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. Reforms have been implemented in recent years seeking to address some of these barriers, but some measures were revoked in 2020. Provisions on loss and deprivation of nationality contain explicit safeguards to prevent statelessness in some cases, but not in all.

Last updated: 
Mar 2021
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2022
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 significant 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 sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

There is a lack of comprehensive data on the stateless population in Greece. The last census in 2011 reported data under the category 'stateless or with unspecified nationality'. There are some sources of disaggregated data, which either include a category of ‘stateless’ or potentially overlapping categories, such as ‘unknown citizenship’ or ‘Palestinian’. These include data sets held by the Greek Asylum Service, Hellenic Police, Hellenic Coastguard, and Ministry of Migration Policy. 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.
  • 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; the Appeals Authority for asylum applications; Hellenic Police data on irregular migration; Ministry of Migration Policy data on legal migration; National Centre for Social Solidarity data on unaccompanied minors; Ministry of Citizen Protection data on deportation and returns; and UNHCR data on sea arrivals.
  • 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.
  • According to data provided by the Hellenic Police, people registered under the category ‘registered deportations/returns with detention’ in 2019 included: 31 ‘people with unknown nationality’, 92 ‘people with no country (including stateless)’, 1 ‘person with unclear nationality’, 2,731 ‘Palestinians’, and 2 ‘people from Western Sahara’.

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 procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a stateless status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice.

There is a definition of a stateless person in Greek law in line with the 1954 Convention definition, and a facilitated route to naturalisation for stateless people in Greece. 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 formal training on statelessness for government bodies and the judiciary. Lawyers may have access to ad hoc training on statelessness.
  • Some statelessness content is included in training provided by UNHCR and other actors to relevant competent authorities (for example, Asylum Authorities, Police, Coastguard, Municipalities).
  • 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 (for example, 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, or 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 these procedures.
  • Statelessness may be identified as a relevant fact during international protection procedures.
  • If a person applying for a residence permit is unable to meet the requirement to present a travel document and provides evidence for their objective inability to present a valid travel document, residence may be granted to them as ‘a person deprived of a passport’. The responsible Immigration Committee may consider the degree of integration in the country in their decision.
  • 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 formalised cooperation between agencies that may have contact with stateless people.
  • Statelessness is not determined under any of the procedures. When identifying statelessness, as a general principle, 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).
  • Applications for international protection based on statelessness are assessed against the threshold of ‘reasonable possibility’.
  • There is no clear guidance for public authorities on identifying or assessing statelessness.
  • 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 beneficiaries of international protection have access to the same rights as other beneficiaries of protection, including a residence permit (three years if granted asylum and one year if granted subsidiary protection), travel documents, access to the labour market and vocational training, education, social assistance, family reunification, and accommodation under certain conditions. Asylum-seekers also have access to some protection.
  • Undocumented migrants who did not apply for international protection do not have the right to work, social security, accommodation, education, or healthcare (although people without social insurance who are considered vulnerable have access to public health services). Exceptionally, people with irregular residence status may be able to work in order to cover the urgent needs of the Greek rural economy. Children under 18 can always enrol in public education and have the right to accommodation even if they have not applied for international protection.
  • Only Greek citizens have the right to vote in parliamentary elections in Greece.
  • 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 (550 EUR).
  • When assessing applications for Greek nationality, the competent authority requests an ex officio criminal record certificate, a certificate of non-deportation, and information on whether there are other relevant matters of public or national security.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing 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, how 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.

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. Nevertheless, it allows for the detention of asylum seekers who apply for international protection from detention.
  • Furthermore, since 2019, Greek law allows for the detention of asylum applicants who have applied for international protection at liberty, in certain circumstances (including when there is a need to determine the person’s identity or nationality and even for applicants who are not being detained in view of return/deportation procedures). UNHCR has stated that this expansion of detention grounds is not in line with international law.
  • 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. The detention of an asylum seeker may be successively prolonged up to a maximum of 18 months. The time limit for detention does not include the period of detention for the purpose of removal, thus the total maximum period of immigration detention may reach 36 months (18 months while in the asylum procedure plus 18 months for the purposes of removal).
  • 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  communication between a detainee and 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.
  • 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 up to six months, but have no right to social security, accommodation, education, healthcare, or work (with the exception of work to cover urgent needs of the Greek rural economy). 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 and reduce statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions for the deprivation of nationality.

