the open-air prison on the eastern border of Europe

Christian He left Friday morning his attempted when just in front of him, next to the tent opposite, he saw her: a two meter snake who was walking. The young man, born in Cameroonwith a stick -because he had nothing else- he managed to catch her and then kill her.

I was outraged:”it’s full of ratsof snakes. After we killed her, we caught her among a few and took her to the office of the ‘mudira’so that he can see the conditions under which he condemns us to live. it’s a dirty place. You can’t live here,” says Christian.

here is Refugees camp from Vathy, on the Greek island of Samos, and ‘Mudira’, the word -in Arabic- with which the refugees, all of them, know the director of the centre. It is surely most hated and coveted person from all over the island.

In the countryside, currently, lives about 3,000 people, trapped in a conditioned space just to 650. All, moreover, are locked up Samosfrom where they cannot leave because the pact that in 2015 the European Union, Greece and Turkey signed converts the Beaches turquoise from the Greek islands in the bars which contain overcrowded people arriving from Anatolian in inflatable boats.

Because, even if they are few in number, they continue to do so: since January, 10,080 people arrived in Greece from Turkey by sea. In May the number was 3,000: 123 on average per day. On Samos, the daily number is in the thirties, and these early summer weeks, with the number on the rise, the sun rules inclemently. It’s noon, and the heat is turning the field into what it seems a desert of shops uninhabited tents surrounded by rubbish on all sides.

Its inhabitants are inside tents, sheltered from the sun. “I came here eight months ago” -says FabriceCongolese, who cleverly deployed a tent-like awning from his tent – “and the camp authorities gave me the interview seek asylum in the middle of the 2021. In two years. What do they want? Being locked up here for three years? What dies here? This is a jail. Samos is a prison“.

years and years

Samos refugee camp is Divided in two: the interior of the camp, where the conditions are a little better, is generally inhabited by families and people Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. But that’s only part: the majority is outside the enclosure, surrounds it: here, because they usually come alone and their asylum applications take much longer, Africans reign in numbers . They are above all Democratic Republic of Congo and of Cameroon.

They all explain the same thing: that their interviews are scheduled for the 2020the 2021the 2022 and, in some cases, even 2023. But passing the interview is not guarantee You are welcome, because many people have their application rejected on the first try. And that only means one thing: that the island becomes a prison.

“Greece must speed up the processes”, says Pipina Katsarihead of mission of UNHCR in Samos. “We have seen efforts, but the islands are submerged. Due to the congestion on the ground, the services are not adequate. And the long stay to which people are subjected causes many health problems and diseases”. Doctors on the island speak of numerous cases of anxiety, epilepsy, stress and heart problems.

the wait is over

Christian, who has become a vigilante hero of the snakes and who has been on Samos for a year, was lucky: two months ago, he received approval of all his papers and was therefore given permission to leave the island. But the Greek government did not move him.

“I have waited a long time and no one tells me anything. If I leave Samos now I will stay in the street and with nothing. I’m still stuck in this area. This is hell. At night, I panic because I don’t know what’s on the other side of the screen. I don’t sleep,” he says, and spends the whole day, start to finish, listening the sound system -the dreaded and all-powerful voice of the ‘mudira’-, which calls, from time to time, the people who that day will be transported by ferry to Thessaloniki Is Athens. It hasn’t touched him yet.

stay in Greece

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Christian, Fabrice and the 3,000 other tenants of the refugee camp know that their journey will almost certainly end once they reach the Greek mainland. What Europe has closed its doors. “If I could, I would go to another country, of course, but now I don’t care. What I want is to be able to live. To have a job and earn a decent living. If I can do it in Athens or Thessaloniki, that’s fine with me,” he explains. Fabrice.

There has been a change: a few years ago, people who came to Greece always asked to study, English first and German later. English still reigns supreme, of course, but German is running out of steam. Now the refugees are learning Greek.

15,000 trapped on the Greek islands

Currently, Greecea country of 10 million inhabitantshas within its borders almost 80,000 asylum seekers, mainly Afghans and Syrians. Of them, 15,000 are on the islandsblocked pending their application being assessed.

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