The islands of the North Aegean, Samos included, were first defined as hotspots in 2015 after huge numbers of asylum seekers arrived on their shores as the entryway to Europe; their safety. Samos was initially a quick-processing unit before asylum seekers made their way to the mainland and then to their next host country, after their asylum claims had been assessed. However, this speed soon slowed down, and people from the refugee and asylum seeker community found themselves trapped on the island, living in makeshift tents on the side of the mountain, sometimes for up to two years.
The last month has been a different story altogether. Following the trend since March 2020, there are close to zero new arrivals, the result of frequent and often violent pushbacks. Meanwhile, the geographical restrictions that force refugees to stay on the Aegean Islands are being lifted for many, both for those with positive and negative asylum decisions.
Yet decreasing numbers of the islands isn’t all good news. Rather the recent weeks have seemed frantic and disorganised. That’s because of the looming reality of the transfer of all remaining asylum seekers to the new closed camp in Zervou - ready to host the asylum seeker population of Samos once the numbers are lowered down to around 1,200. This camp, though fit with containers for all, is remote, and currently without functioning services or public transport.
So, if there was one word to describe the mood on Samos right now - it’s “unsettled”. As a refugee, you might be told you can leave tomorrow, you might fear alternatively staying here for much longer and moving to a remote, far more closed structure. You might receive an open card, only to receive a rejection on the mainland.
NGOs are doing their best to support everyone who still arrives to receive their services - whether that’s education, NFI distribution, food, medical, legal or otherwise. It’s difficult to plan ahead even as far as one week, but we are no strangers to flexibility and challenging circumstances.
As usual, we call for dignity in the asylum process in Greece. We call for transparency and regular information sharing, for the peace of mind of all people who are currently within the asylum service, as well as those seeking to support, both mentally and physically, this population.
If you’d like to find out more about the current situation on Samos, or have any questions, feel free to reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org