Saturday 17 August 2013

Greece's Guantanamo?

An uprising broke out in the Amygdaleza detention centre outside Athens on Saturday night. Greece has become a point of entry for immigrants and asylum seekers, mainly from Asia and Africa, who seek a better life in Europe, and who end up in detention centres instead: 1620 are held at Amagdaleza.

Just over a year ago Operation Xenios Zeus was put in place aimed at arresting and detaining illegal immigrants of mainly Asian and African origin who are transported to make-shift detention centres and kept there in appalling conditions. The number of those detained has grown to 5,000, with Dendias, the Minister for Public Order, recently announcing that camp capacity is to double.

The conditions in the camps are dreadful and are routinely condemned by international human rights agencies, but little changes. There was no soap for a month and a half in Amygdaleza according to Syriza MP Vasiliki Katrivanou and in some cases the detainees are kept in cells that have no daylight. Over 300 cases of scabies have been treated in the past few months. Inmates with tuberculosis, diabetes and kidney infections are also held there with little access to healthcare. A lot have started experiencing severe psychiatric problems and there are quite a lot of suicide attempts. There were three reported suicide attempts in Amygdaleza recently, where inmates broke windows and attempted to slit their throats with the shards of glass. A number of detainees went on hunger strike last month, demanding their release.

The windows of the old army barracks that is now the detention centre have bars while other detainees are held in shipping containers. Following the hunger strike, ten representatives from various humanitarian groups were allowed to go inside the camp. They issued the following statement: '...detention conditions remain appalling... overcrowding, minimal hygiene, inadequate or no courtyard, inadequate or no medical care, cases of police brutality. Thousands of people are herded into the cells of the detention centre without any concern for their welfare, without even any rights as prisoners'.

There are 45 boys kept in the detention centre for minors in Amygdaleza. There is no daylight in their cells so they mainly live under artificial light. When asked, they say they don't know why they are there.

On Saturday night, having discovered that they were now to be held for 18 months rather than the original 12 under which they were initially detained, the detainees had had enough! They refused to return to their sleeping quarters and set fire to their mattresses. According to one report electricity at the camp had been cut off a number of days previously. Sotiris Douros, the mayor of the region, told the media he regarded the rebellion as inevitable and noted that the municipal government had long warned about the risk of such an event. He described conditions at the camp as unbearable.

This video, following a visit of Green MEPs on 30 November 2012 in Amygdaleza, says it all.

Unfortunately, Greece is not the only European country exhibiting such racist, inhumane behaviour. The government in Switzerland just passed a law which segregates immigrant groups from public spaces and which will also relegate them to detention camps. New rules mean that people can no longer seek asylum for being conscientious objectors or deserting foreign militaries. Local authorities are introducing restrictions on asylum seekers, with the establishment of exclusion zones in public spaces which they cannot enter - these include swimming pools, libraries and churches. They are to be put in detention centres which will be guarded by the police and where they are subjected to a curfew which forbids them to leave the premises after 17:00.

Racism is rearing its ugly head all over Europe making life for people of colour intolerable.


The Guardian
The Independent

No comments:

Post a Comment