The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday condemned Greece over the living conditions of five unaccompanied migrant minors from Afghanistan, who had arrived in Greece as asylum seekers in 2016, when they were aged between 14 and 17 years old.
They alleged that they had fled Afghanistan because they feared for their lives as members of the Ismaili religious minority.
In February 2016 they were apprehended by the police. Orders were made for their deportation and they were given one month to leave Greek territory. Some of them attempted to cross the border between Greece and North Macedonia but were stopped by the border guards. One was arrested by the Greek police and placed in “protective custody” at Polykastro police station for 24 days. The other four were arrested on the island of Chios and their deportation was ordered; they subsequently crossed to the Greek mainland and made their way to Idomeni, a settlement on the border between Greece and North Macedonia. For approximately one month they were accommodated at the makeshift camp in Idomeni.
The court found that the conditions of detention of three of the applicants in various police stations amounted to degrading treatment, observing that being detained in these places was liable to arouse in the persons concerned feelings of isolation from the outside world, with potentially negative repercussions on their physical and mental well-being.
The court noted that holding them in a police station was tantamount to depriving them of their freedom since the Greek government did not explain why it placed them there instead of alternative accommodation.
Secondly, the Court held that the authorities had not done all that could reasonably be expected of them to fulfil the obligation to provide for and protect four of the applicants, who had lived for a month in the Idomeni camp in an environment unsuitable for adolescents. That obligation was incumbent on the Greek State with regard to persons who were particularly vulnerable because of their age.
While recognising that the Idomeni was fully outside the state's control, the court found that the enlargement and worsening conditions at the camp were to some degree due to the time taken by the state to break up the camp and because it had not provided resources to ease the humanitarian crisis there.
It awarded one of the plaintiffs 4,000 euros compensation and 6,000 euros each for the other four, in addition to 1,500 euros in court expenses.
The case had also been brought against Austria, Croatia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia but the court found that the complaints against them inadmissible.