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Inside the fascist core of the greek state: A conversation with the #PetrouRalli8 migrants

A conversation between female comrades of the Community of Kukaki’s Squats and eight ex-detained migrants from Algeria – known from the case of the “8 of Petrou Ralli”.

Originally published on Athens Indymedia as PDF document (Greek and English).

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Following is a series of testimonies from several different voices with common experiences. It is the result of conversations between eight ex-detained migrants from Algeria – known from the case of the “8 of Petrou Ralli” – with female comrades from the Community of Kukaki’s Squats. The purpose of the text is to give visibility to the reality that the migrants imprisoned in the centres for administrative detention and camps face every day. Those who delivered these testimonies, do no want to serve the spectacle through which many westerners, in greece and elsewhere, consume the migrant’s situation. It is not written from the position of a journalist or an academic researcher. On the contrary, we fought to take these people out of the prison, we live together, in a community struggling against the same threat. It is the outcome of their political will and trust, products of a long term communication that was created by the Coordination of Collectives and Individuals Against the Detention Centres (SSAEKΚ) since the moment they were in greek prisons until today that are hosted in the structures of the movement. Political will to share their experiences and uncover fascism for the next. Trust in the ability of the movement to break the system that invisiblises them. These testimonies enable us to perceive better the structures we fight against, fascist structures of confinement that operate as businesses. In order to understand what it means to encage people, all the horror had to be laid bare. The horror of the greek, white supremacy and its concrete reality, that humans live in their flesh and through their existence.

First-world colonialism enforces migration to populations and sells them the new european dream. From the moment one takes the decision to escape a country due to its financial and political actuality finds himself, herself struggling to pass the borders and avoid the prisons of the various fortress states, as part of a crowded mass. Imprisonment for migrants in europe and in greece can take many forms. One of them is the administrative detention. The free transportation of a person is decided on the base of hers, his papers. Ifthey are not accepted, they violently transfer the arrested to the nearest detention centre. The cops through a horrendous control try to tune the bodies in order to respond to a torturing frame, a situation that is extended to the irrational time realm of bureaucracy.But the bodies react to this dystopic reality. They shout to demand their rights. They act. They set mattresses on fire. They organise hunger strikes. They reach to suicide. During solidarity gatherings, they try to communicate their word with their voices and throw messages in bottles over the fences.

The police is really afraid of the these acts of revolt. They fear an organised migrants’ resistance. So, they violently suppress them with any means possible. It is usual to isolate them from the outside world, blocking any kind of external encouragement to reach them. They want to prevent their information and their co-organisation.On 2017, eight detainees in Petrou Ralli, all from Algeria, were requesting to meet the director of the prison to obtain accurate information about the reasons of their imprisonment. Their request was met by fierce beating and severe wounds (broken arms, skull fracture, etc.). They accused them for revolt and escape attempt and dispersed them in different prisons around greece. They awaited trial for over a year.

A multiform struggle arose as the needful reaction to the situation. SSAEKΚ, in which comrades from Squat’s Community of Kukaki participate, was in a constant, direct communication with the detainees, conducted a counter-information campaign, organised solidarity gatherings, events in open spaces and interventions.

In May 2018, even though the court found them guilty, allowed their release. We offered them housing in the structures of Kukaki’s Squats. We are a community, liberating our needs from state’s and capitalism’s exploitation and organising our lives without hierarchy. In our spaces they were able to stay together, rest and recuperate from the jail time, stay away from the mafia and thepolice abuse of the peoplein the streets. They are able to take time and explore all the available options on how to continue their lives from now on.

As the time passed, we bonded more, building friendship and comradeship. We lived together for more than three months. In those months, some left for work or found other places to live, some chose to visit us periodically. But we extended a family and our abilities to support the struggle of those who try to reach europe and establish common ground for actions against imprisonment, state borders, police brutality and fascism.

In their words..

We are all from Algeria but each of us have a different story of how we reached to greece. Four of us came through turkey and arrived in Chios island, to a very miserable camp managed by certain NGOs. Food was not provided and we were housed in tents. Fascists attacked us. Around 80 individuals defended the camp against them. When the police entered, two hours later, they only arrested the Algerians.

We ended up in the detention centre of Korinthos, imprisoned for seven months. Cops are also fascists. They don’t like Arabs and they treated us very badly in the prison. One of us was sick and also has asthma but they never transferred him to the hospital. This is a hardcore jail. Food is not enough, you have to buy everything and a lot of people get sick because of the bad hygiene. People there, self-harm as a way to get out and numerous attempted suicide. We did some demonstrations inside the prison because the cops weren’t accepting asylum requests. We also organised mass hunger strikes. We managed to do four strikes of four days each. The police responded by beating us with their sticks. During our stay there, we were constantly itching, scratching and having serious skin conditions. We were asking the cops to bring us to the hospital every single day but they never cared. One of us managed to cure himself of the infections by buying his own medicines, only a year after when he was in Domokos prison. Before Petrou Ralli, the sent us to other detention centres without any explanation. In Nafplio, in Tripoli… There, the police had a lot of problems with us and they finally sent us to “Alodapon” detention centre in Athens. We met with the others that were already in the cell and together we became “the 8”.

