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An overview of the situation of new closed structures for asylum seekers in Greece

There is no doubt that the situation prevailing in the reception areas of asylum seekers upon their arrival to a given country affects their capacity for social inclusion. In Greece in 2021, a stable and rapid replacement of open structures by closed structures began, with the aim of discouraging the arrival of new asylum seekers. Thus, until almost the end of 2021, the execution of the programme of construction of reception and identification structures on the islands continued, despite the reduction of refugee and migration flows in the last year. The structures in Samos, Kos and Leros are already operational. 

By the end of 2022, the construction of the new camps in Lesvos and Chios is expected to be completed and an upgrade and expansion of the structure of the Evros outpost is planned. The projects in these three areas, which constitute a single contract, have been blocked after the appeal of the Municipality of Chios to the Supreme Administrative Court (Council of State), regarding the area in which the structure is planned to be created on the island. However, the decision of the Council of State is expected to be published soon.

At the end of October 2021, a total of 4,532 asylum seekers remained on the islands, according to data from the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, while previous year in October the numbers amounted to 18,872 people. Last year, a total of 3,625 asylum seekers arrived to the Greek islands by boat from Turkey. The construction of the new structures is expected to reach 300 million euros (budget 297.66 million with VAT) and the costs are covered by the European Union.

Sources from the Ministry of Immigration appear optimistic that the decision of the Council of State will be made public soon, which will constitute a rejection for the Municipality of Chios. Besides, the success of the operation of the structures in Samos, Kos and Leros - estimated by the same sources - will bend the reactions of the citizens of Chios. 

In total, the contract for the construction of the new KYT in Chios, Lesvos and the expansion of the KYT in Evros reaches 176 million euros, of which 94 million are for the construction in Lesvos, 59 in Chios and 23 for the upgrade and expansion of outpost in Evros. According to the data of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, in the last year (October 2020 - October 2021) 6,176 new arrivals were recorded at the Evros outpost.

In short, the operational innovations of the organization of the structure of Samos, which allow the safe accommodation of the beneficiaries and the employed staff are:

•    The organization of structure in neighbourhoods/distinct areas.

•    Separate accommodation/neighbourhoods for vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors/single parent families, but also general accommodation, new arrivals and quarantine area.

In each neighbourhood there are:

•    Restaurant areas with additional use as places for public activities and places for distribution of non-food goods
•    Sports facilities
•    Recreation areas - playgrounds
•    Shared washing machines
•    Shared kitchens
•    Canteens
•    Multiple areas of administration and housing services such as doctor's offices, school rooms and office of psychosocial and legal services.
•    Green spaces cover 25% of the total space of the structure, while all interiors are air conditioned (accommodation and administration)
•    Irrigation water recycling system resulting from tertiary wastewater treatment, either for use in toilets or for irrigation of the structure 
•    Adequate fire extinguishing system.

However, Amnesty International characterizes the detention of asylum seekers in the closed structure of Samos as illegal, stressing that the relevant decision of the Minister of Immigration and Asylum remains unpublished.

The structure, which was at the centre of the intense episode between the Prime Minister of Greece and the Dutch journalist Ingeborg Beugel, was visited by a group of organizations, which describes it as a "prison", funded, in fact, by the EU.
During his confrontation with the Dutch journalist, the Greek Prime Minister invited her to visit the said structure in Samos to see the conditions. "I have visited the new camps in Samos ...", the journalist replied. Kyriakos Mitsotakis: "No, you have not been to Samos (...) In Samos there is now an impeccable camp with impeccable conditions, which even has playgrounds, with EU funding ", the Prime Minister supported and added: “This is our policy, we support it and we will not accept any insult".
"Asylum seekers living in a new refugee camp on the island of Samos, which is funded by the EU, are being detained illegally by the Greek authorities following a decision by the Greek Minister of Immigration and Asylum, which is still unpublished. "According to the decision, from November 17, those who do not have valid IDs issued by the government (asylum cards) are prohibited from leaving the camp for an indefinite period of time. The decision applies to persons from whom the cards have been removed as a result of unsuccessful asylum applications or to new entrants who have not yet been issued a card. According to unofficial estimates, 100 of the approximately 450 residents have been barred from leaving prison-like facilities for more than two weeks, violating their right to liberty.This space is more like a prison than a place for people seeking security. It is a blatant misuse of EU money and a blatant violation of the rights of those living there," said Amnesty International researcher Adriana Tidona. 

Also, regarding the structure of Samos, the characterization of prison is not excessive. It emerges from the very solemn announcements of the Minister of Immigration and the relevant press release that was made public.
Behind the careful photos with "playground" and "recreation areas", but also the expressions about "people who will regain their lost dignity", we read that in the new centre a "double NATO type security fence has been place, which in combination by installing at the entrance the necessary control systems, such as turnstiles, magnetic gates, x-rays, two-factor access control system (identity and fingerprint), ensures the safe and controlled entry to and exit from the structure to whoever is entitled to it". Finally, the installation of a CCTV system, which uses "smart" software, is foreseen throughout the structure.