Urgent Interventions

Greece: illegal detention and ill-treatment of migrants any asylum-seekers without legal documents

Case GRC 180901

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Greece.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Greek Helsinki Monitor, a member of the OMCT network, of the illegal detention and ill-treatment of migrants without legal documents, several of whom are potential or actual asylum seekers, in the Hellenikon Holding Center in Greece.

According to the information received, the rights of 23 migrants or asylum seekers in question have been violated in several ways. The violations typically include: them not being informed of their rights in a language they can understand, both during their arrests and their subsequent trials; not being shown the Hellenic Police Informational Bulletin (HPIB) which contains prisoners rights in a variety of languages; being forced to sign blank documents, which have later been used to incriminate the persons or prepare their deportation orders; in several cases they were not provided with lawyers during their trials and were not properly or at all informed of the results of the proceedings; they were often made to pay for legal assistance or food or translators, being unaware that such services can be provided for free to those in need; they were detained for long periods of time in conditions which amount to ill-treatment, including lack of proper food, and unhindered access to water, toilets and other hygienic utensils; and in some cases were assaulted physically. Full interviews of the detainees, compiled by the Greek Helsinki Monitor, can be obtained from OMCT upon request or by visiting the following website:

The persons in question are as follows (name, country of origin, date of arrest):

1) Abdul Rahman Eesa, Iraq (Kurd), August 13th, 2001 – 2) Abdul Zolil, Bangladesh, around July 10th, 2001 – 3) Abdullah Omar Ozallan, Iraq, August 3rd, 2001 – 4) Ahmed Hussein, Iraq (Kurd), Juune 4th, 2001 – 5) Ahmed Mahamed Esa, Iraq (Kurd), August 8th, 2001 – 6) Ali Sinanaliaj, Albanian, August 5th, 2001 – 7) Benson Eguavoen, Sierra Leone, June 1st, 2001 8) Festas Eghosa, Sierra Leone, June 5th, 2001 – 9) Hamad Raed, Iraq (Kurd), July 18th, 2001 – 10) Hoque MD Emdadul, Bangladesh, August 6th, 2001 – 11) Jahangir Alam, Bangladesh, around July 10th, 2001 – 12) John Ayre (aka Saleh Badr), Sierra Leone, June 6th, 2001 – 13) James Ngugi, Kenya, August 3rd, 2001 – 14) Kamaran Jaffar Mohammad, Iraq (Kurd), August 7th, 2001 – 15) Meran Mustafa Ahmed, Iraq (Kurd), June 9th, 2001 – 16) Omar Hazar, Iraq, August 2nd, 2001 – 17) Osman Karzan, Iraq, August 12th, 2001 – 18) Rangasamy Nadaraja, Sri Lanka, June 12, 2001 – 19) Raza Hussein Quadeer, Iraq (Kurd), August 13th, 2001 – 20) Razul Faizula, Iraq (Kurd), August 3rd, 2001 – 21) Soran Ghafor Hussein, Iraq (Kurd), August 8th, 2001 – 22) Yokhana Raad, Iraq (Christian), August 5th, 2001 – 23) Yonan Ishak, Iraq, August 8th, 2001.

According to the information received, Abdul Rahman Eesa, who was not in possession of a passport, was arrested as he was arranging to leave Greece. His rights were violated in the following ways: he was not informed of his rights in a language he understood, was subjected to ill-treatment by the police, was not provided with a lawyer, was tried entirely in Greek and sentenced to five months imprisonment without having been questioned by the Judge or having his sentence explained to him, was forced to sign documents in Greek, even though they were related to his deportation. He was then moved to Hellenikon Holding Center (HHC) without being informed about the reasons for his detention, and has not been informed about whether he is serving his sentence or awaiting deportation. This is a case that comprises many of the violations to which the other 22 detainees have been subjected. The other persons’ cases follow below, including details of the additional violations to those stated above, where applicable.

Meran Mustafa Ahmed suffered a similar plight to that of Abdul Rahman Eesa, and was sentenced to a three-month detention period. Ahmed Hussein was initially arrested in Italy, where he was interrogated and beaten, before being sent back to Athens, while attempting to join his wife in Canada, where he was arrested, tried and sentenced to 4 months imprisonment. Yonan Ishak, who has been living in Greece since 1994 and had obtained a “white card” residence card and has applied for a “green card,” was arrested while leaving Greece to visit his family in the US. He was allegedly charged for possession of illegal documents and sentenced to four months in detention. He too was forced to sign documents that include a confession of being in Greece illegally and a deportation order, and he was not able to appeal this decision in the allotted time, which is five days. Festas Eghosa was arrested while transiting through Greece on his way to Canada. James Ngugi came to Greece in order to arrange for an operation on a brain tumour, which he was subsequently not able to afford. He was unable to present his passport at the time of his arrest due to it having been returned to Kenya for renewal. He requires medical assistance, due to his condition, but has not been allowed access to a doctor.

According to the information received, Abdul Zolil was not provided with food for three days after having been arrested, and was beaten with a truncheon and later beaten and kicked, respectively when he asked to be informed about the content of forms he was being forced to sign, and later when he refused to board an aircraft destined for Bulgaria. He was also refused access to medical assistance. Jahangir Alam was arrested at the same time as Abdul Zolil, and suffered a similar fate, including beatings with a truncheon, not being fed for the first five days of his detention and then only sporadically afterwards. He was also beaten when he resisted being forced to board an aircraft for deportation. Abdullah Omar Ozallan was reportedly detained despite having paid for a lawyer and paid a fine of US$ 220. He was also beaten by a policeman, Officer Zeybekis, at the HHC, and was denied access to a doctor. Hamad Raed was also beaten and kicked by Officer Zeybekis at the HHC, and was refused access to medical assistance following the incident.

