During the last four (4) years in Greece, policy decisions concerning the detention implementation are constantly changing. In 2015, the number of detainees as well as the duration of detention were significantly reduced and were adopted measures to tackle the prolongation of detention beyond 18 months, to substantially improve detention conditions, as well as to use alternative measures to detention. In 2016, following the closure of the borders at the “Balkan-route” and the adoption of the EU-Turkey Statement in March 2016, Greece returned to a widespread use of detention. Administrative detention was gradually resumed to persons in view of their removal based mainly on public order grounds which is usually not properly justified as well as the danger of absconding. On the top of that, following the elections in July 2019, the new government has already announced the establishment of new Pre-Removal Detention Centers in Greece which aiming to the systematic and widespread use of detention, as a measure both to discourage the arrival of third-country nationals in Greece as well as to facilitate the return of the existing population to their countries of origin when is applicable.

In general, administrative detention is implemented without prior individualized assessment on each case and without taking into consideration the vulnerabilities and specific needs of each individual, in contravention of the international, European and national legislation, according to which the administrative detention can be implemented only as a measure of last resort, following an individualized assessment as well as the prior examination of the possibility to implement alternatives. In addition, detention facilities are overcrowded, and the detention conditions are most of the times inappropriate (inadequate access to basic services, poor provision of medical and psychosocial services) or even completely unsuitable, while many persons remain in Police Stations for long periods (even for months) under very challenging conditions (no yarding, no access to basic services). Furthermore, many third country nationals are being detained for long periods, although there is no reasonable prospect of being returned for various reasons (return is impossible, consular authorities do not cooperate, economical obstacles etc). In such cases, following the exhaustion of the time limits for detention (without being returned) they are becoming «foreign nationals without legal documentation» in the risk to be detained again.

Another significant prospect is the rapidly increasing number of the population that is becoming undocumented. Taking under consideration Greek Asylum’s Service statistics pertaining the recognition rate in 1st and 2nd instance in conjunction with the Police rates pertaining the returns we can safely assume that in the coming period we’ll see the undocumented population with no reasonable prospect of removal further increasing. On top of that, many cases of persons becoming undocumented are identified as extremely vulnerable population (e.g single mother with minor’s former domestic violence victim etc) with limited supporting social network completely unable to ensure their welfare, as well as access food banks for fear of arrest.

Thus, HumanRights360 aiming at reducing immigration detention in persons in which there is no reasonable prospect of removal and are at the risk of being in detention or are already under detention has deployed one case worker and one lawyer in order to promote engagement-based Alternatives to detention in the municipalities in three coordinated approaches:

Case management: identifying groups at risk of detention or/and under detention who could be managed in the community and have no prospect to be returned; developing criteria, procedures and frameworks and delivering an individualised and holistic case management aiming to empower and support this population in achieving case resolution in a community based approach

Advocacy and communications: (a) demonstrate, through evidence provision that alternatives to detention are more effective, humane and cheaper than detention, (b) capacity building of all the authorities and actors involved to the implementation of the alternatives to detention as well as some existing legislative provisions that are not implemented in a systematic way (eg. 6 months postponement of removal), (c) establish alliances in the municipalities where this population is residing (people become homeless or work on them)

Participating in the International Detention Coalition-IDC (https://idcoalition.org/) which enhances the exchange of best practices between the participating countries, supports the development of  shared data collection tools so that to build collective knowledge on ATD implementation and advocacy and strengthen the evidence base. IDC supports the Network’s EU-level advocacy, so that there is increased support and pressure from the EU to develop alternatives and reduce detention

Project with which we implement alternatives to detention is

Community based alternatives to detention in Greece, with the support of EPIM