Amigdaleza: “When the Great Wolves eat the Light”

by Vasiliki Katrivanou, Parliamentarian of Syriza

“Are you kidding?” I ask the director of the detention centre Amigdaleza with a feeling of indignation and despair when he describes us how normal the centre is functioning despite “individual” problems.

How ‘individual’ are the problems? Hearing for example that you will be held there over 18 months, for “indefinite” periods (following the opinion of the Legal Council of State, which was issued upon request of Mr. Dendias). Young people, who have nothing to do all day, who are detained just because they have no papers, indefinite detainees. And they get crazy! So when there are riots, hunger strikes, suicide attempts, let us not wonder why, let’s not be surprised. The causes, if we want to close our eyes, we know already.

The National Health Operations Centre (ΕΚΕΠΥ) has taken responsibility of the health care inside Amigdaleza four months ago. In the one small clinic, which works for about 1,400 people, we talked with two doctors – a surgeon and a gynecologist – admittedly sophisticated specialties, especially the second, in a detention center for men only. The supply of drugs is extremely problematic, and thus ‘Depon’ (Greek Paracetamol drug) is the king of drugs for all kinds of diseases! We found a man hiding under his beddings for days refusing to communicate, other mentally ill who surely get worse in these circumstances because stress, depression and anxiety are the main symptoms of most detainees. We found a kidney patient who should be hospitalised, a man with a probe, a man whose tongue was cut by the Taliban and which has not healed properly (while it is prohibited to detain torture victims), minors, Syrian refugees – all these categories of people which even with current legislation are illegal to be detained.

Dirt is dominating the places and people. Soap is “distributed every fifteen days,” says the director. But if we had to judge using our sensory organs of sight and smell,it is probably given every three months (every three months we were told, however by prisoners). The rooms are not being cleaned as a tender for cleaning companies is pending. No cleaning articles are provided. The food is scarce and people are hungry, “they give us just as much to keep us alive,” they tell us. And when we talk to the directory about individual persons giving names, they don’t recognise them, only if we give them their numbers – each of them is a number.

It’s the fifth time we visit Amigdaleza. Visits, protests, campaigns, questions, parliamentary questions, international condemnations, representations, statements, interviews, articles … and, nevertheless, the situation worsens. The addiction to barbarism, filth and abandonment leads to complete inaction and all drown ins this, all drown: prisoners, guards, directory. Because even the directory which during our first visits was much more open to arrange small improvements which were still a relief to the lives of people, now seems to have accepted the cynicism, despair and swamp. And I feel an unbearable burden, sadness and anger and wonder what else to do, what will bring change.

The lawyer Vasilis Papastergiou who works since many years with refugees and migrants and recently became a father, wrote: “One day people will come and they will ask us: “Why did you then bear all this?”

There is a scandinavian legend which says that if we have a solar eclipse or a moon eclipse, when the sky darkens this happens because the Great Wolves have begun to eat the heavenly bodies and the light disappears. If people do not cry out and if they do not cry enough, the wolves will not stop, they will eat everything, they will even eat the heaven itself in the end. To stop then wolves, people have to shout; and they should shout loud.

PS. Monday night. Just now, a few minutes after I had finished writing, I heard that the prisoners in the camp of Corinth began a hunger strike to protest their detention beyond eighteen months.

tvxs (in greek)