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The European Court of Human Rights suspends return of seriously ill Afghan minor asylum seeker from Hungary to Greece under the Dublin Regulation

The European Court of Human Rights requested the Hungarian government to suspend the return of an unaccompanied 16-yar old Afghan asylum seeker to Greece under the Dublin Regulation on Friday, 26 February.

The Afghan youngster was given free legal assistance by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), a Hungarian human rights NGO that assists refugees inHungary. The young boy fled Afghanistan as a child and arrived in Greece in 2007. Although he asked for asylum, he did not receive any social or legal assistance and he was forced to live on the streets homeless under inhuman conditions. He was arrested and detained in Athens and elsewhere in overcrowded and dirty jails on several occasions. The police harassed him and beat him several times. He became seriously ill because of the lack of proper accommodation, adequate hygienic conditions and medical assistance, but was not given any medical treatment in Greece.

In late 2009, the Afghan boy arrived in Hungary and applied for asylum. The Hungarian asylum agency decided to apply the Dublin Regulation (a European Union law that determines which EU member state is responsible for examining the asylum claim) and ordered his return to Greece in January 2010.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, representing the Afghan minor, requested urgent measures from the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights to suspend the transfer to Greece. The HHC argued that in light of their client’s previous traumatizing experiences and well-documented evidence available on the Greek asylum system’s serious flaws, the young boy’s return to Greece would violate his right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment, as he would not have access to protection, including proper health care as an unaccompanied minor asylum seeker in Greece.

The European Court of Human Rights decided to apply interim measures and asked the Hungarian government not to enforce the transfer to Greece until 26 March 2010. This was the first time where the Court applied interim measures in a Hungarian asylum case involving a transfer to Greece under the Dublin Regulation.

The Hungarian immigration office decided not to enforce the transfer to Greece and to examine the Afghan minor’s asylum application in the regular asylum procedure.


The hardships and lack of protection available to asylum seekers in Greece is a widely known problem. Numerous international organisations and human rights NGOs have investigated the precarious situation of children seeking asylum inGreece and found that Greece fails to offer even minimum standard of protection for them. The unfairness and the ineffectiveness of the Dublin system have been highlighted through returns to Greece that violate human rights standards.

In December 2009, the UN refugee agency found that the Greek asylum and reception system fail to meet European minimum standards and called on EU states to refrain from returning asylum seekers to Greece. The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner reported that the Greek reception system for asylum seeking children fails to meet European standards of protection.

In November 2009, European NGOs filed a formal complaint with the European Commission, arguing that by failing to improve the appalling conditions for asylum seekers, Greece is blatantly violating EU asylum law.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Observations on Greece as a country of asylum, December 2009 is available here.

Human Rights Watch: Unsafe and Unwelcoming Shores, October 2009 is available here.

Report by Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, following his visit to Greece, 8-10 December 2008, CommDH(2009)6, Strasbourg, 4 February 2009 is available here.


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Hungarian Helsinki Committee