Staff have abused refugees for talking in line, coughing, and not cleaning their rooms, the Border Violence Monitoring Network claims.
An NGO has claimed that refugees and migrants held in EU-backed facilities in Greece routinely experience violent “punishment”, often for seemingly trivial misdemeanours.
In a report published on Wednesday, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) documented dozens of testimonies from individuals who experienced physical abuse in closed camps, police stations, prisons and pre-removal detention centres across the southern European country.
Interviewees reported being violently punished for “making eye contact” with officers, while others alleged they were beaten for talking while waiting in line to be counted, coughing, and not cleaning their rooms.
Greek officials have been approached for comment.
According to the BVMN, violence by staff was frequently concealed, with 45% of respondents saying they were attacked in “hidden spaces”.
“They only beat us inside the container,” one 47-year-old man from Sierra Leone, held in a Closed Control Access Centre on the Greek island of Samos, told the NGO. “They never beat us outside. There are no cameras inside.”
The BVMN report, based on 31 interviews, also documented practices of isolation and humiliation at the facilities, many of which are funded by the European Union.
“They lock us in rooms as punishment for raising our voice against the conditions,” a Pakistani man detained in Corinth pre-removal detention centre was quoted by the organisation as saying.
“There are a lot of isolation rooms and mostly they lock us in those rooms so we can’t get food and other things of everyday life.”
“They do this as punishment for… asking things “like why do you detain us so long? Why are you treating us like this?” he added.
Physical abuse paired with isolation was experienced by nearly a quarter of those interviewed by the BVMN as punishment for perceived “bad behaviour”.
Strip searches were experienced or witnessed by 25% of detainees.
‘Bid to silence people speaking out’
“This new report adds to mounting evidence of the inhuman and degrading treatment of people on the move in Greece who experience punishment beatings and withholding of food, water and healthcare in a bid to silence people speaking out about the appalling conditions they are being held in,” said BVMN policy analyst Amanda Filas Licnerski in a statement sent to Euronews.
“Public funding being poured into these camps should go to helping people seeking safety, not locking them up,” she added.
The EU has ploughed €3.12 billion into Greece since 2015, specifically to manage its borders and migration issues, according to official figures.
Campaigners claim this means that Brussels bears some responsibility for the alleged human rights violations at Greece’s immigration facilities.
“The EU‘s complicity in the violence against people on the move in Greek camps is crystal clear,” said Cornelia Ernst MEP, German lawyer in the European Parliament’s Left group.
“Not only does the EU fund those camps, but with adopting the New Pact on Migration it will institutionalise these detention camps all over the EU.
“Closed camps are never a solution,” she continued.
Agreed in December 2023, the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum is a package of policies and recommendations aimed at reforming migration, asylum, integration and border management in the EU.
Lawmakers want to turn the page on decades of ad-hoc crisis management, which saw governments take unilateral and uncoordinated measures to cope with a steep rise in asylum-seekers.
Critics say it “risks exacerbating rather than solving existing challenges“, such as decreasing pressure on states of first entry, limiting violence at the borders, and creating a Common European Asylum System with clear rules and regulations.
In a statement sent to Euronews, BVMN called for the closure of EU-funded closed camps in Greece and an end to the use of detention for immigration control except as a measure of last resort.