Testimonials from Detention Centres

Below you will find various testimonials from detention centres that were translated in English by volunteers from AAfG. You will find these and many more in the booklet that will be available on the day of the event.

1 – Various testimonials from “Medecins Sans Frontieres”
2 – My name is Zafar…
3 – The illegal deportation of a Syrian boy
4 – Afghan cancer patient dies at Detention Centre


1) Various testimonials from “Medecins Sans Frontieres” (resource link)

“Please, help us. I don’t think that detention solves any problem. How would you feel if you were in my place? What would you do if we were to swap places?”
-Boy, 16. Detained for the last six months.

“There was another one here who had been held for twelve months. The day he was to be released he was told that the law had now changed and he would be held for a further six months; he went insane. He stopped eating and he stitched his mouth shut. The policemen paid no attention to him for 2 to 3 days. When he passed out, they dragged him out handcuffed, and haphazardly ‘unstitched’ his mouth by force with a knife”.
-Boy, 16. Detained for the last nine months.

“The police advised that whoever applied for asylum would have to remain in detention for eighteen months, whereas those who do not would be released much earlier; this is why I decided not to seek asylum”.
-Afgan boy, 16. Detained for the last nine months.

“Several months ago, I had asked to be released due to the fact that I was underage. Many people older than me have already been released. I requested this repeatedly but they kept turning down my request. I was extremely upset and was thinking about my family a lot of whom I have no news. As they would not set me free, I thought I had better jump off the roof than stay here. I broke both my legs. I was transferred to the hospital and then back to the Komotini detention centre. I was bedridden and in pain for the next two months. My legs keep hurting, and so do my teeth when I eat as I slammed my face against a wall when I jumped”.
-Boy, 16. Detained for the last six months.

“When the police arrested me, I told them that I am only 16, that I am underage, and that I feel afraid and very sad. It has been nine months that I have been in detention. Since I arrived in Greece I have had to witness and undergo inconceivable things. I cannot believe that I have actually been through these things. I try to push away those nasty images and thoughts, and this makes me feel unwell. I have nightmares most nights. I would very much like you to read my story and think why is it that a child of my age, without having committed some sin or crime must be detained for such a long time? I don’t know what or whom to blame. Fate? My homeland? The police? I just hope that nobody has to go through this. Please, spare a thought for us…”
-Boy, 16. Detained for the last nine months.

“I have been detained for over nine months. It has been more than eight months since I last managed to contact my family back home. I don’t have money to buy a call card. I asked two people who left from the detention centre to call my family and let them know I am ok, but I don’t know if they ever managed to find them.”
-Man. 20. Detained for the last nine months at the Komotini detention centre where detainees are not allowed mobile phones, and the where the payphone cost is prohibitive for many detainees.

“Even prison is better that here. You have come in and you have seen it for yourselves. You are witnesses. If there is any justice, somebody should defend our rights”.
-Man, 34. Detained for the last seventeen months.

“Because I have been detained for so long, I feel that my brain no longer works properly”.
-Man, 22. Detained for the last five months.

“The Komotini detention centre is not even suitable for animals. It is very dirty. The toilets don’t function. The sewage system is broken. Human waste drop from the first floor drains of to the ground floor. We are locked inside almost all day. They allow us outside in the courtyard for just one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. Not daily. Komotini is not a detention centre; it is a stable for animals.”
-Man, 28. Detained for the last seven months.

“I have not seen the Sun for three months at this police station”.
-Man, 28. Detained for the last nine months.

“From the 24 hours of the day, they only let us out for one. I wish they let us stay for a little longer in the courtyard so that we could have the chance to exhaust and distract ourselves”.
-Man, 23. Detained for the last five months.

“Before the arrival of Doctors Without Borders, there were no medics. The policemen mistreated anyone that asked for one. They could not care less even when things became serious. Often I was in need of a medic but there was no response.”
-Man, 21. Detained for the last eleven months.

“…To be honest with you, they treat us very harshly. I had severe toothache and I had been asking for a doctor for several weeks. Eventually, they ended up transferring me to the hospital because of the heavy bleeding after I had removed my tooth myself.”
-Man, 34. Detained for the last seventeen months.

