Greece opens first ‘closed’ camp for asylum seekers on Samos

Barbed wire, X-ray scanners and magnetic doors: On the Greek island of Samos, the new “closed” camp for migrants, the first of the “new generation” that opened on Saturday, looks at first glance like an isolated prison with a quarter of its population. Qarn is an hour’s drive from the main city.

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Sur un terrain de plus de 12 000 m2 bordé d’une double ligne de fils barbelés, plus de 300 demandseurs d’asile y seront transférés à partir de lundi du bidonville de Vathy bientôt démantelé, où ils s’entassaient juques port from the city.

The camp remains empty, said Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarashi at an opening ceremony.

Asylum seekers will be divided into several ‘neighbourhoods’, where they will have access to dining areas, sports and games, as well as communal kitchens. The AFP team found that each container contained five beds and a wardrobe leading to Turkish toilets and communal showers.

The new installation, previously criticized by several NGOs, cost 43 million euros, according to the Migration Ministry.

Detention of rejected asylum seekers

Inside it, a detention center was planned for migrants who had been denied asylum and sentenced to return to Turkey.

Likewise on the island of Leros, where such a camp is due to be completed next month, and the island of Kos immediately afterwards.

On Lesvos, where Moria camp turned into ashes last year, work has not yet begun and is not expected to be completed until autumn 2022, according to a government source.

The European Commission has pledged €276 million to fund five new camps on the Aegean islands, which receive most of the migrants coming from the neighboring Turkish coasts.

“This is the first reception center for a new generation in the Aegean islands,” Betty Gemender, Deputy Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs at the European Commission, told Samos Samos.

On Samos, the Vathy slum housed nearly 7,000 asylum seekers between 2015 and 2016, with an initial capacity of 680 people.

Of the 550 migrants remaining on the island, about 300 migrants living in unsanitary conditions have agreed to be transferred to the new camp where they are due to attend on Monday.

Fears of immigrant imprisonment

But they will only be able to go out during the day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and are bused into town and forced to show their fingerprints and electronic badge at the magnetic gate at the entrance.

Disciplinary penalties are planned for those who do not return before 8 pm.

These new centers will “prevent the effective identification of vulnerable people”, “limit asylum seekers’ access to services” and “amplify the harmful impact of incarceration on people’s mental health”, criticized by about fifty NGOs, including Amnesty International.

Mireille Girard, UNHCR representative in Greece, acknowledged that the word “closed” comes up often. It worries the refugees who have heard it. We discussed it with the authorities and this morning we were told that these will be open camps, which is very important,” she told AFP after the opening.

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For her, “Vathi camp was the worst camp in the whole country, so it’s a good idea to close this chapter. Having said that, it is very important that people in the new structure can move freely in and out of the camp to restore a sense of normalcy after they arrive.”

Athena continues to congratulate itself on easing the massive camp crowding and a nearly 90% drop in arrivals since 2019.

But NGOs explain this decline by forcibly returning migrants to Turkey, which the conservative Greek government denies.

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