Today is the fourth day of the hunger strike of the members of the board of guards’ federation in Greece. "Since the outburst of the crisis, we have made every effort to present the problems in prisons. We talked about them with all departments of the Ministry of Justice. But this dialogue came to a deadlock and all problems were skipped by the last Minister George Petalotis, without offering any solution," said the chairman of the federation Spiros Karakitsos for GRReporter.
He noted that the conditions in Greek prisons are tragic. They are overcrowded, while the number of guards is minimal. "We are talking about 12,500 prisoners, although the capacity of prisons is about 9,000. For example, currently there are 2,300 prisoners in the prison in Korydallos, which is the main one in Greece, while it can take no more than a thousand people."
According to the trade unionist, the second serious problem is the lack of personnel of all specialties. "For each of the wings of the prison in Korydallos, 2-3 colleagues are expected to serve 500 prisoners. The ratio of two guards to 500 prisoners applies to all prisons in the country."
Prisons could be relieved and conditions in them significantly improved if already built premises, which are not operating due to the lack of staff, were operating. These are located in Chania on Crete, in Nigrita in Ceres and in the village of Nikiforos in Drama.
"Those prisons are not operating because no staff is assigned. And this is because the Ministry of Justice did not exclude us from the act banning new appointments in the public centre."
The guards say that the payment of the statutory allowance for dangerous and unhealthy work was not paid. At the same time, they said that working conditions are becoming more dangerous.
"The new law on public sector wages, which in fact cut our salaries, provides for an allowance for dangerous and unhealthy work amounting to 120 euro per month. For us, this allowance is only symbolic, because prison conditions are extremely difficult and dangerous. Every day we have cases of conflict, both among prisoners and against staff. There are cases of some diseases that have been forgotten for decades in Greece. Hepatitis, tuberculosis and AIDS are widespread in prisons. This is due to the fact that 70 per cent of the prisoners are foreigners. The remaining 30 per cent are Greeks. "
In addition, the state owes them compensations for working at night, during weekends and holidays for 2010, 2011 and the first months of 2012.
The trade union is against the establishment of detention centres for illegal immigrants because they believe that they cannot solve the problem. It also notes that it is impossible for the government to spend so much money for these centres while completely ignoring prisons in the country."
In addition, they warn about the presence of more specific problems, which do not seem to trouble the authorities, at least not so far.
"Greece has never had a serious immigration policy. They will take groups of people and bring them into a confined space without any notion of what will happen later with these people. We see them every day in prisons, where they are the majority. They are tormented and hopeless people who have not been offered any option to get out of the situation in which they are now. As a result, they become criminals out of necessity. They fall within drug and human trafficking networks or become pimps."
Spiros Karakitsos paid particular attention to the problematic relations between the immigrants themselves. "We are witnesses to this collision of cultures in prison. I'm talking about religious clashes between Sunni and Shia or between Albanians from North and South. I am not at all sure that the Greek society is able to understand them and deal with them," he said.
The trade union president explained that the management body has decided to protest in this way in order not to affect prisoners.
"We could declare a strike in all prisons, not allowing the prisoners to see their relatives and lawyers and in many cases, not allow them to go to the court, where their case is tried.
Contrary to the common practice of some trade unions, we decided to pay the price alone. That is why the eleven members of the management board of the federation have announced a hunger strike."
Their demands include immediate recruitment of staff, the rule of one appointment for ten dismissals to not apply to them and, to be paid the allowance for dangerous work. The hunger strike by the leadership of the guards union will continue until Thursday. Guards will decide after the holidays what their further protest actions will be.