Greece performs relatively well on the prevention and reduction of statelessness, but there remain some gaps. 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, the safeguard is also 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 citizenship. There are safeguards to prevent statelessness in the case of adoption and children born to nationals abroad acquire Greek citizenship automatically. There are reports of barriers to birth registration for specific groups, including Romani people, undocumented migrants, and asylum seekers. A provision to facilitate acquisition of Greek citizenship by Romani people with a long historical presence in Greece was revoked in 2020. 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 citizenship 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 Greek citizenship 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 citizen adopted by a foreigner before completion of their 18th year can lose their Greek citizenship 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 citizenship on the day of adoption.
  • A child born to Greek citizens acquires Greek citizenship 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 2018, 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. Since 2020, births in hospitals or maternity clinics must be registered digitally through an online birth registration system. There are concerns that the implementation of the new system may have a detrimental impact on access to birth registration for undocumented people.
  • 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 legal framework and procedure for determining Greek citizenship. Under the new online birth registration procedure, access to the citizens taxation system is required to print the birth certificate. It is not yet clear how stateless persons, undocumented migrants, or asylum seekers will be able to access a birth certificate without a social security number to access the taxation system.
  • There are credible reports of barriers to birth registration faced by Romani people. A 2019 legislative amendment facilitating the acquisition of Greek citizenship for Romani people with a long historical presence in Greece was revoked in 2020.
  • It has been reported that in certain regions of Greece, birth registration of asylum-seeking/refugee children has been extremely difficult. The registration procedure was previously only conducted in person, in Greek or with an interpreter (if necessary), and people who do not speak Greek and present to the civil registrar without an interpreter are usually turned away. If they opted for registration through a proxy, they had to have a notarised authorisation, which is costly. The new online registration procedure may address some of these challenges, but it may also introduce new ones (see above).
  • There are no mandatory requirements on civil registry officials to report people with irregular residence status to the immigration authorities.
  • Late registration is possible but there is a penalty fee (30 EUR between 11-90 days after birth and 60 EUR after the 90th 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 measures have been taken aimed at reducing statelessness in recent years, including favourable legal provisions to facilitate birth registration/civil registration, and the signature of a Memorandum of Cooperation on Statelessness prevention and nationality acquisition issues between the Ministry of Interior and UNHCR.
  • However, other measures aimed at reducing statelessness have been revoked in 2020. Under the previous Government, the Ministry of Interior had begun an effort to identify cases of statelessness in the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace, but the current Government has stated that it is not aware of any cases in the area (with no information publicly available on how this data was collected). A new procedure for the acquisition of Greek citizenship by stateless Romani people with a long historical presence in Greece was revoked in 2020.
  • The Greek Citizenship Code includes provisions on deprivation of nationality, which are applied in practice. There are safeguards to prevent statelessness in most cases, except where citizenship was acquired by fraud or where Greek citizenship is deprived on grounds of disloyalty to the Greek State (although there is a safeguard to prevent deprivation resulting in statelessness for the individual’s spouse and/or children in this case).
  • There is no explicit safeguard to prevent renunciation of Greek citizenship resulting in statelessness, although it is implied in the law that the individual holds another nationality, and the request must be approved by the competent authorities.
  • Decisions on deprivation of nationality may be appealed to the administrative court. There is a time limit in place and legal aid is available under general provisions.
  • A new procedure was introduced in 2019 to regulate disputed acquisition of Greek citizenship. According to the law, a public authority or ‘a person with a legitimate interest’ may contest the Greek citizenship of a person, or the legal basis for acquisition of Greek citizenship, by submitting a dispute resolution request before the Citizenship Council. The law explicitly provides for a public authority or ‘interested party’ to contest whether a stateless person acquiring Greek citizenship holds another nationality. In addition to singling out stateless persons, the provisions could more broadly discriminate against those who have acquired Greek citizenship through naturalisation as opposed to Greek citizens by birth.

Resources

Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

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