The Greek Ministry of Defence announced on 20 November 2019 new plans for strengthening border control and effecting returns of asylum seekers to Turkey, including the gradual closure of the Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) of Moria, Vial and Vathy on Lesvos, Chios and Samos.
The three facilities, currently hosting nearly 28,000 people despite a combined capacity of 4,502 places, will be replaced by closed centres hosting 5,000 people each. The existing RIC of Leros and Kos will be transformed into closed facilities with a capacity of 1,000 and 2,000 places respectively. The prospective facilities on the five islands are presented as “pre-removal and reception and identification centres”, hosting persons facing return, as well as new arrivals.
Greek law foresees the possibility of imposing a “restriction of freedom of movement” within the premises of a RIC for a maximum of 30 days. This amounts to de facto deprivation of liberty given that individuals are not allowed to enter and exit the facilities.
The RIC on the islands had already been transformed into detention facilities upon the launch of the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, leading several actors such as UNHCR and Médecins Sans Frontières to suspend their activities therein. Due to limited capacity to maintain and run closed facilities with high numbers of people, de facto detention within the RIC of the islands was stopped at the end of 2016.
In the medium term, the government will be establishing more facilities on the mainland. According to available information, 8 to 10 new facilities are to be established in regions including Crete, Peloponnese and Thessaly – no details has been revealed of their expected capacity. These are referred to as “controlled accommodation centres” (ελεγχόμενες δομές φιλοξενίας), where residents will be allowed to enter and exit.
For further information:
- The Guardian, Greece to Replace Island Refugee Camps with ‘Detention Centres’, 20 November 2019
- Al Jazeera, Greece to Shut Down Overcrowded Refugee Camps on Islands, 20 November 2019
- ECRE, Greece: New Restrictions on Rights and Procedural Guarantees in International Protection Bill, 31 October 2019
- AIDA, Country Report Greece, 2018 Update, March 2019
Photo (CC): Alex Griffioen September 2006