“My mental health is now suffering. After such a long time in detention, we are beginning to break. We are desparate. I cannot sleep. My weight dropped from 72 to 64 kg. I cannot express the situation we are in.”
-Man, 34. Detained for the last seventeen months.

“The police do not respect anyone. You cannot speak to them. When we ask them about something, they yell at us and swear at us. Sometimes they hit us.”
-Man, 20. Detained for at least the last five months.

“In Greece, people have no idea about what is happening in Somalia. The tribe I belong to has been ‘bleeding’ for the last twenty years.”
-Somali man, 20.


2) My name is Zafar… (resource link)

“My name is Zafar, and I’m sixteen. I’m from Afghanistan.

My father was killed, and I did not want to fight other Afghans.

Every single day someone got killed in my village.

My school was bombed when I was young and it was never rebuilt. I wanted to go to school, and not to kill or get killed.

My mother sold off all our livestock to save me; she told me to leave and that when I reached Europe I would be protected. I walked for ages. I hid in lorries, I then boarded a boat and eventually I came to this land. Have I reached Europe? I do not know. I just know that it was exhausting to get here.

I was arrested and put in a small filthy cell together with another twenty people. They then gave me a piece of paper that stated that I had to leave within thirty days. How can I leave when I have no documents? I tried to sneak in on to a boat with some older people from my country, but I got arrested, beaten up, and brought with many others to this camp. I have been here for a long time – I don’t even know for how long – together with many people that are from other countries. I don’t know anyone here and I am afraid.

I do not understand why I have been imprisoned; I have never harmed anyone or done anything wrong. All I had wanted to do was to go back to school and to not have to fight…

I cry every day.

For the last three days we have been locked up in the container in which we are kept; it is unbearably hot. Something happened in the camp, but I was very ill and did not understand much. I cannot breathe properly and I am constantly ill. I also have spots all over my body. I feel so tired. I want to breathe but there isn’t enough air. I am thirsty but there is no water. My clothes are filthy and full of holes, and I have no shoes.

I’m afraid that I’m going to die. Mother, where are you? …. I am passing out, mother, save me! I do not want to die.

A few days ago I heard that two policemen saved two puppies that had been locked inside a car on a very hot day. A kind judge immediately sentenced the owners for torture, since they had left the puppies inside the car on such a hot day. I was very happy for the puppies, as I really love puppies a lot. It is just as hot in this container they keep me and have forgotten me. Please, think of me as a dog. Could these kind policemen please come to save me and take me to a doctor? Please, oh please, since you do not think of me as a human, please think of me as a dog. Your honour, I am a tortured dog.”



A, 15, is a boy from Syria. Last week he arrived at our refugee shelter (namely, ARSIS – Shelter for unaccompanied asylum seeking minors in Oreokastro). What he reported is something that, sadly, has occurred often recently, and this is why we decided to share this story with you. As most people would know, Syria has been rampaged by civil war for the last 3 years and because of this, millions of Syrians have been forced to flee to various countries. Since March 2014 the situation in Syria has worsened as a result of the advance of the ISIS. A great part of Syria, which until recently had been part of a secular state, is now occupied by ISIS and there is on-going ethnic cleansing in the region.

A, a 15 year old boy, and his family were forced to leave their country and to become refugees. Sadly, his family didn’t manage to cross the barricades in Syria, and A reached the Turkish borders alone.

In Izmir – along with other Syrian refugees – A boarded an inflatable boat to find shelter and protection in some European country. Unfortunately for him, Greece was part of that route. And so they started their journey across the Aegean Sea to Greece. While not too far off the coast of the island of Mytilene, and while they could see the island, they were spotted by the Greek coast guard. Typically, the coast guard is obliged to collect them. However, in this case the coast guard decided to follow a rather different procedure: instead of rescuing those on board, and helping them onto the coast guard vessel, the coast guard capsised their boat and left them in the water for about half an hour. Eventually, the coast guard pulled the refugees on board, beat up some of them, and threw their belongings in the sea. After almost two hours another coastguard vessel appeared, carrying a half-inflated rubber dinghy.

