Police violence is omnipresent in Lesbos. It happens in the day, in the night, in the street, in the police station, in Moria prison and to people with and without papers.. Every day on this island people are controlled, harassed, humiliated insulted and beaten.
The following text is not a complete report on police violence in Lesbos and doesn’t aim to be one. Rather it attempts to give a glimpse into the everyday violence that happens here on Lesbos. All the citations are part of testimonies we collected during the last 3 month.
People that the police assumes are refugees are repeatedly controlled on the basis of the color of their skin. When they are stopped in the street they are usually asked to show their papers. We know of several people who failing to show identification were taken to the police station and there they were beaten. They were brought to a separate room in the police station that didn’t have cameras and beaten with fists, kicks and sticks. After this they were released again. At least one person was unable to walk after being severely beaten with sticks and another had his arm broken.
People are beaten even while carrying their papers. One person told us that he was arrested in Mytilini. He was not asked to show his papers but instead immediately handcuffed, pushed to the ground and beaten with elbows. Then he was brought to the police station where again he was held down to the ground and again beaten. At no point did the police ask him for his papers or tell him why he was arrested and beaten. After the beating he was released.
Another form of violence the police use is humiliation. People are being insulted and forced to undress in front of the police. A person told us his story which happened in a night in December when the temperatures dropped to zero every night. He said
„the police came with three cars and stopped me. They asked me for my papers. I showed them my papers. After they gave me back my papers. Then they told me to undress. I had to put my jacket, my trouser, all my clothes on the ground. I was only in my underwear. I was very cold. I had to stand there for two or three hours without my clothes. The policemen were looking at me and laughing. Then they told me to dress. Then they beat me. They kicked me with their boots in the back and on the legs.“
The containers where people try to cross to the mainland with are another main point where violence takes place. Most people we know that try this way were either beaten or saw their friends being beaten. Again it is similar stories of people being beaten, kicked, insulted by several police officers.
„I was trying to get to Athens in a container. […] Then the police came and arrested me. […] They pushed my head down to the ground and beat me on the head and after 10 days I still have pain in my head. They handcuffed my hands behind my back and took me to the police station with a car. They took me to a room inside of the police station. They made me undress all my clothes. I was shivering from cold. Then they started the electricity fan. First they beat me with hands and then they kicked me. Three policemen were holding me down on the ground. Two policemen were beating and kicking me in the back and legs, […] The other two people that were in the container with me were also beaten in the same way.“
While refugees face the severest and most frequent police violence supporters are also targeted. They are controlled and sometimes taken to the police station while simply walking in the street without a reason given. One female supporter was controlled on the way home:
„ They told me I have to come to the police station. […] This time it was three policemen in the car with me. In the car they asked me where I was from. I said Holland. They said they like Dutch girls. They asked me if I fuck with a condom. I didn’t reply. They asked again. Then he asked me if I was lesbian or normal.“
Many people traveling to Europe imagine it is place of justice, peace and freedom guaranteeing the human right to seek refugee. But in fact there is no justice or real human rights for refugees in Europe, and especially not on Lesvos. No one here is receiving the rights they deserve and they were coming to Europe for such as respect, safety, morality, love. Instead refugees on Lesvos are being abused and threatened by police everywhere and every time. They find violence instead of refuge.
The police assume that refugees are defenseless and that they can act with impunity, but refugees are documenting, denouncing, and filing complaints against the police for these illegal actions. We will continue to work together to make visible the everyday institutionalized violence of police towards refugees. So get in touch if you hear accounts of police violence and want to work together on the topic.