Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

Private security firms bid on Greek asylum centres

  • British firm G4S, the world's largest private security firm, is among bidders (Photo: g4s.com)

Private security firms are bidding to guard EU-funded migrant detention centres in Greece amid a report by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), which says poor conditions in some of the facilities are causing disease.

Greek authorities received EU money to refurbish and renovate Fylakio Oresteiadas, a pre-removal detention centre located in a remote area near the Turkish border.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Greece now wants to outsource its security, along with two other pre-removal centres in Corinth and Paranesti Dramas, to a private security firm for €14 million a year.

Fylakio was among others included in a scathing MSF report out on Tuesday (1 April).

Detained migrants and asylum seekers are suffering from medical problems caused or aggravated by poor conditions, the length of detention, and the lack of consistent or adequate medical assistance, it says.

“Most of the diseases I treat are connected to the detention circumstances. For example, it is too humid – I have seen patients who sleep on completely wet mattresses,” said one MSF doctor, cited in the report.

Michael Flynn, who runs the Global Detention Project at the Swiss-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, says outsourcing detention facilities to private security companies is a growing phenomenon.

“There should always be a concern when a state invites a for-profit contractor into the management structure of something like immigration-related detention,” he said.

Introducing private contractors shifts the policy focus away from the well-being of migrants to the bottom line of a company, he said.

“This is inevitable, this is just the nature of business,” he said.

The well-being of those detainees, according to the MSF report, is already being neglected despite the around €35 million Greece received last year from the EU’s return fund.

The money is supposed to help voluntary return and reintegration programmes but the bulk of the money is said to have gone to border control and detention centres.

At Fylakio, the EU co-financed expenses of operational costs like food, cleaning, hot water, clothing, medical supplies and heating.

EU home affairs spokesperson Michael Cercone, for his part, said in an email the commission is not aware of any EU funding earmarked for Greece in relation to security services for Fylakio.

He noted that member states are responsible for the money being spent correctly.

“EU money would be only paid if all the relevant conditions and obligations are fulfilled by the authorities of member states,” he said.

A commission-drafted implementation report on Fylakio is due out in March 2016.

Despite the extra money from Brussels, the detention centre still has problems.

“The biggest issue is that since May 2013 there is no daily presence of medical staff,” said a contact at the Greek Refugee Council.

“The infirmary room also hosts unaccompanied minors waiting for their transfer to children facilities. There are no beds, they are sleeping on dirty mattresses thrown on the floor,” noted the contact.

Scabies broke out at the facility at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013.

The Fylakio centre at the time of the scabies outbreak had new washing machines purchased by the EU funds but they were not hooked up.

“They were never connected, the police did not have the money to pay someone to come and connect the washing machines,” Ioanna Kotsioni, at MSF in Greece, told this website.

Greek authorities then report back to the commission with invoices to prove the purchases. There is no follow-up by the commission.

"They [European Commission] should establish a mechanism of independent monitoring because these people are deprived of their liberty based on administrative decisions," she said.

Meanwhile, the multi-million euro contract has already attracted bids from over a half dozen firms.

Among them is G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, which has come under criticism for the treatment of detainees at its three UK-based asylum centres.

Mega Sprint Guard, JCB Security and Facility, and Swedish Systems Security are also in the bidding, among others.

The call for tenders closed in mid-January.

Legal groundwork

The legal groundwork to outsource the facilities was years in the making. Greek lawmakers amended its asylum service and reception laws in 2012.

The reformed legislation gave Greece’s minister of citizen’s protection the right to transfer the responsibility of guarding the centres from the Greek police directly to private security firms.

It built a 12.5 km razor wire fence along its land border with Turkey to keep people from crossing in.

Two years ago, it launched police operation “Xenios Zeus” aimed at rounding up migrants.

Police detained over 120,000 migrants between August 2012 and June 2013. Less than 6 percent had no residency permits.

Undocumented migrants are arrested and transferred to the centres where they can remain for up to 18 months.

Migrants set fire to Greek detention centre

Over 500 undocumented migrants detained for the past three months at the Komotini police academy in eastern Greece rioted and set fire to the premises.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement