ECtHR to assess whether sending asylum seekers back to Greece violate the European Human Rights Convention
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held a hearing on 1 September in the case MSS v. Belgium and Greece.
This leading case is about an Afghan asylum seeker who entered the EU in 2008 via Greece and travelled on to Belgium. Despite an appeal against a transfer under the Dublin II Regulation, he was sent back to Greece in June 2009 and detained for several days in the “appalling conditions” he had feared. Still today he is waiting for his first interview with the Greek asylum authorities. The referral to the ECtHR relies on Articles 2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) and 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In his first-ever oral intervention as a third party before the Court, Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said that “asylum seekers, including persons transferred under the ‘Dublin Regulation’, face extremely harsh conditions in Greece”, a particular concern being that asylum seekers transferred to Greece may face the risk of being returned to a country where ‘their live and limb would be in danger’. He also recalled that the reception conditions in Greece are far from satisfactory. His intervention was based on his visits to Greece in December 2008 and February 2010. UNHCR also took part to the hearing as a third-party and expressed concerns about the Greek asylum system, considering that it presently fails to provide protection against the risk of refoulement or forced return, and that reception and detention conditions, among other things, are gravely inadequate.
In July 2010, Judge Justice Maureen Clark from the Irish High Court, announced that she planned to refer a case involving five asylum seekers facing transfer to Greece from Ireland to the European Court of Justice.