The first that you see when you arrive in Alodapon is the face of the police. A hard face “welcomes” you, especially if you are Algerian. They push you until in the entrance of the building. “Mesa, mesa!” (Inside, inside). They treat you badly from the beginning, they try to provoke, they always make racist comments: “Go back to your country!”, “Why did you come here?”, “What are you doing in greece?”. From the first moment, we started communicating with the other prisoners. We asked questions like: “Why are you here?”, “How is the situation in here?” and “When are you getting out?”. But no one knew the answer for the last one.

To make make more clear the time some of the detained spend in, there is a very characteristic example. When we firstly arrived in P. Ralli, we met a man. A year after, when we passed again by Alodapon, to get our release papers, we found the man there. He was detained for 14 months.

The second is the day you are really experiencing thing, the serious things. The cops were intimidating us because we were trying to figure out how it works inside. When you ask them the duration of your stay, you will see that it is common to bring someone out of his cell, to the yard or to a desk and beat him. Once, someone came back with a fractured shoulder.

It’s really very dirty inside. They don’t provide with basic and hygiene supplies. There are no bedsheets, towels, shampoo, soap or razors. Everyone shouts to understand what the fuck is happening here. We are literally like animals in cages, screamed at and beaten up. The water comes from a dirty stock. They don’t give you water bottles so you have to drink from there. The food is little and disgusting. They don’t give spoons for everyone so we were eating with our dirty hands. Like this, infections are spread fast. The bedbugs, the mosquitoes and the cockroaches can be life-threatening in the big quantities they are. All the beds are infected with bed bugs and you can’t sit anywhere without getting bitten. When the police try to flush the insects out with petrol, they went everywhere and were bitingus. The mattresses are so infected that it is impossible to sleep normally. You can never really sleep.

The Red Cross brought bedsheets but the police doesn’t give the things brought by the NGOs. They come maybe once per month and the actual conditions of the cells are hidden from them. Instead, they clean a cell up and show them only that. The european union is making a lot of money to keep people in jails like this. Inside everything is about money also.They make a business out of telephones, alcohol, medicines and drugs. If you have money the corrupted cops bring everything for you. You can get bublecan (benzodiazepines) or shisha (the local name for crystal meth) for a hundred euros. Many people take Subutex which is a substitute for heroin and even though it is used for treatment, they get addicted to it. The Georgians use it a lot.

To punish you, they might put you in the cells upstairs with the drug addicts. They don’t have money for needles so they share the same and spread diseases. One prisoner died from an overdose. When his inmates took pictures with their mobiles, the copswent crazy and entered the cells to find and take all the phones. Someone refused to give it andthey broke three of his ribs. He was unable to walk for a month and no doctor was involved. “Freedom” is a business also. If you bribe the director 5000€, they will release you, directly. He is free to do as he likes. He will write a fake report, saying that the prisoner had good behaviour. A guy from Georgia paid this amount and when they caught him again without papers he tried to negotiate his release for a 1000€ but the director didn’t accept.

At the top of the hierarchy is the principal. It’s the one you never see. He comes once per week to sign papers for deportations and all the administrative things. Then there is the director. He comes more often and stays in an office with the officer in charge and make jokes. Sometimes he comes to talk with the prisoners. He is a hypocrite pretending to comfort us. He doesn’t speak english or doesn’t like to speak english. Once he asked for a translator from arabic to greek. When a guy from Algeria proposed to translate, he told: “Why do you translate for them? Don’t translate for them again! If you refuse to help them, next time I will bring one bottle of whisky and I will set you free.” Under him are the cops. They are divided into groups, following time schedules. There arethree groups of 15 policemen, under the command of the officer in charge. Petrou Ralli can keep around 450 prisoners and sometimes only 15 policemen guard. The first group starts from 06.00 to 14.00, the second from 14.00 to 22.00 and the last from 22.00 to 06.00. The ones who work one day at 06.00, work the next at 22.00.

There are different groups of policemen. Some of them only come to hurt you. There is another group that pretends to be “good” cops. It’s a role-playing game, to suppress you. When you try to get their attention, with a hunger strike for example, if a cop convinces you to stop or punishes you, he is job is recognised. On the contrary, if they don’t work well the principalpressures them. If you don’t want to eat they might come inside your cell and beat you up. Some prisoners refuse to eat when certain cops have shift because they don’t want the cop to be rewarded for making them eat. Their job is to never let us protest. To calm us when we make too much noise or if we protest, to hit us. They are drunk most of the day.

