Officers protest cramped stations

Police officers in northern Greece are anxious that the overcrowding of police stations in the prefectures of Thessaloniki and Ioannina is compromising security as well as the health and safety of the detainees, who chiefly comprise illegal immigrants. The action, being led by the union of police officers of Thessaloniki, is said to have been triggered by the escape from a police station in Konitsa, earlier this month, of five Afghan immigrants as well as by the appearance of contagious skin diseases in several police stations in northern parts of the the country. The Thessaloniki union is reportedly planning legal action to protest the fact that many of the detainees in regional holding cells have already been convicted of crimes and are awaiting their transfer to one of the country’s jails, which are similarly overcrowded. The overcrowding of the police stations, which are not designed to hold hundreds of immigrants, is believed to be reflected in holding cells in other parts of the country as the influx of would-be migrants into Greece continues in the absence of the necessary infrastructure to accommodate them. «It is unacceptable for dozens of detainees to be held for weeks in holding cells that are unsafe and inappropriate for long-term stays until they are deported or transferred elsewhere,» the president of the union of police officers in Ioannina, Giorgos Papatsimbas, told Kathimerini. His union is complaining that the extremely cramped conditions in the prefecture’s holding cells have created fertile ground for the spread of skin diseases and other illnesses, posing a threat to detainees and officers alike. According to sources, migrants in most of these cells are so cramped that many sleep on the concrete floors. Further, the police stations are not equipped to provide adequate food to the migrants who also suffer from inadequate ventilation and lack of exercise. One source at the police union in Thessaloniki told Kathimerini that excessive overcrowding is also creating tension among detainees, many of whom have staged hunger strikes and other protests, demanding their release.