Court: Escape from Greek lockup was justified - New York News

Court: Escape from Greek lockup was justified

Posted: Updated:

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — 

A group of illegal immigrants was justified in escaping from a police lockup last year because of the miserable conditions in their overcrowded cell, which was filthy, ridden with disease and had no running water, a Greek court has ruled.

The court in the northwestern city of Igoumenitsa said the 15 adults — from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Morocco — had been held for up to six weeks in "wretched and highly dangerous" conditions.

The decision to acquit the migrants of escaping police detention is a strong indictment of Greece's treatment of detained illegal immigrants, which has been repeatedly criticized by international human rights groups.

A spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency in Athens said it was a very significant first for a Greek court to acknowledge that people held in such conditions had no option but to try to escape.

The country, grappling with revived anti-immigrant sentiment amid the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II, is the main entry point to the EU for thousands of undocumented migrants from Asia and Africa and has started a drive to round up and expel them.

More than 30 inmates were crammed into an 18-square-yard (15-square-meter) cell with no running water or bedding and just one chemical toilet, according to the ruling, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press on Monday. It said the Igoumenitsa lockup was never cleaned and the detainees were coping with lice, skin disease and typhoid.

The men had been held in the port city pending deportation for allegedly illegally entering the country, and they escaped on Oct. 1 by pushing past police guards who had entered the cell to clear garbage.

Judge Athanassios Terzoudis argued in his October ruling that both the duration and the conditions of their detention were in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Therefore, the court judges that (the detainees) escaped to avoid a severe and otherwise inevitable threat which — through no fault of their own — endangered their health, and specifically to avoid infectious diseases given their particularly limited access to medical attention care, medicine and hospital treatment," the ruling said.

The judge also ordered the Greek government to cover the court costs.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said it had sent a report on substandard conditions at the Igoumenitsa lockup to Greek authorities after a visit in August. "It's one of the worst detention centers we've visited," said UNHCR protection officer Kalliopi Stefanaki. "Unfortunately, overcrowding, lack of fresh air and hygiene are not uncommon. We think (this ruling) should affect government policy."

Igoumenitsa has a ferry link to Italy, and is a main destination for illegal immigrants trying to stow aboard ships in a bid to reach western Europe.

For years, Greek authorities did little to stem the tide or ensure humane treatment and access to asylum proceedings for migrants. But under the double pressure of rising immigration-related crime and anti-immigrant sentiment that brought a xenophobic, quasi-neo-Nazi party to Parliament last year, the government in August started the drive to kick out illegal immigrants.

So far, more than 4,000 people have been interned in former military bases and crammed into police holding cells pending deportation, in an operation curiously code-named after Zeus Xenios, the ancient Greek god of strangers.

Under new laws, detainees can be held for up to 18 months before being served their deportation orders — which they have a couple of weeks to appeal.

Police said the 15 immigrants in the court ruling still face deportation, but have been transferred to a different holding location.

An officer said the initial facility had been used as a "temporary" measure since there had been no others available. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with the media.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Free dental clinic to draw thousands in Hartford

    Free dental clinic to draw thousands in Hartford

    Thursday, April 24 2014 8:24 AM EDT2014-04-24 12:24:06 GMT
    More than 2,000 patients are expected to seek free dental work at an annual clinic in Connecticut.  The seventh annual Connecticut Mission of Mercy free dental clinic is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
    More than 2,000 patients are expected to seek free dental work at an annual clinic in Connecticut.  The seventh annual Connecticut Mission of Mercy free dental clinic is scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
  • Fire at Carlstadt Post Office

    Fire at Carlstadt Post Office

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:50 AM EDT2014-04-24 11:50:47 GMT
    An overnight fire caused significant damage to a Carlstadt, N.J. post office.  It happened around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday at 331 1st Street.
    An overnight fire caused significant damage to a Carlstadt, N.J. post office.  It happened around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday at 331 1st Street.
  • Deli clerk burned in Molotov Cocktail attack

    Deli clerk burned in Molotov Cocktail attack

    Thursday, April 24 2014 7:10 AM EDT2014-04-24 11:10:53 GMT
    A store clerk inside of a Brooklyn mini-mart was set ablaze when an enraged sicko threw a Molotov Cocktail into the store.  It happened just before 2 a.m. on Wednesday at the store on Fort Hamilton Parkway.The 34-year-old store clerk had his hair and coat catch fire in the attack.
    A store clerk inside of a Brooklyn mini-mart was set ablaze when an enraged sicko threw a Molotov Cocktail into the store.  It happened just before 2 a.m. on Wednesday at the store on Fort Hamilton Parkway.The 34-year-old store clerk had his hair and coat catch fire in the attack.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices