Detained: Voices From Amygdaleza

April 19, 2015


Over 8,000 migrants and refugees are currently detained in concentration camps throughout Greece. Among them are minors, families and those with significant health problems. Six people have died in these camps because they had no access to medication and recently two people committed suicide once they were informed that they would be held in detention for over 18 months. Legislation introduced by the previous Greek government makes it legal for people to be detained indefinitely in deplorable sanitary conditions without access to lawyers, the asylum system or doctors – all backed with European Union financing. These camps are not only in Greece. All around Europe there is this investment in racism, in the marginalisation and criminalisation of migrants and refugees. The newly elected Greek government very recently pledged to shut all migrant detention centres. As of the time of publication, it is unclear how or when the centres will be closed down, or what will be introduced to replace them.

These testimonies are just a fraction of the voices of people who are illegally detained in Amygdaleza concentration camp in Athens. People are punished because they tried to escape from war and to live with dignity. The message behind the policies of the European Union is clear: If you do not die in Europe’s seas, you can die in its concentration camps:


“Please, help us. I don’t think that detention solves any problem. How would you feel if you were in my place? What would you do if we were to swap places?”

Boy, 16. Detained for the last six months.


“There was another one here who had been held for twelve months. The day he was to be released he was told that the law had now changed and he would be held for a further six months; he went insane. He stopped eating and he stitched his mouth shut. The policemen paid no attention to him for 2 to 3 days. When he passed out, they dragged him out handcuffed, and haphazardly ‘unstitched’ his mouth by force with a knife”.

Boy, 16. Detained for the last nine months.


“The police advised that whoever applied for asylum would have to remain in detention for eighteen months, whereas those who do not would be released much earlier; this is why I decided not to seek asylum”.

Afghan boy, 16. Detained for the last nine months.


“Several months ago, I had asked to be released due to the fact that I was underage. Many people older than me have already been released. I requested this repeatedly but they kept turning down my request. I was extremely upset and was thinking about my family a lot of whom I have no news.  As they would not set me free, I thought I had better jump off the roof than stay here. I broke both my legs. I was transferred to the hospital and then back to the Komotini detention centre. I was bedridden and in pain for the next two months. My legs keep hurting, and so do my teeth when I eat as I slammed my face against a wall when I jumped”.

Boy, 16. Detained for the last six months.


“When the police arrested me, I told them that I am only 16, that I am underage, and that I feel afraid and very sad. It has been nine months that I have been in detention. Since I arrived in Greece I have had to witness and undergo inconceivable things. I cannot believe that I have actually been through these things. I try to push away those nasty images and thoughts, and this makes me feel unwell. I have nightmares most nights. I would very much like you to read my story and think why is it that a child of my age, without having committed some sin or crime must be detained for such a long time? I don’t know what or whom to blame. Fate? My homeland? The police? I just hope that nobody has to go through this.  Please, spare a thought for us…”

Boy, 16. Detained for the last nine months.


 “I have been detained for over nine months. It has been more than eight months since I last managed to contact my family back home. I don’t have money to buy a call card. I asked two people who left from the detention centre to call my family and let them know I am ok, but I don’t know if they ever managed to find them.”

Man, 20. Detained for the last nine months at the Komotini detention centre where detainees are not allowed mobile phones, and the where the payphone cost is prohibitive for many detainees.


“Even prison is better than here. You have come in and you have seen it for yourselves. You are witnesses. If there is any justice, somebody should defend our rights.”

Man, 34. Detained for the last seventeen months.


“Because I have been detained for so long, I feel that my brain no longer works properly.”

Man, 22. Detained for the last five months.


“The Komotini detention centre is not even suitable for animals. It is very dirty. The toilets don’t function. The sewage system is broken. Human waste drop from the first floor drains of to the ground floor. We are locked inside almost all day. They allow us outside in the courtyard for just one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. Not daily. Komotini is not a detention centre; it is a stable for animals.”

Man, 28. Detained for the last seven months.


“I have not seen the Sun for three months at this police station.”

Man, 28. Detained for the last nine months.


“From the 24 hours of the day, they only let us out for one. I wish they let us stay for a little longer in the courtyard so that we could have the chance to exhaust and distract ourselves.”

Man, 23. Detained for the last five months.


“Before the arrival of Doctors Without Borders, there were no medics. The policemen mistreated anyone that asked for one. They could not care less even when things became serious. Often I was in need of a medic but there was no response.”

Man, 21. Detained for the last eleven months.


“…To be honest with you, they treat us very harshly. I had severe toothache and I had been asking for a doctor for several weeks. Eventually, they ended up transferring me to the hospital because of the heavy bleeding after I had removed my tooth myself.”

Man, 34. Detained for the last seventeen months.


“My mental health is now suffering. After such a long time in detention, we are beginning to break. We are desparate. I cannot sleep. My weight dropped from 72 to 64 kg. I cannot express the situation we are in.”

Man, 34. Detained for the last seventeen months.


“The police do not respect anyone. You cannot speak to them. When we ask them about something, they yell at us and swear at us. Sometimes they hit us.”

Man, 20. Detained for at least the last five months.


“In Greece, people have no idea about what is happening in Somalia. The tribe I belong to has been ‘bleeding’ for the last twenty years.”

Somali man, 20.


via | Photo by Aggelos Kalodoukas


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