Refugees and migrants in Greece are complaining that detention centers to which they’ve been moved are “not fit for animals” and in deplorable condition.
The government last week moved about 3,000 of them from the makeshift camp they’d made at Idomeni on the closed border with FYROM to facilities in an industrial area near Thessaloniki but thousands more moved away on their own to avoid confinement.
Photographic evidence and the first accounts from volunteers allowed inside some of the military-run accommodation blocks reveal a dire lack of amenities such as running water, and filthy conditions in derelict warehouses that appear unfit for habitation, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
The missing refugees, including an undefined number of unaccompanied minors, are thought to be living on the streets of Greek cities, hiding in forests near the FYROM border or have been smuggled into other more prosperous European Union countries, their aim in the first place.
The Greek government led by Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is downplaying the complaints and said it’s providing decent shelter for as many as 54,000 refugees and migrants stuck in the country with the suspension of a Eiuropean
Initial reports from inside the Greek camps have prompted calls for action. Images taken inside one new camp, in an industrial zone at Sindos, on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, reveal dirt-strewn warehouses lined with tents pitched on filthy concrete floors.
“There was no running water, no medical care, let alone translators, no provisions for infants, no environmental assessment, no evacuation plan,” Phoebe Ramsay, a volunteer who has been helping refugees in northern Greece since the start of the year told the paper.
“The conditions in the new army camps are abysmal, and range from depressing and sterile to actually unsafe and not fit for animals,” she said, suggesting that conditions were even worse than at Idomeni, 50 miles north.
Volunteer Alexandria South, who visited another camp set up in an old leather factory on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, described atrocious conditions including piles of broken glass, and warehouses with all windows smashed.
She said: “There was no running water or showers or electricity or firewood. Mothers had no hot water for baby formula or to sanitise bottles, and had to use cold water.”
She said that conditions deteriorated when the Greek military, who were overseeing the evacuation of Idomeni, ran out of water and began ordering volunteers who were providing food and water for refugees to feed the army first.
She said there were just six chemical toilets for an estimated 1,000 refugees and that no Wi-Fi had been provided, so it was impossible for people to make asylum claims. Similarly, refugees had not even been told where in Greece they had been relocated.
Greece’s migration spokesman, Giorgos Kyritsis, said the camps were just fine. “There is water and electricity everywhere. One of the reasons why we chose ex-industrial buildings instead of open-air camps was for that very reason,” he said.
“Every time a new site is opened there are shortages in the beginning but then we add amenities and in due process we resolve them. We’re not saying conditions are perfect, we want to improve them but there is absolutely no comparison between the new facilities and Idomeni. At least now they have a roof over their head. When it rains they don’t get wet and they’re not being forced to live in the mud. Surely that’s an improvement?”
On May 27 the UN urged Greece to rapidly improve “substandard” conditions in what it described as poorly ventilated derelict warehouses and factories with insufficient food, water and toilets. The International Rescue Committee has also expressed concerns. It called for immediate action to improve standards.