Greek police hunt migrants who escaped immigration detention centre during riot

 

Greek police were today searching for eight Pakistanis and two Afghans who escaped during a riot at an immigration detention centre, where human rights groups say migrants and asylum seekers face unacceptably long periods of incarceration in often appalling conditions.

Clashes broke out on Saturday evening at the Amygdaleza centre northeast of Athens, where 1,620 migrants are being held as they await deportation or approval of their asylum applications. Some set fire to their beds and hurled stones and water bottles at guards after learning that the maximum detention time was being extended from 12 to 18 months.

Police quelled the riots with stun grenades and tear gas and returned most migrants to their holding containers just after midnight, but were yesterday searching the neighbourhood for the ten men who fled during the chaos.

Photographs on the Hellenic Police website showed charred containers and a vandalised police car, and a statement said the migrants “attacked without provocation” and injured 10 officers. At least 50 people were arrested for causing damage or trying to escape, it added.

Greece has a 125 mile border with Turkey, and for years it has been the entry point of choice for migrants from Africa and Asia trying to make their way into the European Union for work. Their numbers have been swelled in recent years by people claiming political asylum and refugee status from the Arab Spring nations.

This influx of migrants coincided with the economic crisis which forced Greece to implement punishing austerity measures. Anger at high unemployment and deteriorating quality of life has often been focussed at migrants, with increasing attacks reported on ethnic communities across the country. Support for the far-right Golden Dawn party had soared.

In an effort to curb the influx of migrants, the Greek government last year launched Operation Xenios Zeus, beefing up security at the Turkish border and dramatically reducing the numbers coming overland.

But human rights groups say the crackdown is exacerbating abuses. In a report released in June, Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of cases of unjustified stop and searches, verbal abuse, and some cases of physical assaults of people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, has accused Athens of illegal “push backs” – rounding up people who have made it onto Greek soil and returning them to Turkey before assessing their claims for refugee status. Greece denies the claims.

Those who do make it into Greece face long waits as their asylum applications are processed, with most eventually turned down to discourage others from trying to enter the country. Some inmates at Amygdaleza staged a hunger strike earlier this year to protest at conditions as the camp the Greek government calls a “closed hospitality centre”.

“The conditions refugees and migrants are being held in are often appalling. In fact, when we visited people in those cells it was difficult to remember we were actually in the EU,” Amnesty official Jezerca Tigani said in a report in July.

As Greece increases security on its land frontier, migrants are increasingly turning to riskier wqays into Europe, including dangerous sea routes. Italian authorities at the weekend recovered the bodies of six migrants they believe were killed in shipwreck.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk