Children, even alleged ones, are not to be detained


Children, even alleged ones, are not to be detained

A recent decision of the Administrative Court of Athens safeguards the rights of children and persons under age assessment procedure in Greece

Athens, 2 May 2024

Jamal*, a child from Pakistan, was repeatedly registered by different Greek authorities as an unaccompanied minor. After his arrest by the Greek police and his arbitrary registration as an adult, he was detained in order to be returned. Withoutreasonable doubt, as required by law1, an age assessment procedure was belatedly initiated while the child was already 3months in detention in a Pre-Removal Detention Centre together with adults unknown to him and under conditions completelyunsuitable for children.

For a total of six (6) months the child remained in detention, following a story of Kafkaesque proportions, during which theGreek authorities refused to apply the legal procedure that requires a person to be treated as a minor for as long asthere is doubt about his age2 ("presumption of minority"). It also requires that a Guardian is appointed and that the child willbe placed in a shelter for unaccompanied minors.

By the recent Decision no. 713/2024 of the Administrative Court of Athens it was confirmed that the law is to be interpreted inthe light of the basic principle of the best interests of the child (Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Childand Article 3 of Law 2101/1992) and was made clear that the previous administrative practice was not abiding to the law, given that the authorities are obliged to consider a person under a pending age assessment procedure as a minorand to provide him/her with all services in place for minors until the said procedure is finally concluded. The Court furtherordered that the child should be referred to a shelter for unaccompanied minors.

According to the Committee of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, "the greatest risk would be to send someone who may be a child to a centre for persons identified as adults " 3 

With the support of GCR's legal service, the child was able to successfully challenge his detention before theAdministrative Court of Athens, but this is not the only child who has experienced this administrative treatment. We welcome this landmark judicial decision and we remain committed to defend the rights of unaccompanied children and provide them with the support they need, so as to build a future where every child has the opportunity to thrive, regardless of her/hiscircumstances.

* The name of the child has been changed to protect his anonymity

1 par. 2 and 3 of article 1 of the Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) 9889/2020 (Government Gazette B' 3390/13-8-2020)

2 article 1 par. 11 of the above mentioned JMD and article 41 of law no. 4939/2022

3 N.B.F. v. Spain, 11/2017, 27 September 2018, para. 12.1 and A.L. v. Spain, 16/2017, 31 May 2019, para. 12.12.


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