In the second week of January 2021, temperatures dropped to below 0 degrees as snow, rain and hail fell across the Aegean Islands. On Monday 19th January, the weather on Samos looks like this.
In Samos, just 800 of some 3,500 asylum seekers are currently accommodated inside the official Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) facility. For the rest, there is a complete lack of adequate shelter and services: around 2,700 people currently live in tents and makeshift shelters on the slopes of the mountain above the town. These shelters do little to keep out the cold. In this 'Jungle', the population includes pregnant women, newborn babies, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, elderly people, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, single women, single parents and separated children.
In such poor living conditions and during a global pandemic the freezing weather conditions witnessed over the past few days are extremely dangerous.
Organisations working with refugee and asylum-seeking communities on Samos have gained permission to accommodate small numbers of people in community centres and provide hot meals. On the 18th January, 16 people including pregnant women and young families, were hosted in NGO centres. More people, most likely the elderly and those with medical needs, are expected to be provided with accommodation here in the following days. Some organisations have been working hard to provide winter essentials for everyone living in the camp (blankets, sleeping bags and warm clothes) whilst others have been providing showers, hot food and drinks.
And yet, whilst laudable, these efforts shouldn’t be necessary. Winter comes around every year. No one in the Greek Government or EU can say that they didn’t see this coming.
Not only are these authorities failing to uphold their human rights obligations to provide shelter, warmth and safety but it was their policy decisions which trapped asylum seekers on the islands thus creating this disaster in the first place. Emergency measures by NGOs, although crucial in this situation, are not a sustainable and humane solution. This can only be achieved with structural change - a migration policy which puts a commitment to respect, protect and fulfil human rights at its very core.
Europe Must Act continues to campaign for an end to EU policies which trap people at Europe’s borders. Since the EU-Turkey deal was introduced in 2016, we have witnessed devastating fires, heatwaves, freezing conditions, snow, outbreaks of disease, rodent infestations and very low overall standards of living in these camps. We don’t need any more evidence that this deterrence-based approach is unsafe and inhumane.
Europe Must Act demands that the Aegean Island camps are evacuated and the people living here are immediately relocated to safe communities in Europe. We demand an EU migration policy is implemented which treats people with dignity and respects their fundamental human rights.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
No one should have to sleep another night in such inhumane conditions. Raise your voice with ours to say #EnoughIsEnough.
Use our template letters to write to your elected officials urging them to apply pressure on your national government to relocate people from the camps to safety in your country.
Letter for Councillors or Mayors: shorturl.at/ewLP1
Letter for MPs: shorturl.at/uMQV7
If you share our vision for a Europe which welcomes refugees and asylum seekers, why not make a longer-term commitment to Europe Must Act? To find out how you can get involved come along to our 2021 campaign announcement on the evening of Sunday January 24th: EMA Campaign Announcement | Facebook
[text written by the Samos Inter-NGO Advocacy Team, adapted by Europe Must Act]