“The virtue of justice consists in moderation, as regulated by wisdom.” Aristotle
If the Amygdeleza Detention Centre closes down as has been promised by the Greek government what will happen to the staff I met last November: the commander who spoke proudly of the centre and the work his staff were doing in aid of detained refugees, the young sergeant who enthusiastically described the humanitarian living conditions, the medical facilities, and the counselling support provided to refugees.
As I’ve indicated before, I don’t support the institutionalization of any, but the most violent, but the staff I met at Amygdeleza seemed to be committed to the refugees. Having worked in a prison myself, I know that most (not all) work in places like this because first, they want to help. They think they can make a positive difference in another person’s life. That was always my motivation when I worked in a prison and I felt strongly that this was what drove the people I met at Amygdeleza.
I was fortunate to encounter many officers at Amygdeleza. All were generous with their time and answered all my questions openly. But, I think the one person who seemed to characterize all the others was the young officer who toured me through the center. His career started with the police service, but he transferred to the detention centre because he felt he could make more of a difference.
He talked about the challenges of working in a detention centre with so many refugees, but said that it made him work harder to find appropriate solutions to the problems that arose every single day. He liked dealing with and understanding the different cultures of the people detained in Amygdeleza. This stretched him in ways that hadn’t happened in his previous role.
Despite the high fencing, the razor wire and the guard towers at every corner, and despite the number of dazed faces staring at me as I walked the grounds of Amygdeleza, this officer made me feel that perhaps there was some hope for the refugees. If people like this officer cared, that was a good start. Wasn’t it?
I wonder again what will happen to that officer and all the others I met at Amygdeleza. They seemed to have the wisdom and the humanity to do right by the refugees. Will they be placed in another situation where their empathy and desire to help others can be used appropriately? Who knows?
All I know is that I think about them and hope only the best for them.
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