Accounts from the Inside: The Detention Centres of Evros new report by Pro Asyl
Obviously, Europe’s main concern is the creation of »walls« in order to hinder or to prevent the access to its territory. Physical walls like the fence, the moat and border controls in Evros but also invisible walls that are constituted by the lack of protection to those in need, rights denials, systematic detention, detention and living conditions violating human dignity, Readmission Agreements and the Dublin II Regulation. The effects of these heightening walls have their most tragic face in the many lost and dead at border. This is why we chose to speak about walls of shame in this report.
The 25th of January is the day on which 300 migrants in Greece started a hunger strike. Their demand is a collective legalisation of all the people excluded from Greek society based on their status – be it asylum seekers, not recognised refugees, illegalised people, exploited migrant labourers. It is not the first hunger strike in Greece where human beings are forced to use such a drastic measure to fight for their rights.
The new law removes control over asylum seekers from the police and hands it over to a new asylum service that will deal with a backlog of some 47,000 applicants, many of them awaiting approval for years. The law will also put in place a procedure for appealing rejected asylum requests.
Citizen’s Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said the law would allow Greece to set up a screening process under which illegal migrants “will be voluntarily repatriated or expelled.”
The Guardian released two embassy cables provided by the by now well-known wikileaks cablegate that report on the Greek government’s position and strategy on dealing with irregular migration. This article provides a short summary of the contents. Both reports were written shortly after the change of government in October 2009, in December and February respectively. They don’t offer any surprising insight, but sketch some policy lines.
The first embassy cable, Greece tackles migration and asylum issues confirms that asylum and migration are high priority to the new government, both on a domestic as well as on a European level. From the summary:
asks young Hamis Abdalah Ghasmi from Afghanistan on a piece of cardboard that was slipped to our delegation in Fylakio. And indeed, it is the question all migrants in detention in the Evros region have in mind: Why am I being kept here?
Yesterday, i.e. Saturday, the 18th of December 2010, saw a mobilisation from the Greek antiracist movement to the Evros region, where most of the border crossings happened the last months and where many hundreds of migrants are being detained under comparably horrible circumstances as in the infamous prison of Pagani.
…last Tuesday (4th of December), a riot broke out, one of the most serious to date, at the detention centre at Fylakion in the Evros region, near the town of Orestiada and the FRONTEX headquarters at the Greco-Turkish border. According to the policemen guarding the centre, the sans papiers immigrants short-circuited the electricity network causing a blackout, blocked the sewer system causing the overflow of waste and caused minor damages to the centre’s building.
Special police forces were called in from Orestiada and the sans papiers welcomed them by throwing chlorine detergent at them. They had been supplied bottles of chlorine so that they keep the prison clean by themselves, since no cleaning service is provided for the 3-year old detention centre, where up to 1000 refugees, including families with small children, are being held in a building designed to temporarily host 350 people at a time – with bad water, few toilets, no showers, and no medical or legal help.
During the riot, four sans papiers are said to have escaped.
picture credit: image of Fylakio detention centre taken from wikipedia
Iranian refugees detained in Evros continue wave of hunger strikes
27th November, Athens, by Infomobile
Four Iranians detained at the border station of Feres in northeastern Greece have sewed their mouths in protest of their prolonged detention. Only one of them, a journalist, managed to apply for asylum. The situation in Feres is critical due to overcrowded cells but also because victims of torture, asylum seekers and other vulnerable groups are held for long periods in detention.
In the beginning of October two Iranian refugees started a hunger strike while being in detention in Evros. They stitched their mouths using fibbers from their shoelaces as an act of protest against their deportation and for their right to political asylum. If they wouldn’t had been in a critical medical condition, which led to their transfer to Alexandroupolis hospital, their cases would not have reached the public. They would have been possibly deported back to Iran where they would face imprisonment and execution for political reasons.
Since the early summer of 2010 more and more refugees – mainly coming from Iran – are caught up in the midst of a protection gap. They resorted to hunger strikes as act of political resistance, their last means of struggle, the only way to be heard and helped. Repeatedly they have fought for their right to asylum, some of them succeeded. They also fight for their freedom and basic human rights. Continue reading ‘How the Rabit saved the refugee’
19th September – 22nd October 2009:
After a number of revolts inside the detention centre Pagani on Lesvos island, the prison was finally officially closed and the last refugees left to Athens. Huge numbers of refugees had been imprisoned in the overcrowded prison all over the summer, leading to repeated uprisings. The refugees demanded freedom through hunger strikes, broke the doors of the cells and put the cells on fire. The revolts gained a lot of public attention and media coverage through the noborder action Lesvos 2009.
3rd February 2010:
Refugees detained in Venna put fire on their clothes and mattresses to protest against their prolonged imprisonment and the inhuman detention conditions. Only three days later 42 of them were judged penalties of 4-6 months detention and following deportation without having any access to lawyers and interpreters. Then they were transferred to other prisons in order to isolate them.
In the night of 13th March 2010, 35 detainees set the detention centre of the police station of Patras on fire to protest against their detention and the detention conditions.
124 detained refugees started a hunger strike in the detention centre of Samos protesting against the transfer of 60 refugees from Samos detention centre to a prison close to the Bulgarian border and to protest against their deportation
Interview with F. (17) in Zalaergerszeg detention prison
The following interview was taken under difficult circumstances, on the phone of the prison. We had never seen each other before – it was a friend of a friend who brought us in contact. F. was not in a good mood – but he said that he wants to give testimony what happens in Hungary to the deported. He hopes that maybe, if the authorities knew what happens, they might stop the Dublin-system. He says: For me it’s to late now, but maybe all the others, they should not experience the same!
Zalaergerszeg, 13th Oktober 2010 –
There are two conclusions:
In Hungary the current policy is to detain refugees in general and for longer periods of time. Even if they apply for asylum they will be often detained until the first decision. And also all those, who get deported from other European countries, get imprisoned for often until the limit of six months. Hungary built 11 new detention facilities in the last months.
In Zalaergerszeg there are obviously at least three minors imprisoned for a longer time, who have been deported to Hungary according to DublinII. We fear that these are not single cases and that in the other detention facilities you might also find minors.
It is late in the evening and the small community of homeless Afghans has moved close together to be at least a little bit protected from the rainfalls and the cold of the night. The cardboards used as sofas on the ground are wet. The few umbrellas protect the small children and the women. “It doesn’t matter to me, it matters to the small children. My pullover will become wet, then it will dry. But the babys, the become sick.” A few of the families found some temporary housing solutions, still they come and visit their friends outside in the park. Everybody is just thinking of leaving Greece. But how?
This is the blog of the antiracist network Welcome to Europe. It was formerly known as lesvos09.antira.info.
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!