WHAT IS THE SITUATION OF REFUGEES ON THE GREEK ISLANDS Today?
As a reminder, Greece has been excluded from the referral system since 2011. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has repeatedly ruled that the country does not fulfill the requirements for refugees.
Maristella Tsamatropoulou, communications director of Caritas Hellas: “There are three “hotspots” on the Greek islands which are really closed centers. The others are centers of registration and identification (RIC) and are located in Chios, Lesbos, Samos, Kos and Leros. In these RICs, people are not so much locked in like a detention center, but their mobility is still very limited.
Everywhere, the living conditions are very poor creating tension, protests, and regular disputes as well as fights. For example, recently in the center of Moria (Chios), due to poor living conditions and long delays in the asylum procedure, residents set fire to the center. For now, these asylum seekers are stuck on islands awaiting a transfer to the mainland. The only way to be transferred is to be admitted as a refugee and relocated, however for that, you have to go through the asylum services of the RICs. Unfortunately, these are open only from Monday to Friday from 9 to 14h and are severely under-staffed. ”
High risk situation
Maristella: “A few weeks ago, collaborators from abroad in support of asylum services were repatriated because of various incidents. They consider the situation to be “high-risk” (And this is also the case for Belgian agents.) And so all – both refugees and the local community – are very frustrated because of the procedural delay and the number of asylum seekers denied. All of these islands are overcrowded. In total, there are currently 16,500 asylum seekers with a total capacity of 7,000 with boats continuing to arrive each day. This only aggravates the situation …”
What does Caritas do?
Maristella: “Since the camps on the island have been transformed into a limited access area, Caritas Hellas has decided to stop working in the RICs. Today, we are working in a variety of areas, such as the Kara Tepe camp on the island of Lesbos where we run three centers: one for children’s activities, one for women, and another for men. We are very proud of the latter because it is the only space where men of all nationalities come together, discuss, share tea, play chess, … have time to digest all the difficulties experienced in exile. “
And elsewhere in the country?
Maristella: “We are also very active in the camps in northern Greece (Diavata, Oraiokastro, Polykastro, Vasilika) and in two camps in Athens. Our programs diverge as needed in the camps. For now, for example, it is very cold so we installed 50 housing units (one per family) in Diavata to allow the largest number of people to sleep warm. “