Migrant Detainees are Rebelling in Greece

By: Fabrika Yfanet

While the state mandate for the Greek population is “we stay home” and “we don’t gather in groups”, this doesn’t apply to the approximately 50,000 migrants. Migrants are stacked by the thousands in various migrant camps, detention centers and police stations, and in overcrowded conditions where they are forced to live, sleep and go to the toilet.

There have already been three migrants infected with COVID-19 in three different camps. All these three centers were placed under quarantine. Banned from leaving, migrants, including those who tested positive, have to deal with the epidemic and its spread while essentially imprisoned in these miserable, muddy and humid migrant centers. Lacking a social security number, they have minimal to no access to protective equipment and medical care.

Against this condition, migrants are constantly breaking the silence of their isolation and engaged in daily struggles. The Greek state is trying to keep them under confinement and isolation by blocking their communication with the “outside world” in order to insulate their struggles from the public sphere. However, the migrants’s persistent struggles breaks has made them visible. In our effort to contribute to breaking their invisibility, we will highlight some of their struggles against the wretched conditions of the pandemic and curfew:

•Three camps are currently under quarantine. In Ritsona camp, where the first twenty cases were randomly discovered, there were conflicts between migrants and the police, after the government decided to quarantine the camp. The camps of Malakassa and Koutsochero in Larissa were soon quarantined as well. In Koutsochero, a whole Roma settlement was also quarantined, despite their intense protests.

•The detention center of Paranesti in Northern Greece essentially functions as a prison for approximately 450 migrants slated for deportation. Here migrants have been protesting against the overcrowding and demanding their immediate release to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Many migrants started a hunger strike which was immediately repressed by unprecedented violence by the riot police. The riot police invaded their cells during the night carrying out beatings and torture that sent many to the hospital in serious condition.

•In the hellish Moria camp, where up to 20,000 migrants live, the first protest gathering demanded the immediate evacuation of the camp because of COVID-19. People from the Base Union of Workers NGO on Lesbos island supported and participated in the protest.

•On April 5th, 60 migrants in the Pre-departure Detention Center of Moria, a prison inside the “prison,” started a hunger strike demanding their immediate release so they would avoid the catastrophic consequences of catching the virus infecting the prison. The hunger strike ended on April 8th after police intervened by carrying out force feeding of hunger strikers. This struggle reached the public many days after the events because the police blocked all communication with the prisoners.

•A few days later, on the occasion of the death of a 16-year-old migrant who was stabbed during fights in the camp, hundreds of migrants in Moria demonstrated to demand rights and safe conditions for everyone.

•On April 15th, migrants who had their asylum applications rejected demonstrated in Moria. Their main slogan was “No rejects, no deports!”

•Detained migrants have also started hunger strikes in the Athens police departments of Glifada, Peristeri, and Vouliagmeni. Some of the detained migrants have been living and working in Greece without legal documentation for as long as 20 years and now have no work. They are protesting against the miserable, overcrowded jail conditions and are demanding to be released.

The decision to not evacuate the migrant camps and detention centers during the pandemic is the equivalent of a death sentence.

All the the migrant camps and detention centers should be immediately evacuated. Housing and access to the public healthcare system should be provided to everyone. All migrants should be legalized.

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