The coast guard placed the refugees onto this dinghy and pushed them back into international waters, which is an act that goes against every national and international law for rescuing people at sea, as well as, legislation relating to the protection of the displaced and of refugees.

A, following this experience and knowing that he will not be able to go back to his country because of the war, attempted once more to cross into some other European state and was eventually successful.



This is the second casualty at this specific centre where several suicide attempts have also been reported.

Nezam Hakimi, an Afgan refugee, who had been detained at Corinth’s detention centre whilst suffering with cancer, died last Monday at the Evaggelismos hospital in Athens. A relative reported this on the Afghan community’s Facebook page in its native language, while the only report of this in Greek appeared at the Roz Karta blog (i.e., a blog that supports the column on migration issues in the daily Ephimerida ton Syntakton newspaper).

As the report goes: “The actual cause of Nezam Hakimi’s death lies in the fact that during the last four months he was not offered even the most elementary of cancer treatments that was necessary to save his life. The police authorities and the staff at the Corinth detention centre (read: hellhole), as usual, did absolutely nothing. Nezam Hakimi’s death is essentially a further premeditated racist crime”. The report concludes that: “…we all remember Mohammad Hassan who was held for 11 months at the detention centres set up by Dendias [i.e., former Greek home secretary] and died on 27 July”.

In fact, this relates to the second person who has died at this detention centre, while many suicide attempts have also been reported, with the last one in August, when a 23-year-old Afghan fell to his death. As was the case with Mohammad Hassan, who suffered from a serious illness, Nezam Hakimi had also been denied access to a doctor. He was only transferred to a hospital two months ago when his condition had reached a terminal stage. “For how long must we mourn these concentration camp deaths?” asks Tahir Alizanta, the Afghan community’s representative, who informs us that Nezam Hakimi was held at this concentration camp for almost a year. “Firstly, Afghan people are refugees who are entitled to asylum; they do not belong to the concentration camps that, in any event, must be shut down! There are too many patients, not only in Corinth, but in other detention centres. There are constant reports of the appalling conditions of detention. If we add to these deaths, the mysterious death of a 25-year-old Pakistani at the Xanthi camp on 25 October, and the two migrant suicides at detention centres in West Macedonia in July, the macabre list relates to five deaths in less than five months. And this is an ongoing crime”.

KETHEA MOSAIC’S intervention at the Juvenile Detention Centre of Amigdaleza-Athens

(The story behind AAfG’s 18 Dec event).

Painting the future: KETHEA MOSAIC’S intervention at the Juvenile Detention Centre of Amigdaleza-Athens

«Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way»

Victor Frankl

“Seeking meaning in life and in freedom at a detention camp”


Greece, is a European country that, due to its geographical location, receives a large amount of immigrants-refuges every year. Most of the immigrant-refuges are seeking asylum and transference into other EU States, however, due to the Dublin Regulation they are confronted with very serious restrictions and prohibitions. According to official data released by the Greek Police, the first 10 months of 2014, a number of 64.996 people were arrested on the grounds of unauthorized immigration, whilst in 2013 the number was 35.719 arrests.

Organisation: ΚΕΤΗΕΑ

KETHEA (Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals) is the largest rehabilitation and social reintegration network in Greece. It has been providing its services to drug addicts and their families since 1983 and offers drug free services. Its services are offered free of charge on the street and in prisons and rehabilitation units around Greece. KETHEA also helps people suffering from other forms of addiction including alcohol, gambling and the Internet. KETHEA also runs school and community-based prevention and early intervention programmes, and is active in training and research in the field of addiction.

KETHEA MOSAIC Intercultural transitional non residential programme

The KETHEA MOSAIC Centre seeks to facilitate the social integration of migrants and refugees (drug users and not) since 2003 in Athens. In doing so, it introduces therapeutic principles (such as self-help, mutual help and self-management) into the psycho-social support services it provides. Its services offers prevention and counselling on health care, work, family relationships, legal procedures, racism, delinquency, drug abuse, violence and marginalisation. Also it offers family support, individual and group counselling and education.


