29 October 2019

European Court of Human Rights: Minor is to be released immediately from "protective custody"

It is a common practice in Greece to keep unaccompanied minors in "protective custody" what is justified with the lack of suitable accommodation facilities. However, this practice cleary violates the Right to Liberty (Art. 5 ECHR), as there is no ground for detention - especially not for minors.

Regularly, the conditions in the police station, where the minors are kept, amount in a degrading or inhuman treatment in the sense of Art. 3 ECHR. In a recently granted interim measure, the European Court of Human Rights therefor obliges Greece to

Immediately release the minor and accommodate him in conditions that are not violating Art. 3 ECHR until he is transferred to the UK to be reunified with his sister.

The family reunification with his sister was already approved and in real danger (possible violation of Art. 8 ECHR) as the police officers were not aware of neither the fact nor the upcoming transfer date.

The proceedings were handled by Equal Rights Beyond Borders.

Find the decision here.

Further Reading: Facts of the Case

The 16 year old minor is a Afghan national. The family reunification with his sister, who is residing as a British citizen in the UK was already approved in line with the Dublin-III-Regulation. The transfer is schduled for end of October/beginning of November. When the minor went to the police station to renew his International Protection Applicants Card for a last time, he got arrested. For long he did not do why, until the police officer told him, that he is imprisoned because he would be "underage". He was then moved into another police station were he faced devastating conditions.

He lived alone in one cell of approximately 5 sqm. There were neither beds nor mattresses in the cell. In one corner there is a cement bench. No blankets or other materials were made available. The cell was dirty, full of insects and has never been cleaned in the time the minor was imprisoned. There was no toilet, shower or other washing facilities in the cell. There was only one shower in the detention facility for a total of 17 prisoners who can only be used for an extremely limited time. The minor therefor could not take a shower in the 18 days he was detained in the police station. He suffers from scabies that require constant treatment - that he could not use.

The minor was not allowed to leave the cell for purposes other than using the washrooms. For 18 days, he did not breath fresh air. In the cell, there was no radio, television, or other facilities to be entertained. He was alone in his cell and could not make contact with other detainees to interact socially. He never saw a psychologist or social worker. No activities suitable or especially for children and minors are offered.

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