.”

After, the applicant got accommodated in a shelter.

Find the full decision here.

Application No. 55988/19 - N.A. v. Greece, 19/11/2019

Unaccompanied Minor – Protective Custody in Police Station

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) granted interim measures and obliged Greece to immediately release an unaccompanied minor who was kept in ‘protective custody’ in a police station in Athens. He has to be accommodated in suitable conditions until he is going to be transferred to be reunified with his sister in the UK.

The 16-year-old Afghan was arrested when he went to the police station to renew his International Protection Applicants Card. The Dublin-III family reunification with his sister in UK was already approved, and the transfer was scheduled for end of October / beginning of November. For long, he did not know why he was arrested, until the police officer told him, that it was because he was "underage". He was then moved to another police station, where he faced devastating conditions: he was isolated in a five square meters cell without a bed or even a mattress, only with a cement bench in a corner. There was only one shower in the detention facility for a total of 17 prisoners, which the minor could not use in the 18 days of imprisonment, despite his suffering from scabies, that would require regular washing and a medical treatment. The cell was dirty and full of insects, and he could only leave it for using the washrooms.

It is a common practice in Greece to take minors in “protective custody”, justified with the lack of suitable accommodation facilities for minors. However, this practice clearly violates the Right to Liberty (Art. 5 ECHR), as there is no criminal ground for detention.

Find the full decision here.


-----Application No. 61303/19 - A.M. v. Greece, 27/11/2019

Unaccompanied Minor detained in Fylakio Camp and facilitation of family reunion and treatment as UAM within principle of doubt

The case concerns an Afghan unaccompanied minor, whose uncle resides in Germany.

The unaccompanied minor was imprisoned in the camp Fylakio in the north of Greece under unimaginable conditions: with women, children, men crammed together in one room, under horrible hygienic conditions, without suitable activities for children. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) of the Council of Europe called the conditions in the Fylakio Camp 'appalling' in the latest report.

After the European Court of Human Rights granted interim measures indicating to,

  1. treat the applicant as unaccompanied minor until an age assessment has been performed (if deemed necessary and doubts exist as regards his actual age);

  2. transfer the applicant to an accommodation with reception conditions which are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention and the applicant's particular status;

  3. clarify and, as appropriate, facilitate the lodging of the applicant's asylum request and family reunification request

the minor had to be accomodated accordingly and the family reunion to his uncle had to be initiated.

Find the full decision here.

Application No. 65275/19 – W.S. v. Greece, 30/12/2019

Unaccompanied minor attempting suicide in protective Custody

A boy who was living on the streets is to be placed in a humane accommodation. After this, the police took him into 'protective custody'. The conditions there were terrible. He became so desperate that he ultimately tried to commit suicide. A higher member of the Greek administration stated that "these attempts can happen amongst adolescents full of anger.”

After complaint on non-compliance the court delivered the clearest possible answer. The European Court of Human Rights communicated the case to the Greek government asking for submissions on 17/01/2020. The answer is still pending, the government asked for an extension of the deadline.

Find the full decision here.

Application No. 6184/20 – H.M. and R.M. v. Greece, 29/01/2020

Unaccompanied Minors in Fylakio Camp and Facilitation of Family Reunion

Two unaccompanied minors with an older brother legally residing in Germany were kept in the camp Fylakio. Without blankets in winter, sleeping in a room with around 50 other persons together with men, women, families. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) of the Council of Europe called the conditions in the Fylakio Camp 'appalling' in the latest report. The ECHR ordered to

  1. to transfer the applicants to an accommodation with reception conditions which are
    compatible with Article 3 of the Convention and the applicants' particular status as unaccompanied
    minors;
  2. to clarify and, as appropriate, facilitate the lodging of the applicants' asylum requests and family reunification requests.

Find the full decision here.

Application No. 5340/20 - S.A. v. Greece, 24/01/2020

12 year old unaccompanied minor living in the street

A 12 year old boy tried to apply for asylum and to register. He got an appointment for mid March, 2020. In the meantime, he would not be accommodated anywhere as he is not considered an asylum seeker. The court ordered his immediate accommodation and to appoint a guardian for the minor.

Unaccompanied minors are the most vulnerable persons in society. That a court has to tell a state that the most basic needs of a 12-year-old have to be met is intangible.

Find the full decision here.

Application No 12850/20 – I.A. v. Greece, 16/03/2020

Unaccompanied minor living on the streets

An unaccompanied minor refugee lived together with his friend (Application No. 13865/20) on the streets of Athens, moving between Victoria and Exarcheia Square. They got severely beaten up and robbed several times, having also been attacked with knives by drug addicts. The Court ordered to transfer the applicant to an accommodation with reception conditions which are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention and the applicant’s particular status.

the minor had to be accomodated accordingly and the family reunion to his uncle had to be initiated.

Find the full decision here.


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Equal Rights Beyond Borders consists of two seperately registered entities in Greece and Germany.

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