Greece

The legal and policy framework relating to statelessness in Greece is a mixed picture. There are some areas of good practice, but in many areas, improvements are needed. Greece has a relatively good record of accession to international human rights instruments, but it is party to only one of the four core statelessness instruments. Some limited and partial data is available on the stateless population, but different agencies use different categories in their data collection, and there is no standard guidance for identifying nationality.

There is a definition of a stateless person in Greek law, statelessness may be identified in some administrative procedures, and there are some procedures to facilitate the acquisition of Greek nationality by some stateless people, but there is no mechanism to determine stateless status nor grant other 1954 Convention rights. There are also gaps in the legal framework to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people.
On the prevention and reduction of statelessness, legal safeguards are in place to prevent statelessness among children born on the territory and foundlings, but practical barriers may hinder or delay their implementation. There are barriers to birth registration for some groups, including Romani people, undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in some parts of the country, although reforms have been implemented in recent years seeking to address some of these. On the loss of nationality, safeguards are in place to prevent statelessness in some cases, but not in all.

Last updated: 
Dec 2019
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2021
Country expert(s): 

Additional resources

ASSESSMENT KEY

++POSITIVE
+ SOMEWHAT POSITIVE
+-POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE
--NEGATIVE

ADDITIONAL INFO

-NORMS & GOOD PRACTICE

 

International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are state party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

Greece is state party to the 1954 Convention, but it is not party to the 1961 Convention, nor to the two relevant Council of Europe conventions (European Convention on Nationality and Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession), although it has signed the European Convention on Nationality. Greece is party to all other relevant human rights instruments, except for the convention on migrant workers, without any significant reservations.

  • Greece is State Party to the 1954 Convention with no reservations and the Convention has direct effect.
  • Greece is not State Party to the 1961 Convention.
  • Greece has signed the European Convention on Nationality but has not yet acceded to it and it is not State Party to the Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • Greece is bound by the EU Returns Directive and is State Party to all other relevant regional and international instruments with no reservations, except for the Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are effective measures in place to count stateless people in detention.

There is a lack of comprehensive data on the stateless population in Greece. There is not a discrete category for statelessness in the Greek data collection system. There are some sources of disaggregated data, which either include a category of ‘stateless’ or potentially overlapping categories, including Greek Asylum Service, Hellenic Police, Hellenic Coastguard, and Ministry of Migration Policy data. However, there is no standardised system or guidance for identifying and registering statelessness, so available data is unreliable and statelessness very likely underreported. No data is published on the nationality status of people in immigration detention.

  • Statelessness has not been comprehensively mapped in the Greek context.
  • The last (2011) National Population Census reported that there were 4,825 people who were ‘stateless or with unspecified nationality’ in Greece, but there is not a discrete category for statelessness in the Greek data collection system.
  • Greek authorities use overlapping categories such as ‘unknown citizenship’, ‘undetermined citizenship’, and ‘stateless’.
  • There are other sources of disaggregated data, which either include a category of ‘stateless’ or potentially overlapping categories, such as ‘Palestinian’ or ‘West Sahara’, including Greek Asylum Service statistics on the asylum procedure and relocation scheme; Hellenic Police data on irregular migration; Ministry of Migration Policy data on legal migration; National Centre for Social Solidarity data on unaccompanied minors; UNHCR data on sea arrivals to the Greek islands as provided by the Hellenic Police and Hellenic Coast guard and data on returns from Greece to Turkey in the framework of the EU-Turkey Statement.
  • There is no common system or guidance for identifying and registering the nationality of third country nationals in Greece, so available data on the stateless population is unreliable and very likely underreported.
  • The Hellenic Police gathers data on the nationality of detainees, including on people with unknown nationality, but these figures are not published.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination (SDP) procedure; or, if not, whether there are other procedures or mechanisms by which statelessness can be identified and legal status determined. Countries are subdivided in four groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP in place, those with other administrative procedures, those with a status but no clear mechanism, and those without any status or mechanism. Where a procedure and status exist, these are assessed against norms and good practice, and the rights granted to recognised stateless persons are examined.

There is a definition of a stateless person in Greek law in line with the 1954 Convention definition, and stateless people may acquire the right to naturalise in Greece under more favourable conditions on the same basis as recognised refugees. However, although in 2016 Greek law assigned responsibility for the conduct of a stateless determination procedure to the Greek Asylum Service and provided for the authorisation of a Presidential Decree, this has not yet been issued. There are other administrative procedures through which some stateless people on the territory may be able to have their legal stay assured or status determined, but these are accessible only to specific groups, do not lead to stateless status nor rights under the 1954 Convention, and statelessness determination is not the explicit objective of any of these procedures.

