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Parliamentary questions
10 December 2009
E-5426/2009
Answer given by Mr Barrot on behalf of the Commission

Under European and international legal standards, Member States have the right to control the entry and residence of third-country nationals in their territory. This includes the right to detain third-country nationals in order to prevent their unauthorised entry into the territory or in the framework of a deportation procedure. Member States must ensure that detention is not illegal or arbitrary, in particular that it is applied in accordance with national law and accompanied by procedural safeguards such as access to an effective remedy before a court or a tribunal. Member States must also guarantee that conditions of detention are appropriate and that the length of detention does not exceed the period reasonably required for the purpose pursued.

The Eurodac system(1) aims at assisting in the determination of the Member State responsible for the assessment of an asylum application and is therefore not of relevance in relation to the application of detention. In the EU acquis, rules on detention regarding asylum applicants are reflected in Council Directive 2003/9/EC (‘the Reception Conditions Directive’)(2) and in Directive 2005/85/EC (the ‘Asylum Procedures Directive’)(3), whereas Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (‘the Return Directive’)(4), sets out standards with regard to those third country-nationals that are detained for the purpose of return procedures. Any legal assessment of whether the detention of persons who fall under the scope of the Return Directive meets the requirements of EC law may only be made once the 2‑year transposition period has expired.

The Commission is currently studying relevant information relating to the situation of asylum‑seekers and migrants in Greece, including those in detention, in the light of applicable EC law. On 3 November 2009, the Commission sent Greece a letter of formal notice, which constitutes the first stage of an infringement procedure, on the issue of access to the asylum procedure, respect of fundamental rights, including the principle of non-refoulement, when conducting border controls and treatment of asylum seeking unaccompanied minors.

The Commission, through the European Refugee Fund (ERF), allocates financial support to Greece to ensure inter alia proper reception conditions for asylum‑seekers and persons in need of international protection. Additionally, the ERF can provide assistance for the implementation of emergency measures aimed at addressing situations of particular pressure on Member States.

The total allocation for Greece under ERF 2009, including financial support through emergency measures of EUR 4.9 million, will amount to EUR 8.2 million.

Under the Greek annual programmes for 2008 and 2009 for the ERF, it is planned to co-finance actions related to both new reception facilities as well as renovation of already existing reception facilities. These facilities are restricted to asylum‑seekers, refugees and persons in need of international protection. In the case of emergency measures, the shelter facilities target persons who may be in need of international protection. For further details on the content of the Greek annual programmes for the ERF, it is possible to access the website http://www.yyka.gov.gr/socialwelfare/eyropaiko-tameio-prosfygon-1.

Expenditure related to the construction or rental costs of buildings for the detention of illegal immigrants can be eligible under the External Borders Fund (EBF) provided that the specific requirements set out in the legal instrument creating the Fund are met in this respect. Currently, Greece implements only one action of this kind under the EBF which concerns the construction of a Hellenic Police station in the town of Kónitsa in the border area with Albania. Although its primary objective is to accommodate the Hellenic Police staff in charge of border control, this infrastructure will include an area for the temporary detention of particular groups of illegal migrants.

Under the Return Fund (RF), there is no possibility to finance the construction as such of detention centres for illegal migrants. However, the RF can be used to assist Member States in meeting certain specific provisions on detention conditions in the Return Directive. In relation to persons who can be considered as potential returnees and who are often housed in such centres, Greece implements under the 2008 and 2009 annual programmes an action concerning the provision of legal, psychological and social assistance.

The Commission carefully studies proposals submitted by Member States for the co-financing of reception facilities in order to ensure that they comply with the rules laid down in the respective decisions establishing the ERF, the RF and the EBF. The reception conditions in these facilities are subject to the general Commission's monitoring powers.

The Greek Government has recently committed to consider possible solutions in order to address the problems regarding the centre of Pagani. According to reports available to the Commission, this includes the temporary closure of the Pagani centre and the construction of a new one in 2010 for the accommodation of illegal migrants. The Commission intends to address the Greek authorities in order to request clarifications with regard to the status of the third-country nationals being held in the Pagani facility.

(1)Council Regulation (EC) No 2725/2000 of 11 December 2000 concerning the establishment of ‘Eurodac’ for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of the Dublin Convention, OJ L 316, 15.12.2000.
(2)Council Directive 2009/3/EC of 27 January 2003 laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum‑seekers, OJ L 31, 6.2.2003.
(3)Council Directive of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status, OJ L 326, 13.12.2005.
(4)Directive 2008/115/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, OJ L 348, 24.12.2008.

OJ C 10 E, 14/01/2011
Last updated: 5 January 2010Legal notice