Nine-year-old Jenny stands and rocks backwards and forwards, staring through the bars of a wooden cage.
When the door is unlocked she jumps down on to the stone floor and wraps her arms tightly around the nurse. But a few minutes later she allows herself to be locked back in again without a fuss.
She is used to her cage. It’s been her home since she was two years old.
Jenny, who has been diagnosed with autism, lives in a state-run institution for disabled children in Lechaina, a small town in the south of Greece, along with more than 60 others, many of whom are locked in cells or cages.
Fotis, who is in his twenties and has Down’s syndrome, sleeps in a small cell separated from the other residents by ceiling-high wooden bars and a locked gate. His cell is furnished only with a single bed. There are no personal possessions in sight anywhere in the centre.
“Are we going on a trip?” is this wiry young man’s hopeful refrain whenever he sees anyone new. But with barely six members of staff caring for more than 65 residents there is rarely an opportunity to leave the centre.
They have no money to care; they cannot care without money.
Efi Bekou, who looks after the institutions in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, states that
the economic crisis means that the Greek state is bound to rules set by its lenders in the EU and IMF, including a moratorium on hiring new staff – as a result, she says, it would be impossible to employ the number of staff needed at the centre.
Is this the fault of the Greek state? It is a poor, and poorly-run state, so probably yes.
But not only the state’s fault: the Greek crisis was set in motion by the global recession in the fall of 2008—the same global recession which saw Americans lose their jobs and their homes and blamed by financial analysts for their lax fiscal morals.
And so, too, have the Greeks been blamed by the European Union for its lax fiscal morals, from which they, the EU, must sighingly rescue them yet again.
No word on any rescue for children in cages.
h/t Filipa Ioannou, Slate