Migrants revolted at Greece’s biggest detention centre last week against racist repression.
More than 1,600 people are held at the Amygdaleza camp, near Athens, awaiting deportation. They are mainly from Afghanistan, Pakistan or northern Africa.
“This was a real revolt,” Petros Constantinou of the anti-racist coalition Keerfa told Socialist Worker.
“Everyone knew that something like this would happen against the brutality of the camps. And immigrants from all the different countries were united.”
Since operation Zeus Xenios began a year ago over 100,000 people have been stopped on the streets to have their documents checked. The operation is named after the ancient god of hospitality.
Three migrants were tortured at Athens international airport as police tried to get them to sign statements that they were leaving voluntarily.
They could then be deported more cheaply on a commercial flight. One of the men, Daoud Ahmed, had already been attacked twice. He, with Keerfa, is suing the police for torture.
There was deep anger when detainees learned of a proposal to extend detention time from 12 to 18 months.
But the immediate run-up to the riot began when police guards cut off electricity to two of the metal shipping containers in which the migrants are housed. They were responding to detainees setting up air conditioning to cool the interior.
After five days, on Saturday of last week, the police violently pushed the inmates into the containers. One officer stamped on their food. The cops were heard to shout, “Fuck you, we don’t care if you die.”
Now migrants fought back, burning down ten containers and driving the police out. An unknown number escaped.
It took thousands of police reinforcements and special forces to retake the camp.
Petros said, “This wasn’t just about the dreadful conditions. These camps are racism in the most brutal way—putting refugees from countries which are being bombed in prison just because of their origin.”
Earlier this year more than 3,000 migrants at Amygdaleza went on hunger strike. “We will be organising more demonstrations to shut down the camps, legalise everyone and open the borders”.