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Sunday 19 May 2013

Initiative against the detention hellholes of Piraeus

Source: Anti-Nazi Initiative of Piraeus
Posted by @csyllas, translated from Greek by @anarresti

After the petition below was approved by the 16 May 2013 plenary of the Council of  Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) in the framework of a discussion on the subject of human rights,  it was decided to set up a team of European lawyers which will visit the  police departments where immigrants and refugees are being held under appalling conditions.

The petition, which was drafted by a group of lawyers and citizens from Piraeus and approved by the Board of Directors of the Piraeus Bar Association, is yet another enlightening testimony on the State's arbitrary treatment of foreign immigrants.


Since the onset of the operation “Hospitable Zeus” led by the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection, whose objectives are, chiefly, to repel from the borders and remove from  the center of Athens immigrants who do not hold proper travel or residence documents, thousands of immigrants and refugees are being arrested and detained on a daily basis in anything but “hospitable” detention camps and detention cells of police departments across Greece.

After a month of the widespread hunger strikes by detained migrants and refugees, very little has changed of the appalling and inhumane conditions of their detention. In many cases, tens of people are stacked for months in police detention cells, which are intended for detentions of a few hours, or at most a few days, but also in “concentration camps” where sanitation is nonexistent, where they have hardly any outdoor time, where they have no access to medical care and where they are not even granted the rights of common law prisoners.

Because of these conditions, the detainees have been developing contagious infections, diseases, skin conditions and other illnesses. The detention facilities are completely unsuitable, as in many cases there is no natural light and ventilation, which has even caused dysfunctions to the prisoners' “biological clock”, while there are testimonies of frequent police brutality. All these shape a situation which drives these people to despair and often to the verge of suicide or to actual attempts.

We can list many such hellholes in Greece, especially in the city of Piraeus and the surrounding area, such as the Police departments of Drapetsona, Municipal Theatre, Gallipoli, Nikaia, Keratsini, Salamina, Moschato, where there are sometimes 75 people stacked in 70 sq.m, 20 people in 10 sq.m and so on, without any consideration of their basic needs.

Often, citizens and solidarity institutions, and in some cases officers of the police departments, take it upon themselves to cover these needs (cleaning materials, medicine, food, water etc), in a context of extremely harsh economic and social conditions for the Greek people.

Apart from the detention conditions, the very existence of the “concentration camps” and police departments' detention facilities, which have been converted into prisons, is an affront to fundamental human rights. It has been noted that immigrants are being detained for an indeterminate period time, which may last for months, without having been charged with a specific offense, just because they don't have papers, passports or residence permits. We would say that the facts we report above are a manifestation of the State's arbitrariness in its most extreme form.

The city of Piraeus (where the President of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, the honorable Mr. Evangelos Tsouroulis, serves as a lawyer and is the vice-president of the relevant Bar Association), made national headlines over the past few months, because of the unacceptable detention conditions of immigrants we described above. This picture, however, is not in any way representative the local community, as citizens, organized collectives and even the Piraeus Bar Association not only do not sympathize with these practices but are showing extreme sensitivity and are actively reacting against these inhumane phenomena.

Because, as lawyers and as citizens, we feel that fundamental human rights are being offended, in particular that there is a direct violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR - Articles 3, 8 and 13), which was ratified in domestic legislation by Legislative Decree 53/1974 and thus prevails over any contrary provisions of the law under Article 28 paragraph 1 of the Constitution, and of the ECHR Protocol as well as other provisions of the country's Constitution (Articles 2, 5 and 7), together with a host of other human rights violations due to the existing legal framework and its enforcement mechanisms, or in other cases due to its violation, 
Because there have been Greek judicial decisions, such as the memorable ruling of the Court of Misdemeanours in Igoumenitsa in case No 682/2012, whereby detained immigrants were found innocent for escaping from a police station's detention facilities of 15 sq.m. where, according to the court, more than 30 detainees were stacked together, because it was deemed that due to the appalling detention conditions and the dangers to their health, there was a violation of the ECHR and that, therefore, despite the criminality of their escape act, there was an emergency situation according to Article 32 of the Penal Code, under which the initial imputation of engaging into a felony by escaping was lifted (see attached decision, see also European Court for Human Rights Seydmajed vs Greece No. 6376/15, Kudla vs Poland [GC], No. 30210/96 §§ 92-94, CEDH 2000-XI and Mouisel vs France, No. 67623/01 § 40, CEDH 2002 IX), 
Because it's an affront to humanity to have people buried alive by our side and because this shameful situation must end now, forever,  
Because we believe that the only conditions under which one can live as a human being is the depth and breadth of democracy, as well as respect for the undeniable fundamental rights that were conquered over a long time and with a lot of effort, 

We are addressing the plenary of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe in the context of the session organized in Greece on 16 May 2013 on the subject of HUMAN RIGHTS, and ask it to set up a committee of all the European Bar Associations, which, besides the overall issue of immigration that results from the Dublin Treaty, will highlight in every possible way the matter of appalling detention conditions in our country and the decisions and practices of the Greek governments in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Greek Constitution and the jurisprudence of European Courts.

Piraeus, 15/5/2013

(emphasis ours)

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