  • Greek law contains a definition of the term ‘stateless’, referring to the 1954 Convention definition of a stateless person.
  • There is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure in Greece, but there are other administrative procedures through which statelessness may be identified in some cases.
  • None of these procedures leads to the formal recognition of stateless status, nor to 1954 Convention rights.
  • A 2016 law assigned responsibility for the conduct of a stateless determination procedure to the Greek Asylum Service and authorised the issuance of a Presidential Decree to regulate an SDP, but this has yet to be issued.
  • There are administrative procedures through which some stateless people on the territory may be able to have their legal stay assured or status determined if they fall within other groups (e.g. Romani people with a long historical presence in Greece, migrants who have permission to enter/stay in Greece but are unable to meet the requirement to present a travel document to receive their residence permit, beneficiaries of international protection) but these are not accessible to all stateless people on the territory, do not lead to stateless status or rights under the 1954 Convention, and statelessness determination is not the explicit objective of any of these procedures.
  • There are no referral mechanisms, nor is access to procedures guaranteed for stateless people seeking recognition of their status.
  • Depending on the procedure, the competent authority may facilitate local access.
  • There is little public information available to stateless people on relevant procedures.
  • There is no central training on statelessness for government bodies. Some statelessness content is included in training provided by UNHCR to competent authorities (e.g. Asylum Authorities, Police, Coast guard, Municipalities)
  • There is no formalised cooperation between agencies that may have contact with stateless people.
  • Generally, the burden of proof for evidencing statelessness lies with the individual to prove that they do not have the nationality of their country of origin (or another country).
  • There is no clear guidance for public authorities.
  • Legal aid is not explicitly foreseen for procedures relating to statelessness or acquisition of nationality, though it may be accessed under the general provisions in Greek law. However, there are practical barriers, for example, a request must be submitted in writing, in Greek, and legal aid is only granted if the legal remedy is not considered manifestly unfounded or inadmissible.
  • A state-funded legal aid scheme is in place for appeals against international protection decisions based on a list of providers managed by the Greek Asylum Service, but capacity is limited.
  • An interview (and interpreter) is always foreseen only in international protection procedures.
  • Decisions are given in writing with reasons according to general rules of administrative procedure.
  • Identification of statelessness through alternative procedures does not lead to permission to stay nor rights under the 1954 Convention.
  • Stateless people acquire the right to apply for naturalisation after three years’ legal stay, on the same basis as recognised refugees. This is a reduction from the standard seven years for others.
  • Stateless people may also benefit from a reduced administrative fee (100 EUR) compared to the standard (700 EUR).

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, focusing in on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as detention decision-making, whether alternatives to detention are legislated for and implemented, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight and effective remedies, as well as protections on release and whether statelessness is considered juridically relevant in bilateral return and readmission agreements.

There are gaps in the legal framework to protect stateless people from immigration detention in Greece and there is evidence that stateless people are detained in practice. There is no consistent individual assessment of the necessity and proportionality of detention in each case, and statelessness is not considered relevant in decisions to detain. Alternatives to detention are provided for in law but are seldomly applied in practice. Procedural safeguards are in place, but there are barriers to accessing these in practice. There are limited protections for stateless people on release from detention.

