No Lockdown, But Greece Locks in Refugees in Samos Camp – More Coming

September 19, 2021

While trying to deter any more arrivals, Greece has opened its first closed refugee and migrant detention center on Samos, the island closest to Turkey, which has allowed human traffickers to keep sending them.

The New Democracy government, which has taken a hard line, has also extended a border wall near the Evros River on the northern border with Turkey, stepped up patrols in the Aegan and said more camps would be set up on other islands.

The closed facilities don't allow those being held inside to venture out and the one on Samos replaced an obsolete and overcrowded facility, which all of them are, especially on Lesbos, where most had gone from Turkey.

Under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union, Turkey is supposed to contain some 4.4 million refugees and migrants who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homelands, especially from Syria and Afghanistan.

The new facility on Samos cost almost 43 million euros ($50.42 million) and will house up to 3,000 people, about a third of them in 240 small houses and the rest in large halls, Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarakis said.

“The new closed, monitored facility offers much better living conditions, is outside city limits, and has much enhanced security measures to protect the beneficiaries, personnel but also local communities,” Mitarakis said.

The remaining 550 migrants in the old facility that once housed 7,500 people in “shameful conditions” — as the minister acknowledged — will be transferred to the new one beginning Sept. 20.

Human rights groups and activists have decried conditions in Greece's detention centers and camps as inhumane and a new facility planned on Lesbos to replace a temporary tent city set up after a fire in protest against COVID-19 measures destroyed the notorious Moria camp hasn't even begun construction a year later.

Greece is bracing for a new wave of migrants after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, although Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has vowed to halt the influx long before it reaches Greece's border.

Greece is also uncertain about how Turkey, with whom a new phase of tense relations appears to be underway, will use the migrant issue to put pressure upon the 27-member EU although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used refugees and migrants to squeeze for more concession.

Mitarakis said facilities similar to those on Samos will be opened on Kos and Leros and in 2022 on Chios and Lesbos although officials and residents on the islands didn't want them, protesting in vain.

“Today Samos is finding tranquility and leaves behind the shameful scenes at Vathy,” said Mitarakis, referring to the previous facility shut down for the closed detention center.


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