Greece-Malakasa (photo by

*Greece-Malakasa (photo by


When can a person be detained?

According to Greek law, a person can be detained:

  • If the person has no legal documents and is detained to be returned to their country of origin.
  • If the person has never started any legal proceedings. If the person has never applied for asylum or applied for the issuance of a residence permit, or the relevant application has been rejected and/or the file is closed due to certain conditions that may apply. These include a) a risk of the person absconding, b) a lack of cooperation from the person that could hinder the preparation of return procedures, or c) the person being considered a threat to national security.
  • If the authorities have determined that the person poses a threat to public order or national security, although the person legally resides in Greece.
  • If the person is an applicant for international protection, he or she might be detained for one of the following reasons: a. to determine or verify the person’s identity or nationality or origin, b. to determine those elements on which the application for international protection is based which could not be obtained in the absence of detention, in particular when there is a risk of absconding of the applicant, c. when there is a risk of national security or public order, d. to ensure the transfer of the person under Dublin Regulation (when another country-member of the EU is responsible for examining his or her asylum application) and there is a significant risk of absconding; e. to decide, in the context of a procedure, on the applicant’s right to enter the territory; f. if the person is already in detention when applying for asylum, and it is considered that they applied for asylum only to delay or prevent the execution of deportation. This might be the case when the authorities can establish that the person had access to asylum procedures before arrest.

When a person is detained in view of deportation, a detention decision shall be issued within 3 days of the arrest. The decision must be legally justified, explaining why the person's detention is necessary. The detention decision shall be reviewed by the authorities every three months to examine whether the conditions for detention are still met.

If the authorities consider that the detention of the person is not necessary, they might release the person by issuing a return decision, ordering the person to voluntarily leave the country within the deadline mentioned in the decision. A return decision might provide a period for voluntary departure between 7 and 30 days. The authorities might extend the period for voluntary departure by an appropriate period that cannot exceed 120 days. The specific circumstances of each case are considered, such as the person's length of stay in Greece, the existence of children attending school and other family and social links.

After the expiration of the deadline for voluntary departure, you risk being arrested and placed in detention again unless you obtain legal documents. For example, you can apply for asylum, and therefore, you will be protected from deportation.

Remember that you have the right to apply for asylum while in detention. Please read below.

How long can I be detained?

The law prescribes the maximum time of detention. Detention beyond that period is not lawful.

  • When you are detained in view of deportation (you have not applied for asylum), you can be held for up to 6 months. This period might be extended up to 18 months.
  • Following the lodging of an asylum application, regardless of whether you submit it at liberty or while in detention, you might be detained for an initial period of 50 days (counting from the day of the registration of the application), which might be extended up to 50 days with a maximum limit of 18 months.

Please note that the period of detention in view of deportation (before applying for asylum) is not calculated in the total period of detention. That means a person applying for asylum while in detention might be detained for a prolonged period.


Where can I be detained?

In Greece, the pre-removal Detention Centers are located in the following areas:


Persons applying for asylum at the Reception Centers of Malakasa and Diavata might also be restricted in these premises for a maximum of 25 days to undergo reception and identification procedures and examine their asylum.

You might also be detained in police stations and other police offices throughout the country.

Can I challenge my detention?

You can challenge the detention decision by submitting written objections to the Police within 48 hours after your arrest. If the objections submitted within 48 hours are not accepted, or if you haven’t submitted objections before the Police, you have the right to submit objections before the Administrative court of the place of detention.

For your objections to have better chances to succeed, you should prove that you have bonds with Greece and will not flee if released.

It is more likely not to be considered as a suspect of absconding if:

  • You have a stable residence in Greece.
  • You are working.
  • You can prove your identity.
  • You have family and especially children going to school in Greece.
  • Vulnerability criteria should also be taken into consideration (disability, mental health issues, pregnancy, victim of torture, victim of violence, victim of trafficking etc).

The grounds for objections must be proven by documents such as the following:

  • House contract or a solemn declaration of a third person -holding a house contract- that they will host you when released.
  • Proof of identity (identity card or passport).
  • A solemn declaration of your employer -please note that a person without legal documents cannot work legally, so it is likely that your employer will avoid giving such a declaration, fearing possible legal consequences. In that case, an employer could provide a solemn declaration stating that they are willing to hire you in the future as soon as you are released.
  • Certificates of school attendance for your children, birth certificates in Greece, and family status certificates.
  • Documents prove that you have resided in Greece for a long time, and you might issue legal documents, for example, when you can provide proof of a seven-year stay in Greece.
  • Medical documents, psychosocial reports, etc.

Please consider the following before you proceed:

  • If you are accused of having committed a crime, you shall explain why you do not constitute a threat to public order (it was not a severe crime, or there were Mitigating circumstances.
  • If you are a minor but have been registered as an adult, you should provide documents proving your age if you have any (identity card, passport, birth certificate) and inform the Police and every responsible person in the detention facility (Asylum Service, doctor, social worker). If you have no documents proving your age, it is possible that an age assessment process will be ordered.
  • If the objections are accepted, you will be released, and you will be given a police note that will state a deadline in order to leave the country voluntarily.

