Lawyers slam jail conditions

Illegal immigrants and other detainees in Thessaloniki jails and border prisons are being held in cramped and unhealthy conditions that constitute a violation of their basic human rights, the Thessaloniki Bar Association charged in a letter to the Justice Ministry yesterday. The detainees, whose alleged offenses require a trial within 24 hours, are often held for 15 days or more in tiny, filthy cells with several other fellow defendants, according to the association, which lodged its complaint along with several lawyers who practice in northern Greece. The lawyers are demanding that a prosecutor be appointed to investigate the conditions in these jails and that the ministry take steps to increase the number of detention centers, or increase the size of existing centers, to accommodate an increasingly large number of illegal immigrants streaming into the country. In the northern Greek jails in question, between 20 and 30 detainees – who often include mothers and children – are forced into cells measuring just 20 square meters. The detainees allegedly remain in these crammed, unventilated cells for days. They do not have regular access to a bathroom or medical care and often are not given sheets or blankets. Conditions are allegedly even more cramped and dirty at the transfer center in Thessaloniki, where male detainees are taken prior to their release. Lawyers who have defended such detainees complain that their clients’ trial dates are not made public well in advance, as required by law. Furthermore, detainees are allegedly obliged to sign a document for their expulsion from the country, often without knowing what charges led to their detention. Meanwhile, those detainees who have appealed against their detention are allegedly held until they agree to revoke their appeals. Some even pay their own travel costs so they can leave the country to escape further detention.