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#Athens: News from Petrou Ralli

The hellhole of Petrou Ralli Aliens’ Pre-removal Detention Center of Attiki, in Tavros, is perhaps the worst environment that a human being who the state and EU deem “illegal” (solely for the fact s/he/@ lacks proper documentation) can experience while in Greece. Detention in this prison normally lasts for months, exceeding the legal time limits, with cases of individuals abandoned there for up to 18 months. Conditions at Petrou Ralli fail to meet even the minimum requirements of a prison: hygiene is unacceptable, meals are inedible, the mattresses are full of bugs, and the blankets unwashed. The most basic cleaning and disinfection procedures are not carried out.

Originally published by Athens Indymedia.

On the 2nd floor, detainees are locked up day and night, released for just 40 minutes in the morning and afternoon for ‘yard time’ on the terrace. The right to free legal assistance for those who cannot afford a lawyer is not granted. Likewise, the fact that detainees have the right to apply for asylum without the presence of a lawyer is withheld, while the applications of those who do manage to submit them are either not forwarded or delayed on the pretext of bureaucratic procedures.

All this, together with the inhumane, brutal, and in many cases illegal behavior of the guards, makes the situation as a whole unbearable. Desperation leads to self-harm practices by detainees in the hope, as they themselves say, of getting transferred to a camp. The sight of blood running along the corridors is not uncommon, with many attempting suicide because they have been denied their humanity and day by day lost all hope for life.

Alongside the women’s ward on the 3rd floor, there is a separate section for male detainees suffering severe illnesses such as hepatitis, depression, HIV, and scabies. These men are abandoned to their fate – even NGOs funded to provide legal aid, especially to vulnerable groups such as this, have never dealt with them. It is as if they did not exist.

On June 9th, the women on the 3rd floor began a hunger strike. There was daily pressure on them to stop, in line with the strategy of control, coercion, and repression employed at Petrou Ralli. On Sunday, June 14th, we held a rally outside the detention center as a minor act of solidarity with the five women continuing the strike. A powerful reaction followed among detainees on the 2nd and 3rd floors who pounded the iron bars of their cells, chanting ‘FREEDOM’ in different languages. The authorities were unable to put a stop to the intense demand emanating from all cells. One of the women on strike was taken to the hospital, in critical condition, so the rest of them decided to stop the hunger strike. The following day, between 130 to 140 men began a hunger strike demanding their release or transfer to a camp. Some succeeded and were taken to camps, though the numbers are unknown.

We do know that until July 17 at least, Salman Alipor from Iran continues to strike for the 33rd day and Kamal Ajni from Morocco for the 23rd day.

The inhumane conditions at Petrou Ralli have not changed since then, nor will they change next week. Our presence and solidarity is the minimum we can offer detainees, either by visiting or providing the basic necessities that the state denies them. Whether it is expressed when we are outside the building with our physical presence, through communication from a distance in a raised hand and shared word, or through public disclosure of the situation inside, our solidarity comes as a breath of life for these people. So too, it is a minor but significant means of pressuring the state apparatus.

Abolition of all borders!

Immediate release of prisoners in Petrou Ralli!

No one is illegal, no one is invisible!

Solidarity with the hunger strikers!

Solidarity is our weapon!

Detention centers cannot be improved,

they can only be demolished.


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