Two Afghan men have been jailed following riots at a migrant detention center in northern Greece on Tuesday | Photo: REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis/File Photo
Two Afghan men have been jailed following riots at a migrant detention center in northern Greece on Tuesday | Photo: REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis/File Photo

Two Afghan men have been found guilty by Greek courts and sentenced to jail for six years and nine months each. The men are alleged to have taken part in riots on Tuesday at a migrant detention center in northern Greece. They deny any wrongdoing.

The two Afghan men, aged 22 and 23, were found guilty of "participating in a violent revolt, causing serious property damage and assault" by a Greek court on Thursday, May 14. In addition to their jail terms they were both fined €1,375. Both men told the court they were "not involved in the violence", reports the news agency Associated Press (AP).

The riots took place in a migrant detention center on Tuesday, May 12 in the north of Greece. 25 people were arrested on Tuesday after several shipping container facilities at the center were damaged. No injuries were reported, said the English language Greek paper Ekathimerini.

According to AP, the center houses about 250 migrants near the Greek border with Turkey. Among the detainees are about 150 unaccompanied children. Charities and non-governmental organizations have been calling on the Greek government to end their practice of detaining unaccompanied migrant children but the practice continues.

'Detention becoming the rule not the exception'

On May 8 the United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees in Greece (UNHCR) tweeted that they were worried "detention was becoming the rule not the exception."

The center has been used to register those who enter Greece without documents from Turkey, they are normally held there until they apply for asylum. However, since the beginning of March, the Greek government suspended its asylum application service due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. That has meant there are "severe delays" in processing applications, reports AP.

According to UNHCR data for March there are about 120,000 migrants, asylum seekers and refugees residing in Greece. Arrivals severely dropped in March following the closure of borders and the restrictions placed on the country due to COVID-19. But in recent weeks, they have been slowly increasing. Between May 4-10, 70 people arrived on the islands.

Attacks and riots

Arson attacks, riots and protests are becoming more frequent both on the islands and at migrant centers around Greece. The UNHCR reported that one transit site on the north of Lesbos, which was used to host new arrivals to the islands, was set on fire in March. "This was one of a number of attacks against humanitarian staff and property on the islands," wrote the UN agency in its latest published monthly report for March.

AP reports authorities at the center testified to police that the rioters "threw kitchen appliances at police, caused extensive property damage and set fires." 26 minors were also arrested on Tuesday. They are due to be tried "at a separate date," writes AP.

It is unclear in exactly which detention facility the riots took place. However, in 2018, the Greek Council for Refugees noted, in a report, that "the detention facilities at Thessaloniki " deserved "special mention," because it was "completly inadequate for detention," being located in a former factory warehouse. The report noted that despite inadequacies, the center "continues to be used systematically for detaining a significant number of people for long periods."


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