There are people being tortured in concentration camps to the point of permanent injury including blindness; electrical torture devices are being applied to the genitals; political refugees are being kidnapped from the streets and directly handed over to their persecutors, migrants are denied medical treatment, are fed rotten food, , and detained children have been left to starve.
This is Greece and its is happening right here, right now.
Five months ago, Daoud Ahmed lost the use of one of his eyes after a beating from the police while in detention. He appealed to international agencies to intervene on his behalf grant him medical attention and to highlight the cases of torture to permanent injury that were occuring in the detention centres of Greece. Finally on the 22nd June, the Federation of Hospital Doctors of Greece (OENGE) visited him in detention and recommended that he was urgently transferred to medical facilities to receive treatment for his injury. On the 27th June, when they came to collect him, they found that he had been transferred for deportation. Once at the airport he was attacked again, repeatedly punched on the chin, kicked in the stomach and that an electrical torture device was used on his body nine times.
He is not the only one who has been tortured at the airport awaiting deportation. Ivon Valinde suffered shoulder injuries after the electric torture, and Wasi Haider suffered an injured arm as well as having the torture device being put on his genitals. Accompanying this torture was racist abuse and demands for oral sex. Nor is Ahmed the only one to be denied medical treatment while in detention. Zahedan Matzit (Amygdaleza detention camp; prisoner number 1758; cell A610) has spinal problems and a paralysed leg. He is unable even to go to the toilet alone, but is being denied the hospital treatment he needs to take care of the pain and the care support required to assist him with his disability. Instead he is just being left to rot.
Moreover, the very organisations who are supposed to be assisting migrants, are alleged to be colluding with the torture. On On 31 July 2012, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – whose mission statement asserts that they are “committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society“ and claims that its activities “its activities contribute to protecting human rights” signed an agreement with the Greek authorities to offer “assisted voluntary return” to 7,000 undocumented migrants in Greece. This $12 million project is 75% funded by the European Return Fund; 25% by the Greek Government.
It is alleged that representatives from the IOM are circulating around detentions sites and intimidating detained migrants into signing the “voluntary deportation” papers. Threatening that if they do not sign, the authorities will throw a hood over their heads and take them there by force. And indeed, it would seem this is no idle threat. On 21st June, Itzaz Hussein Mohammad Iqbal(Amygdaleza detention camp;prisoner number 775) was forcibly taken to the airport together with another prisoner. When they continued to refuse to sign at the airport, they were beaten, then returned to Amygdaleza where the beating continued; on 24th June, Mohammad Sampir (Amygdaleza detention camp; prisoner number 2412) and Naim SDS (Amygdaleza detention camp; room 10, block 13) were also dragged to the airport and beaten as the police poured out a torrent of racist abuse. The following day, when Vachit Murat (Amygdaleza detention camp, prisoner number 1714, room8, block 13) and Montaser Wadding, (Amygdaleza detention camp, prisoner number 1401, room 8, block 1) refused to sign, they too received similar treatment. With treatment like this it is no wonder that on 30th June there was yet another suicide of a detained migrant.
So far none of the migrants taken from detention for deportation have reported being hooded, as per the veiled threats of the IOM. However in the case of Bulut Yayla, that is exactly what happened. A political refugee fleeing persecution in Turkey, the day before violence broke out in Istanbul, he was snatched from the street beaten and forcibly pushed into a Greek police car, then handcuffed and hooded he was driven to the Turkish border and forced to crawl under a fence where the Turkish police pulled off his hood and announced that he was now in Turkey, and when the anti-terrorist unit arrived he was imprisoned along with nearly 1,000 other students who have participated in political activism. His asylum claim – like so many others – had got “lost in the system” giving him no protection under international law.
Should he have ended up in a Greek Detention centre instead, however, he would have found the conditions little better. In addition to the torture and the lack of medical care, the food is lack of nutritious food is an ongoing issue. Detainees report meagre rations and in one case, several became ill with vomiting and diarrhea after the croissant that they were given as a meal was not only passed its expiry date, but also mouldy.
Indeed in one of the detention centres on Mytilene, 60 children were left without medical care, care staff and with dwindling supplies of food, after its funding was cut off and suppliers refused to provide more, fearing they would not get paid. The Head of Social Welfare for the Northern Aegean reports that the children kept asking where the staff went and if there would be enough food for them to eat tomorrow. Should this institution close, they will be placed in with adults in the main detention centres, where they can be held for up to a year.
Greece doesn’t have a terribly good track record on caring for migrant children – just over a decade ago, over 500 children went “missing” from a state run orphanage, only four were ever traced. A report from the Greek Government (now removed from their website, but the internet has a long memory) notes that 502 children went missing, only 4 of whom were ever accounted for, and also the allegation from Terre des Hommes, that ”…many of the children were extracted from traffickers, who paid up to 500 euros to get the kids out of the institution for the purpose of economic exploitation – prostitution or the sale of their organs“. Both the scale and the likely outcomes of these missing children were dismissed by Greek NGOs at the time, who claimed that children used multiple names, and the scandal was quietly shelved.
One can only hope that institutional care for children in Greece has improved considerably in the last decade, that it is more humane than the treatment given to adults, and that there is indeed enough food for them to eat tomorrow.