Inmates sleep on floor in ‘dire’ Greek prisons

Europe’s leading human rights body has slammed conditions in Greek prisons and migrant ­detention centres, saying no improvements have been made despite recommendations made nearly two years ago.

The CPT noted chronic overcrowding in jails and migrant detention centres. Picture: Sean Bell
The CPT noted chronic overcrowding in jails and migrant detention centres. Picture: Sean Bell

The report was based on visits in April 2013 to 25 border and police stations, seven prisons and eight immigration and coastguard detention facilities by the Council of Europe’s committee for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CPT).

The CPT also released the Greek government’s response, detailing measures being taken to tackle the problems and ­rejecting criticism about prison ­understaffing.

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The CPT noted increasing mistreatment of suspects by police during arrest, chronic overcrowding in jails and ­migrant detention centres, and a severe shortage of prison guards.

In its previous visit to Greece, the CPT said it had “expressed its serious concern” over the poor conditions of Greek prisons.

“The findings of the 2013 visit demonstrate clearly that the situation remains dire,” the report said.

It noted most prisons were at double or triple capacity, with inmates sharing beds or sleeping on mattresses on the floor. In the men’s section of the country’s largest prison, Korydallos, there were two prison officers on staff for a wing of 400 inmates.

With prisons beyond capacity, hundreds of suspects who are newly convicted or on remand are held for months in police stations, where cells “are all totally unsuitable” to house people for more than 24 hours.

The CPT described one such cell of 130sq ft that held eight people, with detainees sleeping sitting on a chair, a table or on cardboard on the floor.

Conditions are also poor for migrants caught entering the country illegally.

The report said that in one station, “two or more women were held for months in a dark, mouldy and dilapidated basement cell of a mere 54sq ft with no access to outdoor exercise or hygiene products”.

Last October, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that conditions in a Greek jail cell in the town of Serres broke European laws against inhuman or degrading punishment and awarded a prisoner €8,000 (£6,300) in ­damages. More than 30 men were found crammed inside, locked up day and night for weeks or months at a time. There was one shared toilet in the cell.

Last year, it was reported that Greece had the worst prison overcrowding in the European Union, according to figures in the Council of Europe’s latest ­annual prison report.

The government said it was tackling the problem. “We are trying on the one hand to build new prisons and on the other hand to reduce crowding,” justice minister Haralambos Athanasiou said last year.