23 Φεβρουαρίου 2019

Κάθε μέρα δημοσιεύματα στο ξένο τύπο για το προσφυγικό της Σάμου κύριε Σεβαστάκη εξ αιτίας των δικών σας επιλογών

Greece races to move refugees from island likened to a 'new Lesbos'
Migration minister warns camp on Samos where hundreds of children live in squalor is six times over capacity

Global development is supported by
Bill and Melinda Gates FoundationAbout this content
Helena Smith in Athens

 A man peers out from behind a fence surrounding the overcrowded reception facility on the Greek island of Samos
 A man peers out from behind a fence surrounding the overcrowded reception facility on the Greek island of Samos. Photograph: Mohammad Ghannam/MSF
Greek authorities are scrambling to house almost 4,000 people crammed into an overflowing migrant camp in Samos, as aid groups warn of a “humanitarian disaster” on one of Europe’s forgotten

Likening Samos to a “new Lesbos,” the country’s migration minister warned of a race against the clock to find suitable accommodation for the ever growing number of people trapped in a reception centre now six times over capacity.

“Samos is our biggest problem. The flows are constant and traffickers, it seems, are always one step ahead,” Dimitris Vitsas said in an interview at his office in western Athens. “The camp there is very overcrowded, with all the problems that this means. I have to move at least 2,000 people from the island as soon as possible.”

As in Lesbos, which received more than 1 million people at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, smuggler rings have their sights on the eastern Aegean outcrop, which lies barely a mile from the Turkish coast. Unlike other isles, however, Samos’ sole refugee camp is within walking distance of the port capital, Vathy. Amid mounds of rubbish, its myriad tents and makeshift shelters cascade down the hills above the town.

Every day, boatloads of new arrivals add to the build-up of humanity forced to endure conditions that the Refugee Support Aegean group this week described as having “reached the edge”.

Such is the pressure on the camp that more than 1,500 people are now living in unheated tents and shelters outside the centre, according to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. An estimated 24% are children, of whom 229 are reported as unaccompanied.

That the camp has only one state-appointed medic simply compounds the situation. Doctors play a leading role in processing asylum claims, by assessing vulnerability.

The vast majority of the 15,150 refugees currently registered on Greece’s five Aegean islands – holding pens for arrivals since the EU struck a controversial agreement with Turkey in March 2016 to staunch migrant flows – request asylum. Under EU rules, claims must be handled in locales where migrants and refugees first land.

“Because there are not enough doctors, it is impossible to know how many are in need of protection and should be transferred to the mainland,” said Vitsas, insisting that at least two more medics would be dispatched to the island by the end of the month.

 Children stand amid a makeshift tent camp near the overcrowded facility on Samos
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
 Children stand amid a makeshift tent camp near the overcrowded reception facility on Samos. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images
Even in the depths of winter, Samos is breathtakingly beautiful. Its lush, pine-covered hills lend it a softness that other, more rugged isles lack. But this means little to the increasingly desperate men, women and children who have risked their lives to get there.

So bad are conditions that, last month, more than 500 African migrants marched into the capital chanting: “Samos is no good.” The protest added to mounting pressure on the leftist government in Athens to move them to the mainland.

“This is the reality,” said the UNHCR’s spokesperson in Athens, Boris Cheshirkov, flinching as he flicked through images on his mobile phone depicting tents pitched in areas that resembled open latrines and children roaming barefoot amid trails of rubbish. “It is very difficult. It needs immediate attention.”

In an atmosphere that has become increasingly explosive, locals staged a 24-hour strike earlier this month in what was described as a “dramatic appeal” for action by central government. Xenophobic attacks and racism are on the rise.

In a separate report on Tuesday, the Council of Europe deplored conditions in Greek police detention camps, where it said brutality against migrants and refugees was common.

None of this is lost on Vitsas, a sharp critic of Fortress Europe. Like many on the left, the politician believes that not enough has been done to support development or alleviate poverty in countries from which so many are fleeing in search of better lives.

The Greek island camp where only the sick or pregnant can leave

“Greece doesn’t need money thrown at it, what it needs is solidarity – and that means sharing the burden and responsibility of hosting refugees,” he said, warning that if such policies were ignored, the darker forces propelling right-wing extremism would only stand to gain at this May’s Euro elections. “It’s vital that the EU devises a new relocation scheme that will see all its member states, and not just first reception countries like ours, take in asylum seekers. It’s wrong that we should only be a union when it comes to financial matters and not when it comes to solidarity on immigration issues.”

Despite the biting cold, turbulent seas and gale force winds that have periodically swept Greece, migratory flows have not abated over the winter. In contrast to Italy, where there has been a significant drop in sea arrivals, numbers reaching Greek shores jumped from 36,310 to 50,511 between 2017 and 2018, UN figures show.

Last year, arrivals across the nation’s land border with Turkey shot up by 284%. As a result, Greek authorities are rushing to add two more transit camps to the 26 refugee accommodation centres on the mainland.

But with its chaotic bureaucracy hard hit by Athens’ long-running economic crisis, Vitsas argued there was only so much Greece could do to handle what is increasingly viewed as a forgotten refugee crisis.

“All our simulation models show we cannot process more than 20,000 asylum requests a year, or properly integrate more than 12,000 refugees into society, given 18% of our own population remains unemployed,” he said.

We made a choice…
… and we want to tell you about it. Our journalism now reaches record numbers around the world and more than a million people have supported our reporting. We continue to face financial challenges but, unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall. We want our journalism to remain accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

This is The Guardian’s model for open, independent journalism: free for those who can’t afford it, supported by those who can. Readers’ support powers our work, safeguarding our essential editorial independence. This means the responsibility of protecting independent journalism is shared, enabling us all to feel empowered to bring about real change in the world. Your support gives Guardian journalists the time, space and freedom to report with tenacity and rigour, to shed light where others won’t. It emboldens us to challenge authority and question the status quo. And by keeping all of our journalism free and open to all, we can foster inclusivity, diversity, make space for debate, inspire conversation – so more people have access to accurate information with integrity at its heart.

Guardian journalism is rooted in facts with a progressive perspective on the world. We are editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one steers our opinion. At a time when there are so few sources of information you can really trust, this is vital as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. Your support means we can keep investigating and exploring the critical issues of our time.