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On Location: Why refugees to Greece are sewing their mouths shut
February 17, 2014 - 12:31am

ATHENS — Greek authorities call them migrant pre-removal facilities, but they look more like prisons. Many of the residents are locked up not for committing a crime, but rather simply for trying to get asylum in Europe. For this, they say they’re held months, packed scores to a room, and often beaten.

“We didn't have any choice so we started a hunger strike, we sewed up our mouth and we stopped eating and drinking,” said Farhad, who has asked not to be identified, fearing retribution for speaking out. “Anyone will do whatever it takes to get his freedom. Some people have tried to commit suicide to get free, others went crazy in there.”

Farhad was just 17 when he made it to Greece from Afghanistan. He says he was held at a detention center in Corinth Greece for 14 months before finally getting political asylum in December.

“In general you are afraid there, terrified,” he said. “When the police would attack us in there they didn’t care who is who, anyone in front of them could become a victim. We were frightened and everyone was hiding under the beds.”

Some 6,500 migrants are currently held in Greek immigration detention centers, co-funded by the European Union as part of an effort to limit immigration. The European Court of Human Rights, the EU’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and NGOs have repeatedly called conditions in these centers inhuman and degrading.
 

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