  • Grounds for pre-removal detention are established in law. Detention for removal is permitted if the person displays a risk of absconding; avoids or hampers the preparation of return or removal; or presents a threat to public order or national security.
  • Greek law provides that third country nationals must not be detained solely because they applied for international protection and explicitly prohibits the detention of asylum seekers who apply for asylum at liberty. Nevertheless, it allows for the detention of asylum seekers who apply for international protection from detention.
  • A proposed country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention. There is no consistent individual assessment mechanism to determine the necessity, proportionality and reasonableness of detention in each individual case.
  • Statelessness is not considered relevant to the decision to detain and stateless people are detained in practice.
  • Individual vulnerability assessments are not carried out prior to the decision to detain.
  • A non-exhaustive list of alternatives to detention is provided by national legislation, both for third-country nationals in removal procedures and asylum seekers, and include regular reporting to the authorities, an obligation to reside in a specific area, and a financial guarantee.
  • However, alternatives are seldomly applied in practice and there is evidence that detention is applied prior to all alternatives being considered.
  • The initial permitted period of detention is up to six months. This can be extended by up to 18 months if return proceedings last longer due to a lack of cooperation of the detainee or delays in obtaining the necessary documents from destination countries. If someone applies for asylum while in detention the limit is 45 days, which can be prolonged for up to three months.
  • Decisions are communicated in writing and must include reasons in fact and law. Detainees must be informed in a language they understand of the reasons of their detention.
  • The authorities must facilitate detainees' communication with their lawyer. However, in practice, provision of information on rights and provision of legal advice on detention is inadequate.
  • The necessity for the continuation of detention must be reviewed every three months by the institution that ordered the detention. If detention is extended, the decision is forwarded to the Administrative Court for approval. However, detainees are not released, even if it becomes evident that their removal will not be possible, as there is no effective mechanism to determine the necessity, proportionality and reasonableness of detention in each individual case.
  • Theoretically, detainees can challenge the decision of their detention through an objection to the president of the administrative court, whose decision cannot be appealed. However, in practice, this is seldom used since detainees are often unaware of their rights.
  • Applicants for international protection are entitled to free legal assistance and representation to challenge the detention order, but in practice this is not available. Legal aid may be requested under the general provisions of Greek law, but this cannot easily be accessed by asylum seekers due to a number of obstacles (the request for legal aid is submitted by an application written in Greek; free legal aid is granted only if the legal remedy for which the legal assistance is requested is not considered manifestly inadmissible or manifestly unfounded.
  • There is no information about any guidance in place governing the process of redocumentation/establishing nationality.
  • People released from detention are not issued with any identification, nor confirmation of their stateless status. However, people released from detention may be issued with documentation such as a decision postponing removal, an administrative note ordering voluntary departure, an administrative note accepting an Objection against detention, a decision granting international protection, or an administrative note ordering appearance before the Asylum Service within 10 days.
  • When a person who has not applied for asylum is released, they are protected from re-detention for six months, but have no right to social security, accommodation, education, healthcare or work. People considered vulnerable and without social insurance may access public health services and pharmaceutical treatment. Minors have the right to education at a public school as well as the right to accommodation.
  • People holding a decision postponing their return have a temporary right to stay as well as the right to be accommodated in public facilities and have their basic needs covered by competent authorities.
  • Time spent in detention is not cumulative.
  • Greece is party to more than 15 bilateral readmission agreements. These can be divided into four categories in terms of how they deal with statelessness: those in which statelessness is not juridically relevant (at least five); those in which the term 'stateless person' is used without meaning/definition/legal effect (at least three); those which provide for stateless persons to be readmitted only if they hold a travel document issued by the state in question permitting return; those which expressly exclude recognised stateless people from readmission.
  • For the purpose of readmission, nationality may be presumed on the basis of different documents (other than ID or travel documents) and, in case of doubt, an interview may take place.
  • Stateless people have been returned to Turkey in the context of implementation of the EU Turkey Statement.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, reduction measures taken by states to prevent statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions regarding withdrawal of nationality.

Greece performs relatively well on the prevention and reduction of statelessness, but there is room for improvement in some areas. There is an automatic safeguard in law to prevent a child being born stateless on the territory. However, in practice, it must be proven that the child does not acquire another nationality at birth and there is no clear guidance on implementation. In the case of foundlings, too, the safeguard is automatic, but the authorities must carry out research into the parents and it is unclear how long the child may need to wait in practice to acquire Greek nationality. There are safeguards to prevent statelessness in the case of adoption and children born to nationals acquire nationality by descent (ius sanguinis). There are reports of barriers to birth registration particularly for Romani people; although, recently, amendments have been made to the law seeking to address this. There are safeguards to prevent statelessness in most cases of loss of nationality, but not all.

