New European Court of Human Rights judgment: Greece violates articles 3 and 5

Thursday 20 June 2019

Ronan Toal and Shu Shin Luh of Garden Court acted on behalf of Statewatch as a third party intervener, instructed by Zubier Yazdani of Deighton Pierce Glynn.

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The case was brought by several applicants, who were at the relevant time unaccompanied child asylum seekers, against Greece, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, for violations of Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the systemic deficiencies in the Greek system in protecting this cohort of children, and in respect of neighbouring Balkan states in respect of the impact of the closure of borders which prevented unaccompanied children to make onward travel to other European countries. These countries had closed the Balkans route into the rest of Europe and had effectively trapped migrants into camps for asylum seekers in Greece. Some were being held in police stations without adequate facilities.

Statewatch was concerned about the conditions of guardianship, reception of unaccompanied child asylum seekers and the handling of their protection and asylum claims. Statewatch was also particularly concerned about the closure of the Western Balkans route by countries neighbouring Greece which compounded the inability of unaccompanied child asylum seekers to secure the protection they require from another EU state in circumstances where there was effective protection on offer in Greece.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in yet another judgment that Greece had violated its obligations under Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment (Article 3) and arbitrary detention (Article 5) in respect of the systemic deficiencies within its asylum system as applied to unaccompanied child asylum seekers. Read ECHR's press release,  'Unaccompanied migrant minors stayed in Greece in conditions to their age and circumstances' for more information.

However, and disappointingly, the ECtHR declined to find that the other countries violated Article 3 ECHR by reason of the impact of the closure of the Western Balkan routes.

Ronan Toal and Shu Shin Luh are members of the Garden Court Chambers Immigration team

Since April 2017, Refugee Legal Support - Athens (RLS-Athens) has been offering free legal assistance in Athens to refugees seeking sanctuary in Greece or reunification with their family members. Refugee Legal Support also provides legal support to lawyers involved in cases regarding safe return to Greece. For an information pack, please email rls-executive@googlegroups.com. Shu Shin Luh and a number of other members of Garden Court Chambers’ immigration team have been involved as volunteer lawyers and on the executive committee of RLS. To recognise its achievements, RLS-Athens was awarded the Lexis Nexis Pro Bono Award in 2018. 

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