Brief report from the field: Pagani emergency

The European elections, that took place during June 2009, brought the ultra right wing party “LAOS” to the fourth place for the first time in the recent Greek history. “LAOS” made a very open anti-migrant campaign based on the national security and immigration control. The support of this movement by the Greek media was and still is very obvious and, consequently, after the elections, the agenda that “LAOS” has set, has been adopted by several institutions and politicians across the political spectrum and mostly from the governmental parties, called “New Democracy” and “PASOK” (Greek Socialist Party).

One of the outcomes of the above mentioned conservative and xenophobic campaign was the very recent presidential decree 81/09, which assigns the examination of asylum claims exclusively to police directors. It further deprives asylum seekers of the right to have their asylum claim examined at second instance, in violation of European standards.

Recent legislative changes extend the duration of administrative detention to up to one year. They thus allow the disproportionally strict deprivation of liberty of people who have not violated any other law apart from lacking necessary administrative documents.

A new provision gives the possibility to police directors to order the expulsion of every third country national who is being prosecuted for misdemeanours, without requiring his prior final conviction by a court. It is a provision which, among others, flagrantly violates the presumption of innocence.

Three weeks ago the police started sending people to the Evros region. Evros region is in the north-east of Greece and is separated from Turkey by a river. In Evros there are various detention centers. We do not have access to any of them and we do not have any control of what is exactly happening there. We had some records from asylum seekers that have been illegaly deported (refoulement) back to Turkey. In the last months there were also several reactions in form of demonstrations and direct actions against “prisoner switching” in Mytilini, Samos, Chios, Chania, Athens, Thessaloniki and Kavala, since police has started transferring prisoners in handcuffs to detention centres, where no one has access.

Concerning the island of Lesvos, there are more than eight hundred refugees detained in Pagani. In the above mentioned number there are almost one hundred and fifty women detained with their children and babies and almost two hundred and fifty unaccompanied minors. Most of the vulnerable like minors, old people, pregnant women and sick people are detained for more than one and a half month! The conditions inside Pagani are horrible, since the refugees have to share one bathroom in each ‘‘room’’ with more than one hundred people. The temperature is very high and there are not enough beds, so many have to sleep on the floor. The medical service and support is deficient with only two doctors understaffed. The prisoners are rarely allowed to take a walk in the prison yard. Two NGOs (Ecoumenical Programme for Refugees and Medicins Sans Frontiers) have access and the UNHCR too.

In addition, close to the village of Agiasos in Lesvos, there is a reception centre for unaccompanied minors called Villa Azadi. This centre was established, in June 2008, after a hunger strike from minors in the detention centre of Pagani. At this time the Villa Azadi cannot accommodate any more minors, because it is full of people and there is no more space for any more. During the last days the minors in Pagani were in a hunger strike again, and demanded for freedom.

The situation inside the detention centre is very stressed…

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This is the blog of the antiracist network Welcome to Europe. It was formerly known as


The name Welcome to Europe expresses the discontent and anger we feel when looking at the fatal realities of the European external border: the long documented deaths and suffering have continued for years, and no end is in sight. We stand for a grassroots movement that embraces migration and wants to create a Europe of hospitality.


We maintain our focus on the European external border in Greece, but will not limit ourselves to that geographical area. The right of freely roaming the globe has to be fought for everywhere. Join us!


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Voices from the Inside of Pagani (2009)

Watch the video