In June 2013 until June 2014, ΚΕTHΕΑ MOSAIC attained a project of Primary and Secondary Prevention at the Juvenile Detention Centre of Amigdaleza-Athens. Mainly, our actions involved: Greek language teaching, sport activities, educational and animating activities through the use of art, support and prevention groups as well as individual meetings and counselling. The frequency of our intervention was 2 to 3 times per week.

Living conditions at the detention centre were pretty harsh. Most of the juveniles, were unaware of their detention time there (a maximum time of 18 months was set, whilst in some cases this time was described as indefinite) and serious communication issues were apparent. Only half of our time there were we assigned a translator and that was only in Arabic, excluding thus people of other languages. Hygiene conditions were also poor, ventilation and heating system was not adequate and the centre did not have permanent medical staff. Apart from the “technical” issues most of the juveniles were confronted with high stress and psychological vulnerability, being away from their families or having escaped from war zones .

Despite all these difficulties, we tried and remained focused on one of our primer targets and that was to create and maintain-were possible- strong human bonds. Moreover, our goal was to provide (with the help of other NGOs, like The Red Cross, Praksis) a comfort zone were juveniles could play, entertain themselves, gain new stimuli and “leave” -at least for a while- their problems aside. This is also the feedback we gratefully received from juveniles that were released from the detention centre and later moved into guests’ houses or elsewhere. Finally, with our actions and through this tough but rewarding for us experience we tried to provide a glimpse of hope and vision at a time of crisis and despair.

The last day of our project, in cooperation with the Social Services of the Juvenile Detention Centre of Amigdaleza and with the aid of Ecumenical Refugee Program/ERP we actualized a big “celebration” for the juveniles. In this context, they were given the chance to participate at a painting workshop and express themselves freely. The theme of the workshop was “painting my future” and these paintings provide the material for this exhibition entitled “Help me”.

“Help me”! A call for help from juveniles that strive to get out of prison, to travel to other countries seeking a better future, to re-unite with their families, to endure the harsh conditions, to learn Greek and finally to be given an equal chance to realize their dreams!

“Painting my future” started here in Athens, at a Detention Centre, only to travel in London and then further away with an aspiration and great hope to make the voices of these juveniles heard beyond borders and restrictions.







Suspended Lives: Refugees and Migrants in Greece

suspended livesOn the occasion of International Migrants’ Day (18th of December), Antifascist Action for Greece (AAfG) is holding the event ‘Suspended Lives: Refugees and Migrants in Greece’ to raise awareness about Greece’s asylum practices and its policy of indefinite detention of migrants – including children – in conditions that often amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Doors will open with the exhibition of around thirty drawings made by children detained at the Amygdaleza Detention Centre in the outskirts of Athens, as a means of giving a voice to the voiceless at the borders of ‘Fortress Europe’, where human beings find themselves detained in modern-day concentration camps, violently deported, and routinely denied their rights.

At 18.30 there will be the screening of ‘Into the Fire: The Hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece’, a documentary about the plight of one of the most marginalised and victimised sections of Greek society: its migrants. This shall be followed by a panel discussion with contributions from:

– Elektra Leda Koutra (Greek-based lawyer & chair of Hellenic Action for Human Rights – ‘Pleiades’)
– Lena Karamanidou (Lecturer in Sociology at City University specialising in EU and Greek asylum and migration policy)
– Mohammad Vahedi and Matina Zestanaki (AAfG)

Please do come along on Thursday 18 December 2014 to support our efforts in raising awareness of the outrageous treatment of migrants, including children, by the Greek state.

Unite, Unite House, 128 Theobald’s Road, Holborn, London, WC1X 8TN

-Exhibition: 18.00 onwards (at the foyer outside the screening hall)
-Screening: 18.30
-Panel discussion: 19.15

To read the story behind the drawings, please click here.
To read testimonials from Detention Centres, click here.

To see the pictures from the event click here.