International law draws a clear
red line between what detention
is and what it is not.
The EU and its Member States increasingly blur this distinction, by going beyond the
red line set by international obligations.
Detention of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers under specific, exceptional circumstances is allowed by European Union. However, in the States at the EU’s main entry points of forced migration massive, inhuman or unclear forms of detention are increasingly being used as deterrence measures
this arbitrary form
of detention is called
de Facto detention
It occours without an official order from
a court or other highert authority
Focus was posed on Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy, for being the main entry points of migration,
in brutal, inhuman and arbitrary practices.
"There are bed bugs in the room and cockroaches. They bite and take blood."
Detainee in Busmantsi detention centre
Bulgaria should cease its practice of detaining asylum-seekers as irregular migrants under the Return Directive. Numerous human rights bodies have recommended the country to refrain from detaining asylum-seekers (including the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture).
Asylum-seekers and migrants in Bulgaria should be empowered to seek compensation for unlawful detention (in accordance with Article 5(5) of the European Convention on Human Rights).
"They caught us and they put us in a military camp. They took my smartphone and my bag with all my clothes. I said that I was from Syria so that they wouldn’t send me back. However, they gathered us and put us in a small boat and sent us back to Turkey."
Turkish adult, 30 years old
"The prison was 2x4 meters in the middle of nowhere. People were urinating, defecating, sleeping and resting, all in one room. They took the women and the children out of the room. Soon afterwards, they brought fifty more people inside. The oxygen was almost finished in the room. We tried to break the door, and this is when they came in and hit us. In the afternoon, they sent us back to the Turkish border in an illegal boat after taking all food, water, bags, belts and shoes from us."
"The toilet had no light and no running water. We didn’t have any bedsheets or pillows. There was a bed and a sponge mattress, but no covers. We didn’t shower for four days, and we used the sink to drink water. The toilets had no locks; even the walls between the toilets were not totally closed off."
"Our children can’t sleep for fear of violence."
Sara Khan, living in the Moria camp
Greece should respect the principle of non-refoulement (the principle that prohibits States from returning refugees to countries or territories in which their lives or freedom may be threatened). It should cease the illegitimate ("de facto") detention of persons entering its territory without documents. It should also cease the alleged unlawful automatic push-backs (informal police measures, through which asylum-seekers and irregular migrants are forced back to a neighbouring country or an external side of the border, without any administrative or judicial decision, without access to a legal counsellor, an interpreter nor the possibility to apply for refugee status).
Greece should not place children in immigration detention. Numerous human rights bodies have called on Greece to amend its national law and abolish immigration detention of children (the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the UN Committee against Torture).
The geographical restrictions imposed on asylum-seekers on the Aegean islands should be removed.
Greece must improve the detention conditions at all its immigration detention centres, as numerous European and international rights agencies have repeatedly required.
"We were five unaccompanied minors in the container. We could not do anything in the container apart from sleeping; there was no space to move around freely. The container was filled with beds and lockers. "
Afghan unaccompanied minor, six weeks in Röszke transit zone
"TThey didn’t tell me why we were detained. We were under constant control by the police, social workers and cameras."
Afghan man with family,
27 days in Röszke transit zone
"Even when we went to the doctors, the police escorted us. I felt like a prisoner, as if I had killed someone. The doctors did nothing; no matter what problems we had they only gave us paracetamol."
Afghan unaccompanied minor, three months in Röszke transit zone
"Psychologically we were in trouble there. Even to this very day I am afraid, and hardly believe that finally I am free."
Iraqi couple 11.5 months in Tompa transit zone
"4-5 police officers always stand behind the door. Sometimes they even shouted at the children who were playing in the yard and told them to go back to their containers. The police were not nice. It felt as if we were prisoners.
Afghan woman, 3 months in Röszke transit zone
"During the 11 months in Tompa we hardly got any clothes, although we asked. I asked for a winter coat but I didn’t get it. The Red Cross told me that they only had raincoats and had no money to buy winter coats. In the end, one of the social workers gave me a jacket."
Iraqi couple 11.5 months in Tompa transit zone
"There were many social workers, but they only played with their mobiles. They did not speak English and could hardly tolerate the children. The school was more like a playroom. The teacher came for like an hour: 'they just pretend as if they do something. Everything is symbolic here.'"
Afghan man with family, 3.5 months in Röszke transit zone
"There was a teacher who came to the transit zone on the weekdays to teach us, but it was pointless because she did not speak English and we had no interpreter. This way we had nothing to do; we were sitting around and thinking a lot – mostly about bad things – during the day. We also slept a lot because we had nothing else to do. We went out sometimes to play football but the guards took the ball away from us so we could not play anymore."
Afghan unaccompanied minor, 1.5 months in Röszke transit zone
"Everyone in the transit zone felt nervous and upset, because they were closed. People were getting aggressive because they had been there for a long time."
Afghan man with family. 27 days in the Röszke transit zone
"The doctor gives the same pills to everyone, so why should I go to see him, even if I have a problem?"
Afghan man with family, 27 days in Röszke transit zone
Hungary should refrain from automatically confining asylum applicants in the transit zones s (as recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee).
Hungary should accept the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that the transit zones are indeed places of detention for asylum-seekers. Therefore, it should begin conducting individual assessments before ordering detention. Hungary should also ensure all detainees due access to procedural guarantees and judicial review, and impose mandatory time frames on the duration of detention. It should also ensure that detention measures are used only as a last resort and for the shortest period of time necessary.
Hungary should not detain vulnerable asylum-seekers, especially single women, children, people with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, or ill people.
The government should reverse its decision to block access to detention centres to experts and civil society organisations with relevant experience, so that they may conduct monitoring visits and inspections, including inside the transit zones.
"We've been here for 8 days, I’m aware about the rules and we are provided with what we need even if we cannot call anyone…and we don’t know where we’ll be transferred… for this I hope to leave early."
Tunisian adult 37 years old
"We can move when we want, no one forces us to standstill, but we must respect the fences. I feel detained, because I've been here for 10 days and nobody tells me when I can go out to go to my mother who is in Ferrara. The space in which I can move remains limited, I do not feel completely free. At the beginning I did not understand why I was here, then they explained it to me even though I still do not know why they do not let me go. At the beginning I thought I was arrested and that was the reason why they were taking my fingerprints"
Tunisian minor 15 years old
"I thought I was detained here because at the beginning I had been arrested, they put handcuffs but I did not understand why and what we have done. Then they explained to me that this is a centre where they must recognize us before letting us free. But I still do not understand why they brought us with handcuffs here!"
Tunisian minor 16 years old
Law Decree 113/18 turned the illegitimate ("de facto") detention at hotspots into a legal and legitimate (de jure) detention. Government officials must establish detailed rules on the implementation of this new form of detention, and lawyers must be given access to the facilities in the same manner as in the pre-removal detentions centres (CPRs). The government must also take steps to ensure that the guarantees and protections provided at CPRs (in line with the recast Reception Conditions Directive) are respected at the hotspots. The identification of any vulnerability must be carried out prior to detention, upon the person’s arrival, and must be taken into account when considering to apply detention measures.