Xanthi, Thursday, March 11, 2010
Venna is one of the eight functioning immigration detention centers in the Rodopi and Evros counties of Greece. Centers like Vena have been created within the framework of the states anti-immigration policies, to be used normally in ‘exceptional’ circumstances.
All detention centers operate are outside the legal framework, and particularly in the case of Venna there isn’t even an official legal document defining its function.
Rodopi is not included in the list of counties eligible for the placement of ‘Special places for the residence of foreigners’ ‘ΕΧΠΑ’. Even Artcle 81 of Law 3536/2005 that provides for the creation of ‘Special places for the residence of foreigners’ fails to define the terms and conditions of their operation.
According to reports by lawyers who have visited the centre, hygiene conditions are appalling, there is no medical staff, and the number of prisoners far exceeds the capacity the centre was designed to accommodate. Prisoners have no contact with the outside world (lawyers, family members, interpreters, local community) and have inadequate information on their rights. The behavior of the prisoner guards towards the prisoners is often degrading to the dignity of the detainees
On Wednesday, February 3rd, prisoners in the Vena detention centre rebelled over the inhuman conditions of detention and their prolonged imprisonment. The previous day, the guards had asked the police to transfer 30 detainees as a temporary solution to the centers extreme over-crowdedness.
Nevertheless, the immigrants rebelled, setting their mattresses and clothes on fire. The police intervened and presented 42 people to the prosecutor as ringleaders of a criminal incident, indicting them for attempted escape and damage of public property.
In express proceedings on Friday February the 5th, without lawyers and interpreters, they were sentenced to 4 and 6 months imprisonment and legal deportation for the contempt of the law, and damage to public property.
To prevent the possibility of an appeal of the decision by a group of concerned lawyers who had shown interest in doing so, the convicted were moved to Drama and Kavala.
To answer back to these incidents, in Xanthi and Komotini, initiatives have been taken against these concentration camps, involving an information campaign for the local community around the issue of Venna and the suppression of the uprising, as well as holding a protest in Komotini (February 19th) and Venna (February 20th).
Arriving to the nightmare that is Venna, we managed to verify the true conditions of detention, as well as the every day terror endured by the imprisoned.
Following negotiations a group of people managed to enter the centre upon which they discovered that the prison population was falsely grossly understated (there were in-fact over 200 prisoners ‘hosted’, as opposed to the official ‘46’). Furthermore it was discovered that 4 individuals were on hunger strike. The patients had not received any essential medical attention (one person was even refused post- operative transfer to a hospital).
We see in the case of these 42 defendants and the prisoners on hunger strike, the immediate response of the State, towards people who are struggling for their human dignity and freedom.
The policy of humiliation, torture and repression carried out by the Greek state is fully consistent with the requirements of ‘Fortress Europe’. The state even refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the centers it establishes. Of course we don not expect any legal framework to define what dignity means and under what conditions it is violated. We believe that the right to free movement, to human dignity and the freedom to choose where to live is inalienable. The struggle for life, dignity and freedom is not illegal, it is just. No one is illegal.
We demand the immediate abolition of the concentration camps.
Immediate release of all the imprisoned immigrants. Acquittal of the 42 accused in the uprising at Venna that took place on February the 3rd.
Initiative against the detention camps of Evros and Rodopi.