REPORT FROM THE PROTESTS AT GREEK DETENTION CENTRES
Wednesday (20 July)
More than 1,000 activists from the No Border Camp in Thessaloniki visited detention centres in Xanthi and Paranesti to show solidarity with people being held in detetion.
Nineteen buses left the camp in the morning and headed to the detention centre in Paranesti with a delegation of doctors, lawyers and international volunteers. There they marched in order to gain access to the centre. The Paranesti centre has a capacity of 620 people; according to the detainees, right now, there are between 300 and 400 people staying there, notably from Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco. Detention centres in Greece hold migrants who do not have the correct documents and people who are identified as economic migrants and not as political refugees. These people, because they are not classified as political refugees, are considered “illegal”.
These centres are called pre-removal detention cetnres. They were created in 2012 to deport people, but they are systemically used to keep asylum seekers locked up. Detention centres in Greece have maximum capacity of 6000-7000 people; they are in fact prisons where migrants are detained for months without knowing anything about their legal situation or how long their asylum process will take.
Thanks to the pressure of the solidairty march, an internationl delegation of doctors, lawyers and activists, managed to get into the centre where they were able to document the physical and psychological conditions suffered by the detainees.
PARANESTI DETENTION CENTER
After visiting the centres, there is no doubt in our mind that Paranesti detention centre functions as a prison. Detainees are seperated according to ethnicity in rows of warehouses and surrounding the site they are closed in by high metal fencing andbarbed wire. Each detainee receives 5.80EUR fpocket money (the price of one meal is about 3EUR which they must pay for themselves, so it is not even enough for two meals a day). There is internet access in the camp but cameras in mobile phones are confiscated.
The situation is tragic. The detention centre has the distinct feel of a concentration camp, conjuring up uncanny images of the past. One of the warehouses is used to house minors (under 18s). There are 13 boys between 15 and 18 years old, that have been stuck in the camp for months, alone, without family members, and with no access to information about their future. They are Pakistani and they are not considered to be refugees fleeing conflict or political persecution. However the situaiton in Pakistan is dangerous, as there are some less visible conflicts, which are not officially recognised internationally. It is scandalous that young men are put into detention, just because they are considered irregular immigrants. Note that these people have not commited a crime, as such, but have been accused of “illegally” entering the country.
We met a group of 6 Pakistani detainees, who are part of a religious minority (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community). They were persecuted in their country, and as such should legally be recognised as having political refugee status. Instead, they are detained in this centre without knowing what will happen to them and whether they will have to face their persecutors again.
XANTHI DETENTION CENTER
After that, the protest moved to the detention centre in Xanthi where prior to the solidarity march there has been rioting against the proposal to extend the period of detention. Xanthi detention centre has a capacity of 580 people. To show solidarity to the detainees and to respond to the violence commited against them by the authorities inside the camp (some detainees told us about episodes of beatings), some activists cut through the barbed wire around the periphery of the building. The situation escalated into a fight with the police, and more fences were cut, in order get closer to the centre and shout slogans and word of support through the loudspeaker, against the unfair and senseless situation in which migrants are confined.
Detainees responded to activists with enthusiasm, joining in the singing and shouting of slogans before getting pushed away from the windows of the building by the authorities.
The detention centres are an explicit violation of fundamental human rights. We believe in a world where there are no borders or resistriction on the free movement of people, a world in which there are no 1st and 2nd class citizens, just individuals whose diginity and survival must be protected and ensured.
“Our love for freedom is stronger than your prison”!