[11.10.2021, 07:00 CET]
For Immediate Release
Three weeks ago on the Aegean island of Samos, the people seeking asylum were transferred from the old camp of Vathy to the new camp located in the remote area of Zervou (8km from the city center). The opening of this ‘Multi Purpose Reception and Identification Center’ (MPRIC) has been a cause for concern, due to several prison-like features such as high military fences with barbed wire or drone and video surveillance. Moreover, numerous issues have been raised by people living inside the MPRIC since they moved in, as for example the inadaptation of the structure to the disabled people, a lack of kitchen equipment or flooding in some bathrooms. Based on verified reports from camp residents, Europe Must Act sent a letter to Manos Logothetis, General Secretary of Reception of Asylum Seekers, Ministry of Migration and Asylum to highlight the dysfunctionments and ask for action to be taken within a week. The letter has been sent by email on September 30th, and as of today, October 11th, still no answer has been received.
A man from Iraq, a woman and two men from Mali, all residents of the new camp, shared with Europe Must Act their feelings after their first weeks there:
Ahmed* from Iraq says: “I feel like I'm in prison. I feel lonely, lazy, and like I'm in another world. The new camp is definitely better than the tent, there is a bathroom, kitchen, water, electricity, refrigerator and air conditioners. But I stayed in the tent for three years, then now what, I moved to another camp? I ask myself these questions: how long will I be called a refugee? When will I become a human? A human who works, goes out, travels, does what any other person would do?
Regarding the money, for three years I received a monthly financial aid of 75 euros while it should have been 150 euros! It’s because they serve us food, but I haven't taken any since I arrived on the island. I am using the 75 euros to buy what I can in food and to buy Internet credit, all with only 75 euros per month! Also we didn’t receive any money this month, and it’s now October 5th. And the food hasn’t changed, it’s the same food they used to serve in the old camp. Now my health is bad, I feel tired and exhausted psychologically and physically.”
Djénébou* from Mali says: “The new camp and the old camp, it’s the same thing. Here we sleep well and we are clean, but the food is bad. Since I arrived in Samos [2 months ago], I didn’t receive any money, I didn’t get any good food. I have stomach problems. I went to the hospital but the doctor gave me only paracetamol. Also, maybe the food in Europe is just not the same as the food in Africa. If I had money I could buy some food and cook the way I want.”
Moussa* from Mali says: “Here it’s not good. That’s it. It’s really, really, really not okay.We don’t eat well. We can’t receive people well. There is a lot of suffering here in the new camp. For me personally but also if you ask the others, the majority will tell you it’s not good, everybody says so.
To go to the city, it’s not free, we have to pay. We are here, locked up. We cannot find a job. They don’t give us money, not even 1€. We have to pay for the bus to go to the city. How can we find the money to go there? It should be free. We are locked up, unable to work, without getting money, we don’t eat well. A lot of things are not okay.
When something is broken in the container, someone comes to have a look, write something down and then leave, but then before it’s fixed we have to wait. It’s been maybe one week, they say they will fix it but they don’t come. It’s not good here, really, really not good.”
Djina* from Mali says: “We are here in the new camp, the containers are cosy but we didn’t come here to sleep. Some of us left their home two years ago. We haven’t any good food nor good health. We are prisoners, and nothing can replace freedom, so here it's total traumatism. Also, the place is very isolated. They cut the financial aid, for them we are merchandise. The European Union is aware of everything. We can have 4 or 5 rejections. It’s weird here, don’t ask me anymore.”
Significant concerns are related to the lack of cash assistance, the food, and the feeling of being locked up. The fact that the financial assistance hasn’t been received yet by the residents might be explained by a delay due to the taking over by the Greek government of the cash assistance program which was previously run by UNHCR since 2016. However, camp residents have not been provided clear information. The food provided to the refugees and asylum seekers in Samos has long been deprecated, however the supplier has remained the same. The bus service between the MPRIC and the town of Vathy is run by a private company and costs 1.60€ per way, so 3.20€ way and back. The camp is closed with fences and movements in and out are forbidden between 8pm and 8am.
This feeling of being trapped, which was already triggered by the impossibility to leave the island for most of the asylum seekers, is thus exacerbated. In a letter to the camp authorities, sent by single Syrian men asking for their freedom: “We do not know what is our fate, nor why we are being treated like criminals despite not having committed any sin. All we did was flee our country, refusing to die. All we want is a life in safety and dignity, as every human desires. [...]
Please do not neglect us! We suffer badly! Having been condemned to idleness for over two years, we are driving crazy, depressive. Our minds are devoured by mental illness, we lose ourselves. [...] Please do not ignore this, please help us. We would like to discuss the problems and suffering we face with the camp authorities, so that a solution will be found and over two years of suffering may end.”
Cecilia Sanfelici, Aegean Advocacy Coordinator for Europe Must Act says “This new camp represents the official beginning of EU-funded de facto closed camps. These camps are not a new reality in Greece as they already exist on both the mainland and the Aegean islands. The situation in the existing camps and the issues in the new camp on Samos show again that camps can’t provide dignified living conditions.
The fact that last week the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum co-hosted in Athens the World Border Security Congress, a global platform on border security and management, is a sign of how Greece is making border management – instead of human rights protection – its flagship. Our recently launched #NoMoreWalls campaign aims to counter this narrative and take the attention of decision-makers on the real impact of such policies on people’s lives.”
*alias name chosen by the person
Notes for Editors
Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement, bringing together volunteers and NGOs to campaign for the humane, dignified and legal reception of refugees in Europe. EMA was established in March 2020 by a group of volunteers on the Greek Aegean islands of Chios and Samos in response to the ever-worsening situation of the hotspot camps. For more information about EMA, please visit www.europemustact.org/about-us.
Further comments available.
Christian Schmidt, Press Coordinator, Europe Must Act
Cover photo: New camp on Samos / Zervou