Migrants call for freedom from Greek detention centres: ‘I was forgotten here’

Police abuse, lack of legal services and isolation of the most vulnerable: an inside look at Greek detention facilities reveals appalling conditions

Detained migrants stand behind the wired fence at the Amygdaleza detention centre in Athens (MEE/Katja Lihtenvalner)

Shayan Samad, an Iraqi Kurd, rests her head on her hands. “I often felt like I found myself in a theatre play, staged to mess with our minds,” she said. “After months of detention you’re slowly going mad, apathetic. A life outside seems remote and unreal.”

Samad is one of the “irregular migrants” who tried to reach Europe in October last year but ended up instead behind bars in a Greek migration jail. She lived there for five and a half months.

‘I spent over 5,000 euros for this sh** trip and look where I ended up!’
- Shayan Samad, migrant

“Our goal was Italy but after four days of travelling from Turkey, the boat slowly started to drown. We were forced to land at Gytheio port without realising we reached Greece,” Samad recalls.

She is now staying in Athens waiting for her September interview for asylum and works part-time in a local NGO as a translator. Samad recently took part in David Edgar’s play Pentecost.

A cardboard sign with a plea written by migrants at the Petrou Ralli detention facility (MEE/Katja Lihtenvalner)

Samad, originally from Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq, was detained as an “undocumented migrant” at the Petrou Ralli detention facility in Athens. She was also transferred to three other facilities, including the police station.

“We had access to sunlight only one hour per day,” she said of her detention at Petrou Ralli, a four-storey facility. “Sometimes we stayed locked [up] for days in cells, if the police decided so.”

She describes how she was kept with criminal suspects including burglars and how a “man, a local Greek, threatened to enter my prison cell while I slept. Even if I was locked in a separate cell, I was afraid for my life all the time.”

“I spent over 5,000 euros for this sh** trip and look where I ended up,” she adds.

She was released on 13 March after her lawyer intervened at the Greek asylum service. “ A policeman came to my cell and told me: ‘You are free now.’ I didn’t believe it. During my stay in detention I demanded a hundred times an explanation for why I was still being detained. No answers were given to me,” she recalls.

Samad ran away from her family in Iraq in September 2016, after her uncle tried to force her to accept an arranged marriage.

She had become involved in a relationship with an American soldier, who later left her and did not help her escape the country. According to Samad, her family disapproved of the relationship and her uncle beat her badly a few times after she was found in the company of the foreign man. He later tried to force her into an arranged marriage before she decided to flee.

‘I was forgotten here’
- Mohamed Khallouf, Moroccan migrant

“I still regret I never hugged my mother. I didn’t touch her hand and say goodbye,” she said.

Behind the wired fence at the Amygdaleza detention centre, in northern Athens, MEE meets 24-year-old Moroccan Mohamed Khallouf. “I was forgotten here,” he said.

Officers stand guard at Petrou Ralli detention facility (MEE/Katja Lihtenvalner)

More: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/migrants-greek-detention-facilities-dehumanised-1022874595

Like what you read? Give Katja Lihtenvalner a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.