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December 15, 2000

Michalis Chrõsochoidis
Minister of Public Order
Government of Greece
Kanellopoulou Street, #4
Athens 101 77

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Dear Minister Chrõsochoidis:

Human Rights Watch is writing to express deep concern regarding the conditions of detention for undocumented migrants in Greece. The enclosed urgent memorandum documents conditions found by our researchers at the Attica General Police Directorate detention facility for foreigners on Alexandras Avenue in Athens on November 18, 2000. Human Rights Watch found appalling conditions of detention that violate international and regional standards for the treatment of detainees and may amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

In addition to the overcrowding and consequent lack of adequate sleeping accommodations, we are particularly concerned that detainees have no access to exercise or fresh air, limited access to medical care, inadequate amounts of food, and an environment that is dirty and roach infested. Moreover, those awaiting deportation are held for lengthy periods of time with no certainty as to when they will be deported or released. Human Rights Watch is also concerned that asylum seekers awaiting status determination results are among those detained. The Alexandras Avenue facility is not equipped to hold the numbers of detainees it currently interns and was not designed to hold detainees for extended periods of time.

The enclosed memorandum includes a detailed list of immediate measures Human Rights Watch is urging the Greek government to take to alleviate severe overcrowding at the Alexandras Avenue facility and to ensure that the treatment of detainees conforms with the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and the European Prison Rules. The memorandum also makes recommendations to the international community to monitor detention conditions in Greece, to hold the government accountable for the substandard conditions at the Alexandras Avenue facility, and, more generally, to improve human rights protections for migrants and asylum seekers throughout the European Union. International institutions will be focusing on Greece in the upcoming year; as you know, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture will make a follow-up visit to Greece in 2001.

Moreover, Greece is required to submit reports in 2001 to the U.N. Committee Against Torture and the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Human Rights Watch is forwarding this memorandum to these bodies, as well as to the European Commission and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Human Rights Watch acknowledges the generous cooperation of the Ministry of Public Order and police officials with respect to arranging our visit to the Alexandras Avenue. We thank you for your attention to the concerns raised in this memorandum, and respectfully request an official response.


Rachel Denber Acting Executive Director Europe and Central Asia Division