You also have the right to submit an appeal within a deadline of 5 days upon issuing the deportation decision before the Police. If the appeal is rejected, the person has the right to submit an annulation application of the relevant decision before the Administrative court within a deadline of 60 days. Please also check our relevant article regarding Deportation and Readmission.

Please note that detention should end when a deportation order cannot be executed. Deportation is forbidden in the following cases:

  • You are a minor attending Greek school, or your parents or guardians reside legally in Greece
  • You are the parent and have the custody of a Greek minor.
  • You are over 80 years of age.
  • You have been granted refugee status, or there is no final decision on your asylum application, though there are exemptions.
  • You are a minor who has been imposed reformative measures by the juvenile court.
  • You are a witness or the victim of a hate crime.
  • You are pregnant or have given birth during the previous 6 months.
  • You presented yourself to the authorities to report that you have been the victim of domestic violence.
  • If you are forced to return to your country of origin or a third country, there is a real risk that you will face torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, or punishment.  

In some of the aforementioned cases, you could be deported if considered dangerous for public order or national security.

What are my rights as a detainee?

During your detention, you have the following rights:

  • To be informed in writing of the reasons why you are detained. You have the right to ask the Police to translate/explain the decision's critical point in a language you understand.
  • To be visited by relatives and your lawyer. Friends can bring any clothes or money you need and give them to the police to hand them to you.
  • To consult a lawyer and have legal assistance.
  • To have access to telephone
  • To have access to medical services and ask for a doctor.
  • To have daily access to a courtyard area
  • To have your own separate bed, free personal hygiene items (shampoo, toothpaste, sanitary towels) and clean sheets and blankets
  • If you are a woman, you are to be held separately from any men unless they are your family members and you consent to be together.
  • To be treated with respect. Ill-treatment of detainees, as well as any behaviour or act of racism, discrimination, or xenophobia, is forbidden by law.
  • You have the right to report to the Ombudsman your detention conditions, possible ill-treatment and/or racist behaviour. The Ombudsman is an independent authority that will investigate your report. You can submit your report on your own at the Ombudsman’s offices (17 Halkokondyli Street, Postal Code 104 32 Athens) following your release from detention or through the online form via post at the address 17 Halkokondyli Street, Postal Code 10432 Athens or via fax at (+30) 213 1306 800 or (+30) 210 7292 129.

For more information you can check the guide of the Organization Greek Council for Refugees:

🔗ENGLISH - Know your rights in immigration detention

🔗FRENCH - Vos droits pendant la rétention administrative

🔗ARABIC - حقوقك أثناء االحتجاز

🔗FARSI - حقوق شما در جریان توقیف

🔗URDU - حراست کے دوران آپ کے حقوق

Can I have legal support?

Though there is a provision for legal aid, the requirements are so difficult to meet that they are inapplicable. Therefore, the Refugee.Info team advises seeking legal aid from an NGO.  You can send us a message to give you more details and provide information on legal aid organizations in Greece that provide services for free. Of course, you have the right to consult a lawyer at your own expense anytime during your detention. It is advised to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.

Please note that if you received a first-instance decision rejecting your asylum application, you can request a lawyer free of charge to submit an appeal. Having a lawyer throughout this procedure is very important, so request the Asylum Service to provide you with a lawyer. If you submit an appeal on your own even though you requested a lawyer (maybe a lawyer was not appointed on time), ask the Asylum Service to mention that in your appeal. 

Can I apply for asylum while I am detained?

Yes, you have the right to apply for asylum while in detention (regardless of where you are being detained, e.g. police station or detention centre), and you can submit your application on your own.

To do this, you must:

  • Inform the police that you want to apply for asylum. The police must register your will to submit an application and inform the Asylum Service. Then, the Asylum Service will register your application and set a date for the examination of your application (interview).
  • When you declare your wish to apply for asylum, you are protected from deportation. If you receive a first-instance decision rejecting your application and submit an appeal against it, you might not be protected from deportation. You are advised to ask the Asylum Service for more information.
  • Even though the law foresees that the asylum application should be examined within the fast-track procedure (the examination should be completed within 20 days from the registration, and in case the first decision is negative and the applicant submits an appeal, the decision should be issued within 10 days), in practice there are delays, so if you apply for asylum while in detention, it is possible that you will be detained for a prolonged period of time.

Find more about the Asylum process. 

It is very important to be well prepared for your interview, to explain in the best way possible what forced you to leave your country and the dangers you will face if you are returned to your country of origin or a third country. You have the right to ask for help from a lawyer to be prepared for the interview. Your lawyer can be present with you during your interview.

Note that if you are in Greece and your close family member lives legally in another European country, you may be able to join them. To do so, tell the authorities you want to apply for Family Reunification while registering your asylum application.

You can also visit the link of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum for Information on the Asylum Procedure for individuals detained or passing through a reception/identification procedure.