Personal account from 29. August 2009, when migrants inside Pagani demanded their immediate release. Some 100 people were released. Activists from outisde were beaten away.
"The passion for freedom is stronger than any prison!"
A negotiation team with lawyers and other delegates from the noborder lesvos 09 met early this morning with the Prefect of Lesbos, the Chief of the North Aegean Police, and a representative of the UNHCR. This meeting was a continuation of the negotiations enforced yesterday when noborder lesvos 09 mobilised a big demonstration near Pagani, to again demand the immediate release of all prisoners, the closure of Pagani detention centre and the abolition of detention altogether.
Todays negotiations resulted in the release of 23 detained families (women with children and their husbands, the latter being a tough issue in the negotiations) and the release of approximately 100 refugees who had already been issued their 'white papers' last week. The 'white papers' concern the documents issued by the police, ordering the refugee to leave Greece in 30 days. Without these white papers it is difficult for refugees to travel from Lesvos to Athens.
The families will be released in 'Pikpa', the new 'open' refugee centre near Mytilini airport, that was openened a couple of days ago, after several institutions that inspected Pagani, including the UNHCR, said that its conditions were unacceptable. To host the families, the Greek army was ordered to put up 4 extra tents in Pikpa.
Earlier today within Pagani prison, about 100 refugees managed to escape from their prison to the yard of Pagani, in which they started a hungerstrike, demanding their freedom. Many of the young men who escaped, had been illegally detained in Pagani for many months. Approximately 80 activists from the noborder camp arrived for a solidarity-action at Pagani's gate around 14.00 o'clock. For a couple of hours, the striking refugees and activists talked and shouted slogans together.
When the news came that the families and an extra 100 people would be released, everybody clapped and cheered. About half of the 100 men in the yard were amongst the refugees whom had already been issued their white papers. When a bus arrived, they were soon released out of Pagani's gate, where they joined the noborder activists to talk and smoke cigarettes in freedom.Later the women and children were released out of the prison and a second bus arrived to take them to Pikpa.
Their departure was delayed for some hours because of the fact that the authorities didn't know where to bring the 100 refugees, mainly young Afghan men, with the white papers. The UNHCR pressed the authorities not to bring them to Pikpa, because they want to host only families there. The authorities claimed they had no other facilities to host the 100 men, which was the reason they brought up for not having released them earlier from Pagani, despite issuing their white papers on the 21st of August.
Occupation of the yard
Around 18.00 o'clock the approximately 100 refugees departed in two busses under loud clapping and cheering of the noborder activists and the refugees remaining detained in Pagani. Shortly after, a truck arrived that needed to enter Pagani. As the gates were wide open, some noborder activists entered Pagani's yard, meeting loud applause of the refugees inside the prison. It was a spontaneous action and the number of activists inside Pagani's yard was small. Immediately the police inside Pagani called for back up and informed the activists that riot police were coming. From within the prison, some refugees who had been issued white papers,asked for the activists to leave,as they feared it would endanger their own release. For several other reasons the noborder activists decided to leave the yard and remain outside of Pagani's gate. Soon after, two police cars entered Pagani.
Then another bus arrived and picked up the last group of women and children. Several minutes after the bus left, a group of riot cops arrived from one side of the small street that runs along the Pagani prison. They started pushing the small group of activists out of the street. No confrontation arose. However, some people were injured.