UN refugee agency urges probe into alleged abuses at Greek detention centre

26 October 2009
A group of young detainees stare at visitors to the crowded centre at Pagani

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed serious concern over recently reported violent incidents at a detention centre in Greece, and called for a thorough investigation into the matter.

According to the allegations, police officers responsible for guarding the centre in Pagani, on the island of Lesvos, abused and beat detainees, including a 17-year-old minor, who had to be transferred to a hospital.

There are reports that the incidents were triggered by the tension generated in some parts of the centre, where some detainees were protesting against their prolonged detention.

“Given the severity of the allegations, UNHCR calls for a thorough investigation so as to ensure that any related responsibility will be brought to the surface and, if substantiated, those responsible will be exemplarily punished,” the agency said in a news release.

A UNHCR delegation that visited the Pagani detention centre last week reported that more than 700 people, including refugees from war-torn countries, unaccompanied minors, women with babies, and other particularly vulnerable groups, were being held in deplorable conditions.

Staff from the agency, during a previous visit in August, had said they were shocked by the “unacceptable” conditions at the centre, which was built to hold between 250 and 300 people.

The agency has reiterated its appeal for the closing down of the centre. It has also asked the Greek Government to review its policies and provide proper reception facilities and special care to those who are in need of international or humanitarian protection.


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