Greece’s PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis defended on Friday the first enclosed migrant facility on Samos Island, which has been decried as “prison” by some humanitarian groups, saying that it is a modern facility for the temporary accommodation of asylum seekers.
Visiting the new camp, known as “Zervou”, Mitsotakis said that “It is a modern facility, a secure facility, a facility with controlled entry and exit, a facility whose purpose is to temporarily accommodate refugees and migrants who arrive on Samos until it has been decided whether they should be granted protection status.”
The Greek leader then added: “That is, whether they are to be given asylum or, in case that they do not get asylum, have to be returned under international agreements to their countries of origin or to Turkey. This is stipulated by the joint EU-Turkey declaration of 2016.”
Migrant facility accommodates 300 people
The facility, which opened earlier in September, today accommodates about 300 refugees. “It has the capacity for more but we estimate that it will be unnecessary. See it as a safety valve in the unfortunate case that things get worse again,” Mitsotakis added.
The Greek premier compared the new facility with the old camp at Vathy where migrants and asylum seekers were living in the open, many in make-shift tents. “The facility of shame is closing, the new facility is already operating, this amphitheatrical, beautiful space is being handed over to the local community, just as we promised,” he declared.
New facility in Greece is prison-like, says MSF
Mitsotakis was responding to criticisms leveled against the new facility by Greek and international organizations.
“For us it’s a jail,” Giorgos Karagiannis, head of mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said of the new camp. “It’s a declaration of harmful policies that are preferred by EU leaders rather than the care, the induction and ensured asylum,” he told Reuters.
The new center is located in a remote location and there “is no doubt that this new center will only further dehumanize and marginalize people seeking protection in the European Union,” the MSF said in a statement.
“Maybe the barbed wire is shiny and new in their center but this cannot be sold as an improvement. This is the perfect illustration of how criminal the EU policy on migration is — holding and detaining people who are escaping violence and punishing them for wanting to be safe. It is a disgrace,” Patrick Wieland, MSF Field Coordinator on Samos said.
A 19-year-old MSF patient from Mali, who had been stuck on Greece’s Samos for two years already, was forced to leave home a few years ago because he was being tortured.
“He began his journey to Europe with hope for a better life and for safety,” an MSF statement said. “But now he is experiencing extreme frustration and doubts his very existence. His concerns about the new center have already provoked a series of psycho-emotional reactions.”
“When we ask him what he would like to have, his answer is, ‘My freedom. Until now I was a refugee, now I am going to be a prisoner too’,” MSF said.