One of their main targets is to force the detainees to force them to request deportation. This is a very hard situation for the refugees that come from countries in war, like Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Somemay don’t want to leave without their family or because of the unbearable and dangerous reality in their countries. Although, they are forces to sign. On top of that, you are unable to know anything about the news and the circumstances in your country. There is no TV, no access to newspapers. The cops say that they will randomly deport a bunch of people back to Turkey. During the solidarity gatherings in front of the prison, they forbid us from reaching the windows. They will suddenly serve food to distract us and punish the ones who will try to communicate with the outside world. Exactly because of the lack of external communication, people are afraid and the cops know very well how to play with this general uncertainty. Everything inside is uncertain. You have to choose what you believe and that’s how they play you. They joke, they laugh and threat people with deportation. “Don’t worry, we will deport all of you”. There is another example withthe director that was mentioned before. Once he came inside and called everyone to say there is news. “I will help all of you that came by sea. I will help you to come back to your country and I will give you a 500€. You will go back by plane with no risk.” When we denied his “help” he answered that he will send us all back to Turkey and that the day we will start crying for deportation will come but he will not deport us.

When the day of their deportation comes, people put shit in their hair or on their body. Like that the cops don’t touch them, don’t hit them, and sometimes don’t deport them. They wait at the door and the door gets full of shit too. Every day something like this happens and shit smells all over the jail.

One of us drank chlorine in order to be brought to the hospital and avoid deportation. The other time he drank soap. The director of the jail visited him in the hospital and he ate the buttons of his shirt. He answered to the doctors that asked him why he acts like this that he doesn’t want to go back to Algeria. They sent him back to Alodapon with a letter stating that he needs to get out of this environment. It was ignored. Instead, they gave him tranquillizers and sleeping pills.

When sick people request to go to the hospital they don’t care. Since they don’t see blood, they find no reason for hospitalisation. They bully you like the visit is a walk and you just want to go there to meet people and talk with them. One day, a guy from Iran tried to slit his throat and the cops had to send him to the hospital. One day later they brought him back to Petrou Ralli. He didn’t have clothes any more because he let them at the hospital, neither had he something to cover his throat. It was winter and it is really cold there and they don’t even give clothes to the prisoners.

They keep this kind of stories hidden. They avoid bringing people to the hospital because their stories will be heard by the psychologist or the staff of the hospital. If they believe that someone might kill himself because of the way he istreated, they would request from the director to let him out of the jail immediately. But they don’t care if you are in danger. In many prisons in greece, I’ve said them that I’ll kill myself, and the answer was always: “Okay, go kill yourself”. Most of the psychiatrists are also fascists. They mess with your psychology. If you protest they give you sleeping pills to be powerless and not talk. They mightprescribeyou three medicinesper day. They even put pills in the food so as to go to sleep immediately after.

One day we asked to see the director. We made some noise. But we only saw his assistant. We wanted to know more about our cases. Why we are closed inside this jail and when we will go out. A cop came and told us to write the names and the nationalities of some of us who have been inside Petrou Ralli for more than nine months, in a piece of paper. We waited but a two days after we found the paper with our names in a trash bin. So we asked again. This time, the cop who came told us that only the principal can answer our questions and that he will be back on Monday, at 07:30. Next Monday, we all asked the police to call him to ask about our files and everything. They said that they we’ll bring him in a minuteand they went to an office, changed theiruniforms and wore MAT (anti-riot police)gear. I heard them when they opened the door.

We didn’t think that they might come for that. We had done nothing wrong. We just wanted to talk to someone in charge. After they opened the door, they wanted to throw outside the cell the person in front to beat him. We grabbed him and pulled him back inside. “After that, they started to hit me and everyone there with a metal stick. They hit my head and I tried to protect myself. My face was covered in blood and I couldn’t see anything. I ran to escape and hide. I heard everyone getting beaten. I heard my friend screaming. They hit him badly and he had a wound on his head and a lot of blood”. “The other prisoners in the first room thought they were going to die inside because they beat them a lot. After that, they didn’t want to bring us to the hospital. They just took one person who had very serious and dangerous wounds and the others stayed until 14:00, until the change of shift. They started to take us one by one to the hospital without really caring about us”. “I had my arm broken and a lot of wounds on my head. I had to wait until 16:00 because I wanted the others who had more serious wounds to go before me”. The doctor said to one of us who had serious wounds on the head that they brought him too late to the hospital. After waitinghe hadseven stitches. The other had maybe twelve stitches. “Because I hid, they started to search for me. They went into the room I was hidden and the people of this cell did not tell them I was there. I was helping the other prisoners because I can translate for them and the police don’t like that. This day, they looked for me specifically because I was the one to translate and ask for the director in order to help the ones that stayed a lot of time in Petrou Ralli. I was talking a lot and asking why they didn’t help this or that one. They didn’t find me because the people that witnessed everything said nothing.” One of them, from Georgia, took pictures of us and the police talked with him in greek and told him: “Let these people down, don’t help them because you will have problems with us”. But he sent the pictures to his wife. After they found about that, they filed a case against us, accusing us of starting a riot to excuse their violence. We were sent to penal jails. Three days after the cops took all the phones inside Petrou Ralli and deported around 70 persons. They also hit other people. Every morning since then the prisoners shouted to the police about what happened. The police kept pressuring them.

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