By: Brianna Ferrante
Impunity Watch News, Europe
PARIS, France – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned Greece for their treatment of children refugees in a series of cases dating back as early as 2016.
In its February 28th decision, the ECHR’s judgment ordered Greece to pay a total of €4,000 to each of nine migrants who were between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time of their detainment. Six of the individuals were from Syria, two were from Iraq, and one was from Morocco.
Investigation discovered the police and border cells that underage migrants and refugees were being held in post-arrival were entirely unsustainable and isolated living conditions, particularly for the period of time they were held there which ranged from 21 to 33 days.
Complainants alleged that while in this period of “protective custody,” they were subjected to overcrowding within cells, a lack of heating, adequate ventilation or lighting, poor food quality, no outside time, and having to sleep on the floor. There was additionally little to no medical care. The migrants were later transferred to the Diavata refugee camp, and later to separate special facilities for minors.
The ECHR determined that given the length of the holding period, the conditions were degrading and constituted unlawful detention.
In its judgment of this matter: H.A. and Others v. Greece, the ECHR unanimously held Greece liable for violations of: 1) Article 3 prohibition on inhumane or degrading treatment; 2) Article 13 ensuring a right to effective remedy for Article 3 violations; and 3) Articles 5 §§ 1 and 3 ensuring a right to liberty and security / a right to speedy decision on the lawfulness of a detention measure.
The complainants also sought remedy on allegations the Diavata camp was similarly uninhabitable. However, the Court concluded the living conditions at the camp had not exceeded the threshold of seriousness necessary for being actionable under Article 3.
The court gave significant deference to a statement from the National Service of Social Solidarity (“EKKA”), a European committee against the torture and detainment of unaccompanied minors. The statement was in regards for living conditions for minority aged refugees: “holding minors for several days or weeks without providing adequate psychological or social assistance was unacceptable and an actionable deprivation of liberty protected under Article 5 § 1.
In rendering this judgment, the court’s reasoning parallels to its 2012 decision in which it condemned Italy for breaching fundamental human rights when the country’s coastguards intercepted Eritrean and Somali migrant vessels and mandated their recourse. This decision communicated that the facets of the European Convention are expected to be applied in the realm of migration control and treatment.
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