Greece is struggling to manage what is threatening to become a ‘humanitarian disaster’ on Samos – an island which gained the nickname ‘new Lesbos’ for the inhumane conditions in which refugees and migrants have been placed as they await the processing of their asylum claims. The Samos camp is housing six times more residents than it can handle, resulting in poor living conditions and a lack of protection for those in greatest need. According to Dimitris Vitsas, the Greek Minister for Migration, ‘Samos is our [Greece’s] biggest problem. The flows are constant and traffickers, it seems, are always one step ahead. The camp there is very overcrowded, with all the problems that this means. I have to move at least 2,000 people from the island as soon as possible’.
There is only one doctor on the island, making it impossible to identify those in the greatest need of medical assistance, or the most vulnerable groups, and to provide them with adequate protection and care. This is especially concerning taking into account UNHCR data that shows there are currently more than 1,500 people living without heating, of which 24% are children, and 229 are unaccompanied.
With the refugees protests asking for better conditions on one side, and the rise of racism and hate crimes on the other, Greece is battling with a difficult financial situation, economy in crisis, and high unemployment. However, Vitsas warned that ‘Greece doesn’t need money thrown at it, what it needs is solidarity – and that means sharing the burden and responsibility of hosting refugees’. He urged the European Union and member states to find sustainable solutions and share the burden with the countries of arrival, where refugees and migrants are required to file their asylum claims according to current legislation.