Ahmed Mohamed Esa, who is being held in the HHC, has been tortured in Iraq in the past, but was still taken to the Iraqi Embassy to be identified. He is seeking to apply for asylum in Greece as a political refugee. Kamaran Jaffar Mohammed was also taken to the Iraqi Embassy during his detention, for identification purposes. He has not been brought before a court since his arrest. Similarily, Omar Hazar, who was arrested while attempting to reach Germany, was also taken to the Iraqi Embassy, as were Osman Karzan, Soran Ghafor Hussein, Raza Hussein Quadeer and Razul Faizula, the latter two of whom where heading to Belgium and Denmark respectively. Razul Faizala has not been tried yet. It is worth noting that the Greek authorities wished to ascertain that these men where Iraqi Kurds, as it is illegal to deport Kurds back to Iraq, given the situation there, but that they put the security of the persons in grave danger by doing this, as the Iraqi authorities are not only thereby informed of the persons’ whereabouts, but could potentially take action against these persons during their visits to the Embassy.

Rangasamy Nadaraja, who was tortured prior to his departure from Sri Lanka, was also beaten and kicked after he refused to board an aircraft. Yokhana Raad was attempting to reach Denmark to join his family when he was arrested, and he has not been tried yet. Hoque MD Emdadul was arrested and slapped during the subsequent interrogation. He was later sentenced to four months in detention. He had been working in Greece for around a year and had a “green card,” which he gave to his lawyer as evidence. His lawyer reportedly kept the card, unless he paid her the legal fees he purportedly owes her, and she refused to represent him further, meaning that his chance to appeal his deportation was lost. He is seeking to live in Greece.

Benson Eguavoen was arrested while leaving for Crete with a fake passport. He was questioned in English, which he understands. He was, however, slapped on several occasions by police officers during his detention, having been sentenced to four months imprisonment. He was denied access to a doctor during this time, even though he was suffering from headaches and having to share a water fountain with another detainee reportedly infected with TB. Having suffered during the civil war in Sierra Leone, he is reportedly registered as a political refugee in Belgium. John Ayre, who was registered by the Greek authorities as being Saleh Badr from Senegal, as per the information in his fake passport, was punched on several occasions by policemen following his arrest. He was only shown the HPIB documents in English five days after his arrest. He is not seeking asylum in Greece, as he eventually wishes to be able to return to Kenya to continue his work with an NGO called "Watch us.”

Ali Sianaliaj was arrested while travelling from London to Albania to visit his sick mother, he was travelling using a fake European ID, instead of his Albanian passport. He was fined 202,000 drachmas and detained for around one week after August 10th at the HHC before being deported. He was also made to pay for the flight from Greece to Albania, under Law 2910/2001, Article 47.

OMCT is gravely concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of the afore-mentioned persons, given the fact that they have been subjected to ill-treatment and in certain cases physical abuse, without being allowed access to medical assistance. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the systematic issuing of administrative deportation orders to persons who should not be deported, such as Iraqi Kurds, given the current embargo on Iraq and the risks to their physical and psychological integrity should they return. Moreover OMCT deplores the use of physical force against these persons and the other forms of ill-treatment to which they are subjected, in part due to their lengthy detention in facilities not designed to accommodate such detainees. OMCT also wishes to condemn the expeditious and unfair trials as well as the general lack of observance of procedural rights in these cases, including the need to inform the persons of their rights and the results of their trials in a language they can understand. It is also worth noting that Ahmed Hussein, Benson Eguavoen, Festas Eghose and John Ayre have been detained for over three months, which is as violation of a new Greek law concerning aliens.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Greece urging them to:

i. ensure that asylum seekers are not detained due to a lack of legal documents, in line with Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “the position of asylum-seekers differs fundamentally from that of ordinary immigrants…(and that this) should be taken into account in determining any restrictions on freedom of movement based on illegal entry or presence”;
ii. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned persons, order their immediate release and consider the application of those who have applied for asylum in Greece;
iii. intervene with the appropriate authorities in order to secure that the adequate medical assistance is provided to those who request it during their detention;
iv. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of these events, most notably the physical assaults, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
v. ensure that the detainees are informed of their rights in a proven and meaningful way and in a language that they understand, and that all papers that they have to sign are either in a language they understand or are translated by authorised translators to them first;
vi. ensure that forensic or other doctors are always and promptly made available in cases where detainees claim they have been beaten, rather than asking that they press charges first;
vii. ensure that authorised translators and lawyers are made available to them in court and that the latter be instructed to always properly inform the detainees of what is said during the trial;
viii. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


· Constantine Simitis, Prime Minister, Prime Minister's Office at the Hellenic Parliament: +30-1-6717732, 831, Greek Parliament Bldg., Constitution Square, Athens, Greece fax 7241776
· Vaso Papadreou, Minister of the interior, Ministry of the Interior, Stadiou 27str., Athens 101 83, Tel: 3223521-9, 3235610-19 fax 3233218
· Michalis Stathopoulos, Minister of Justice, Mesogeion 96, Athens 115 27, Tel.: 7711019 fax 7755835
· MichalisChrysohoidis, Minister of Public Order, P. Kanellopoulou 4, 115 27 Athens, Fax: 6917944
· George Papandreou Foreign Minister Athens, Greece Fax: +30 1 36 81 433 E-mail:

Please also write to the embassies of Greece in your respective country.

Geneva, September 18, 2001

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.