8 April 2020

Clear Words by ECHR: Conditions in Vial violate Art. 3 ECHR for old man in times of 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. We 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 old applicant lives in a small, cramped tent that he shares with several other members of his family. Without a proper mattress. He did not shower for weeks, because to use one of the limited showers, protection seekers have to queue up for hours – what is due to his health situation impossible for the applicant. He therefor uses his drinking water, that is limited to 1.5 liters per day, to wash. An utterly undignified condition.

He and several other residents of Vial we interviewed reported that they have not noticed any significant changes in the camp and that they continue 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.

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.

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