“Hunger strike until freedom”*
On November 17th, 2014 hundreds of refugees detained administratively in the pre-removal centre of Amygdaleza started to protest massively against the prolonged detention of more than 18 months, against the detention of dozens of minors and the detention conditions that amongst others recently led to the death of two detainees.
“They coop us up here like sheep and then don’t care anymore about us. (…)”
“There are persons detained 26 months. (…)”
“When we say ‘my stomach hurts’, they’d answer ‘my balls hurt’.”
Only on November 6th the 26-year-old Mohammed Asfak died of the consequences of beating by law enforcement officers in Corinth detention centre during one of the uprisings of migrants there 5-6 months ago. His injuries had not been taken care of adequately. He was only transferred to hospital after a break down. For 15 days he had been begging the police to bring him to the hospital as he had respiratory problems. When asking for medical aid, police even replied: “Die, we don’t care.” Only some days after this tragic incident, another detainee from Bangladesh died of lacking sufficient medical aid.
Yesterday, on the third day of hunger strike the Movement against Racism and Fascist Threat (KEERFA) reported of 15 detainees who had been transferred to the hospital after fainting and 90% participation in the hunger strike. KEERFA furthermore said that the detainees chose to go on hunger strike on November 17 as a symbolic move because the particular date marks the 41st anniversary of the student uprising against the junta.
The Amygdaleza detention center is 10 kilometers away from Athens and it is supposed to hold 1,000 inmates. In October 2014, the number of detainees was 1,600. The facility has repeatedly come under serious criticism both due to the indefinite time of the detention of migrants and refugees, as well as the squalid conditions they are held in. Among the approximately 1,600 detainees are many vulnerable groups such as 15-year-old children, asylum seekers, de facto refugees such as Syrians and other nationalities whose deportation is not feasible according to UNHCR such as Eritreans. There are also persons with close relatives in other EU-member states awaiting family reunification, victims of torture who have never been identified by the authorities and sick persons.
“We will fight until freedom”, an underage refugee declared, who has been registered as adult.
At the same time that refugees and migrants in Amygdaleza protest against inhumane detention conditions, illegal detention periods (according to EU law 18 months are the maximum period of administrative detention of migrants) and the imprisonment of minors, at the same time that two migrants died within only one month due to lacking medical aid, the court case against the 65 migrants detained in Amigdaleza who are charged arbitrarily with different penal categories (revolting, violent attempt to escape, severe physical harm, destruction of property etc.) for an uprising on August 10th, 2013 is ongoing.
* the slogan refugees detained in Amigdaleza wrote on some beddings
The hunger strike ended on November 21st after negotiations with the director of the pre-removal centre. Out of 180 detainees who were held more than 18 months 30 had been released with the beginning of the hunger strike, the files of the remaining will be examined on individual level to decide upon their release. Additional, mobile phones were returned to the detainees and it was promised to speak with the catering for improving the food.
Declaration of a detainee in Amigdaleza
Representing the refugees detained in Greece and specifically in Athens (Amygdaleza) I take the initiative to write to you about the behavior of the police towards us the migrants. There are many refugees who are detained for more than two years already and still they are not being released. They are treated in an inhumane way. There are many sick persons amongst us who don’t receive medical care, who are not brought to hospital and not even the elderly who are 50-70 years old.
Muhammed Asfaq from Pakistan, died on Tuesday 11th of November in Menidi* detention centre. He was 25 years old and he had been in detention for two years. The reason of his death was a disease that was not treated. He was not brought to hospital. Specifically, he was not treated with first aid the time he needed instead he stayed for two hours lying on the floor until the ambulance came. He died inside the ambulance.
There are approximately 1,500 refugees and migrants in Menidi. Among them are many sick persons who don’t receive any medication. Not only them but also the mentally sick don’t receive any care. Even it is illegal to detain them. There is also a lot of racism from the police reaching even to ill-treatment like beatings.
The doctor in the detention centre often cannot confront the severe cases of sick persons so he asks for their transfer to hospital by the police. The police never transfer us to the hospitals though. We don’t have enough medicine here and we lack many things needed daily in a mass detention centre such as cleaning articles and personal hygiene products.
Even if we want to return back to our home countries it will take more than six months until we get the required documents.
We often held hunger strikes for up to three days, but no result. Now we will be on hunger strike until something changes.
We ask you to help us, you who you are outside. Help us to fight for our freedom.
S.K. – detainee in Amigdaleza
* By referring to Menidi the detainees are speaking of Amigdaleza detention centre.