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‘This is inexcusable’: What's behind deteriorating conditions in Greek island asylum camps?

By Lydia Emmanouilidou, The New Humanitarian, Samos 4 December 2023.

‘We have a situation that is clearly unsustainable and that demonstrates deficiencies and gaps.’


Situation on Samos

"At the camp on Samos, the number of residents had ballooned from about 500 in early July to around 4,000 people by the end of September – roughly double the stated capacity. More than 3,500 people were living in the camp in early December.

Images taken by refugees inside the camp, which were shared with The New Humanitarian by residents and lawyers working on the island, show adults and children sleeping on cardboard and on thin mattresses on classroom floors, while prefabricated office containers have been converted into makeshift dormitories.

Amid the deteriorating conditions, a group of local lawyers with the non-profit Human Rights Legal Project (HRLP) submitted a petition to the Greek Ombudsman and the European Court of Human Rights about “ongoing violations of Greek and international law” in the camps.

The petition, which The New Humanitarian has seen but is not publicly available, warned of a “humanitarian crisis” underway, citing the lack of medical services, water shortages, insufficient food, poor sanitary conditions, and the absence of dedicated facilities for vulnerable asylum seekers.

Twenty-two local and international non-profit organisations have also raised the alarm that people are being detained for periods lasting from two weeks to one month without the necessary legal procedures being followed, and that, during that time, they do not have access to medical care or legal support.

In September, following HRLP’s petition, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Greece to provide medical care to a six-month old baby with congenital heart disease, and adequate accommodation for her mother, who is suffering from heart and stomach ailments. HRLP lawyers argued the pair were unlawfully detained in the camp for more than 30 days without access to proper care, in violation of the European Convention for Human Rights.

While publicly describing the situation at the camp on Samos as “manageable”, Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis, during a private September meeting with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, flagged serious issues plaguing the Samos facility in particular, according to a document obtained by The New Humanitarian through a public records request.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not directly respond to The New Humanitarian on the documented gaps and subpar conditions inside some of the camps. Ministry Press Officer Giorgos Skordilis provided links to existing statements, noting a 42% reduction in irregular arrivals to the islands in October compared to September.Situation on Samos".

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