  • There are provisions in law for a child born in Greece who would otherwise be stateless to acquire Greek nationality at birth.
  • The conferral of nationality in such cases is automatic although it must be proven that the child does not acquire another nationality at birth, and there is no central guidance on how to prove this. The general rule is that the applicant must substantiate their claim before the administration. Different and often contradictory practices are followed by the competent authorities on this issue.
  • There is no residence requirement for the child or parents and no age limit.
  • There are no specific provisions to protect the right to a nationality of children born to refugees although the law provides for cases where parents cannot assist the Greek authorities in verifying their nationality for objective reasons.
  • There is a provision in law for foundlings to acquire nationality by origin, but this is subject to research by the authorities into the parents, and it is unknown how long the child will have to wait for verification of their nationality.
  • There is no age limit on the acquisition of nationality by foundlings.
  • Generally, according to jurisprudence, the revocation of an administrative act (i.e. recognition of citizenship) after the expiry of a reasonable period is not allowed, unless there are reasons of public interest or fraudulent conduct of the person.
  • A Greek national adopted by a foreigner before completion of their 18th year can lose their Greek nationality at the request of the adopter if they acquire the nationality of their adoptive parent. Each case is decided individually by the Minister of the Interior taking account of the opinion of the Citizenship Council.
  • A foreign child adopted by Greek parents before completion of their 18th year acquires Greek nationality on the day of adoption.
  • A child born to Greek nationals acquires nationality by descent regardless of the place of birth.
  • There are no discriminatory conditions.
  • Greek law provides that all children are registered immediately. A new-born child should be registered with the local birth registry within 10 days of birth, but registration can only take place when the father or mother or any person present during the birth or an authorised representative presents at the civil registry, and upon submission of specific documents or in the absence of documents, testimonies.
  • Generally, the law states that public authorities are obliged not to provide their services to third-country nationals who do not have a passport or other travel document and/or are not residing legally in Greece. However, an exception is made in cases of urgent hospitalisation, childbirth and whenever the patient is a minor. Since August 2018, a new law provides that an undocumented mother about to give birth must be admitted to public hospitals and issued with an ad hoc ID including her personal information based on her statement, solely for the purpose of registering the birth.
  • Birth registration in Greece can be proven by two documents: a birth certificate (which contains factual information (i.e. name of mother, place and time of birth, nationality of parents etc.) and can only be issued to people registered with a municipality (i.e. Greek citizens), and a civil registry certificate (which also contains factual information but can be updated after the time of birth with new/correct information).
  • The birth certificate does not contain information on the child's nationality. There is a clear legal framework and procedure for determining Greek nationality, which was amended and improved in March 2019.
  • There are credible reports of barriers to birth registration faced by Romani people. Two laws were introduced in 2018 and 2019 aiming to solve these problems.
  • In certain regions of Greece, birth registration of asylum-seeking/refugee children is extremely difficult, while in the capital it is easier. As the registration procedure is conducted in Greek or with an interpreter (if necessary), people who do not speak Greek and present to the civil registrar without an interpreter are usually turned away. If they opt for registration through a proxy, they must have a notarised authorisation, which is costly.
  • There are no mandatory requirements on civil registry officials to report irregular migrants.
  • Late registration is possible but there is a penalty fee (100 EUR between 11-100 days after birth and 300 EUR after the 100th day)
  • There are particular sections of the Greek population believed to be stateless or at risk of statelessness, including a small number of people in the Thrace area (this population consists of  members of the Muslim Minority of Western Thrace deprived of their Greek citizenship in 1955 and a small number of people from the Former Soviet Union); some Romani people; a (probably) small number of people who are members of the Greek Orthodox genos (homogenis from Constantinople and the islands of Imvros or Tenedos) who were born in Turkey or Greece and live in Greece; children of beneficiaries of international protection  born in Greece whose births must be registered with the consular authority of their country; children born in Greece whose birth must be registered with the consular authority of their country and no such authority exists in Greece.
  • Some recent measures have been taken aimed at reducing statelessness. The Ministry of Interior began an effort to identify cases in the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace area to resolve their statelessness; a new law introduced a procedure in 2019 for the acquisition of Greek nationality by stateless Romani people with a long historical presence in Greece; favourable legal provisions have been enacted to facilitate birth registration/civil registration in recent years; the Ministry of Interior and UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on Statelessness prevention and nationality acquisition issues.
  • The Greek Citizenship Code includes provisions on loss and deprivation of nationality, which are applied in practice. There are safeguards to prevent statelessness in most cases except for a) cases of disloyalty to the Greek State and b) cases of nationality loss due to voluntary renunciation of nationality.
  • In the case of loss of nationality through acquisition of a foreign nationality, protection from statelessness is absolute.
  • In the case of revocation of nationality, protection from statelessness covers only the spouse/children of the person concerned. Nationality may be revoked if the person takes a public position in a foreign country against the wishes of the Ministry of Interior; or if the person acts against the interests of Greece while abroad; or if the person acquired Greek nationality as a novice of Mount Athos and then left the community.
  • There is no explicit protection from statelessness in the case of renunciation by declaration, although the request must be approved by the competent authorities.
  • The protection from statelessness is absolute for children of foreign nationals who became Greek nationals as minors and renounced Greek nationality (if renunciation would render them stateless). There are also protections in place for women and children who lost their Greek nationality through marriage to a foreign national or through a father's nationality being acquired at birth, to reacquire their Greek nationality upon declaration.
  • There is no protection from statelessness if the person acquired their Greek nationality through fraud.
  • Appeals are possible to the administrative court. There is a time limit in place and legal aid is available under general provisions.

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