[15.09.2021, 07:00 CET]
For Immediate Release
On Saturday, 18th September 2021, Greece together with the European Union put in operation a new refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos. The opening of the ‘Multi Purpose Reception and Identification Center’ (MPRIC) marks the start of a new era of remote and prison-like refugee camps behind barbed wire and walls build on the Aegean islands and the Greek mainland. One year after the camp on the Aegean island of Lesvos, Moria, burned down, the Greek government and the EU Commission changed their strategy from deterring so-called jungle camps without access to basic needs to closed camps where refugees and asylum seekers are going to be isolated.
The new camp on Samos has many features found in prisons: high military fences with barbed wire, drone surveillance, video surveillance, alarm systems, X-ray machines and metal detectors. In addition, this camp is located in a very remote area (Zervou), 8 kilometers from the center of Vathy, the main city of Samos, and so far without access to public transport. It’s highly likely that the residents will not be permitted to go in and out at the time they prefer, but just at certain hours of the day. Until now it’s not clear how closed the new camp will be. According to external reports, surveillance measures will be implemented thanks to the European Internal Security Fund covering 75 percent of the total costs.
In addition, the very small amount of information available during the past months about the conditions of the new camp has added stress and anxiety to the people first affected by these changes. What is sure, is that due to the remoteness of the new camp people will have less access to basic services such as legal support, education, medical care and services provided by NGOs. Participation in the local social, economic and cultural life will be nearly impossible.
Future residents of the new camp express their worries:
“I don't want the new camp. I arrived in Samos 1 year and 8 months ago, some have been here even longer. If there is a new camp, when will we get out?”
“They want to kill us. There are no human rights. Where are our rights?”
“We don't know if they will leave us there, without food, without a doctor.”
“We will die. Our life is destroyed.” A man from Mali
“If someone gets sick, who is going to take care of them? Here when you go to the hospital, it's like you're not a human body. The other day I was sick, with a stomach ache. In the hospital of the asylum, they treated me like a worthless, they mistreated me.” A woman from Mali
“Our lives are in danger. In our country we fled the war. We came to Greece to be safe, but Greece traumatises us. There is no way this new camp goes well. They can't lock us up…”
“We don't know how we are going to live.” A man from Mali
Moreover, Forutan, a community volunteer from Afghanistan declares: “we are seeing a lot of people who hurt themselves, they have mental health problems because of the situation, because of a lot of stress, they are feeling very depressed about this. It’s not easy to be stuck here for years and then move to the new camp.”
This goes along with ‘Doctors Without Borders’ Head of Mission in Greece, Iorgos Karagiannis, highlighting that the new prison-like camps “will continue to cause a degradation in people’s mental health, a further protection crisis and will make the suffering of those trapped on the Greek islands even more invisible.”
Cecilia Sanfelici, Aegean Advocacy Coordinator for Europe Must Act says “The new refugee camp on Samos is the official example of the implementation of European and Greek policies of deterrence and containment. We are extremely worried about the fact that the European Union and Greece are practically putting in place the practices proposed by the ‘New Pact on Migration and Asylum’ despite this not being approved yet. This is a clear tendency of investing money on containment and isolation, rather than inclusion and integration. The most fundamental rights and freedoms of refugees are being eroded to a dangerous point.”
A grassroot demonstration to show disagreement with the isolation and invisibility asylum seekers will face in these structures, leading to the denial of fundamental human rights, is planned on Friday and Saturday from 6pm to 9pm, in Vathy.
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